No More Great Innovations?27 August, 2015 / Articles
A debate among economists has been brewing over whether or not humanity will continue to innovate at the pace experienced over the last 150 years—a time that produced automobiles, mass distribution of electricity, radio, television, and the Internet to name a few. One side argues that we have seen the last of the major innovations and that what will follow will be incremental, like the replacement of the PC with the tablet for example. The opposing side on this debate shouts “absurd.” If anything we’ve only just begun to innovate.
Few of us who have watched the advance of computing technologies would fall-in on the side of the stagnation theorists in this debate. The advances in computing over just the last 20 years have been dramatic. The number of innovative technologies growing from conception to mainstream usage has not only exploded but their appearance will continue to accelerate. Here’s why I believe this to be true.
There are as I see it at least four major forces driving computing innovation forward. Furthermore, the interplay among these forces is unpredictable and will generate innovations we can’t yet imagine. These are:
The early glass-house style of computing was remote from the individual. It was controlled by the few, was outrageously expensive by today’s standards, and required specialized training. The advance from mainframes to client server was mostly incremental in that only brought humans closer to compute power by a small degree. PCs opened the flood gates and now little stands in the way. Computing resources that were unimaginable in the glass-house days are now available to anyone with a credit card. And, it’s available to all of us anywhere at any time and on a variety of devices that are constantly multiplying and evolving.
Real-time Computing Apps
Whether or not we realize it, we commonly experience computing as a historical activity. Data is created and saved. Then it is processed and presented in a way that we as humans can consume as information. All of this takes time. And for decades, the time lag between data creation and information delivery has been acceptable. Yes, time to information has gotten dramatically shorter, but we’re still mostly locked into a create-store-process-deliver mode, so much so I think that it’s hard to imagine any other way. Our PCs constantly reinforce that mindset.
Mobility has broken us out. For example, an app tells me where I am on a map. My dot moves as I move. Points of interest to me pop up as I get nearer to them. I experience no time lag in the information given me and I have other apps that behave similarly.