During my formative years, there was a clear distinction between those for whom technology was an exciting frontier, something to be explored in darkened rooms tapping on the rubber keyboard of their ZX Spectrum computer, and those who simply cared about the output. I was definitely in the latter camp.
Not much has changed regarding my lack if interest the intricacies of programming languages but, like many others, my level of engagement with the virtual world is now high. Revolutions caused by companies such as Apple – with its focus on design and usability – and Facebook, connecting the lives of people around the world have seemingly accelerated the process of technological engagement. What might this mean for societies in the future?
The progress of technological change has largely been driven by infrastructure development. Specifically, laying the ‘piping’ that allows greater flows of information (i.e. faster internet connections) is similar to the development of the railways and canals that drove the industrial revolution in centuries past, except the pace of development is many times faster. Inventive people (‘real’ geeks like the late, great Steve Jobs) are now finding more creative ways to use the infrastructure and drive innovation.
Coupled with faster adoption of new technologies by households – see link here, which illustrates how the pace of technological penetration has increased over the last century – this trend appears to represent a powerful force capable of revolutionising the global economy. In marked contrast to the tech bubble in the late 1990s, companies now seem able to monetise their innovations and create necessity in people’s lives where none previously existed. The smart money now follows strongly financed companies with pricing power and predictable revenue streams, whilst avoiding fads or fashions that may prove transitory.
It is estimated there are 2 billion individuals (30% of the global population) accessing the internet and some 250 billion emails sent every day. This transfer of information and ideas does not include further channels such as Facebook, Twitter and instant messaging services. Information is currently being sent or stored at a rate of 15 petabytes (1 million gigabytes) each day – and the rate is doubling every month. The statistics are mind-boggling!
At Affinity, we are alive to these changes and seek ways to help our clients invest capital effectively as a result of these trends. Outside of the highly visible consumer electronics sector, cloud computing and smart networks provide further scope for efficiencies and therefore growth for those organisations leading the market. In manufacturing, advances in robotics allowing for multiple tasks to be completed by a single robot are receiving attention. In a world where anaemic growth, especially in western economies, is likely to remain a feature for many years, companies have an imperative to invest in systems and technologies with the ability to provide meaningful efficiencies.
Ultimately, the very nature of technology makes the direction of innovation to predict. After all, my first job was in an office where internal email had just been introduced and car phones were the size of bricks. These days, I carry devices from which I can phone, email, socialise, video call, read about events happening now and much more besides…
I am now a geek, and I love it!