When new technologies cross the chasm

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Every new technology in history before crossing the chasm of ubiquitous adoption goes through its fair share of perceptionary seasons. As much as the winters of technology bring down the general sentiment of expected timeline and true potential of technology wherein industry experts who were once at the forefront of inception of its hype-cycle through articles, books, conferences and guest speaking end up shunning from the mere use of the ‘buzzword’. Conservatives and pessimists bask in the temporary limelight thrown over to them with their ‘I told you so’ stance. The good old promises of flying cars and virtual worlds get lost in the mere popular culture of movies and comics.

That being said, if you look at the takeoff of any new major technology , it is usually result of very specific set of serendipitous circumstances where everything – be it consumer anticipation, right product positioning, technology feasibility, time to market – everything well just – clicks. Adoption of technology has usually very little to do with the invention of technology and it most cases they end up being two mutually exclusive concepts. Every major technological paradigm shift is just someone taking up what really exists in silos and just connects them in a way which just works beautifully. Iphone , whatsapp, personal computing, social networking, cloud computing all are examples of a technology becoming so ubiquitous and embedded in our lives that we just can’t expect to imagine our lives without it. But we often confuse the meaning of the true technology adoption with certain threshold and segment of market in which it penetrates. It is usually the consumer tech which really defines in our terms if a tech has finally ‘arrived’. But this notion doesn’t truly encapsulates the reality from a objective perspective. All technologies in the past starting from invention of fire, wheel to radios and telephones have trickled down from the top of the customer segment pyramid. Early adopters in 100% of the cases are group of individuals than really the individual entities. And a company or enterprise is the group which is best positioned to leverage the first taste of any new tech.  They have the money and work in a competitive landscape where every new incremental or exponential increase in efficiency can make the difference between glory of market share dominance or existential death due to becoming competitively irrelevant.

But what makes us humans so unique and powerful as a species is our resolve and in a way our impatience. We constantly imagine new beautiful things which will augment our lives and then despite the shear size of the challenge we persist and have the resolve to see it becoming reality. If our DNA would have excess of patience , then we would have easily put it off for future and let evolution improve us like most of the animals do. But our impatience helps us to imagine and make it reality in a reasonable period of time. They become our self fulfilling prophecies. All of the paradigm shifting tech are relatively new. Air travel is just a 100 yr old technology, Internet is just a 20 yr old technology.  It is only in last 100-150 yrs or so have we started getting more and more confident about converting our imaginations into reality.

We are sitting at the cusps of some amazing new technologies which have the potential to alter the course of our species. Artificial intelligence where we are making the machines we made to think for themselves. We have always imagined some super powerful entities who create other life forms. We called them gods in our mutually agreed upon imagination. Our prophecy has fulfilled itself not by discovering them sitting somewhere up in sky, but we have become gods ourselves. What a novel hack for a problem. Humans have always wanted to control the bits and atoms of the world. With technological revolution we have to a large extent already done that, now we have brought great deal of efficiency and alignment in terms of defining the flow of atoms.  Uber or Amazon are  great examples of that. There is huge amount of workflow efficiency in how the cars and good travel across the world driven by the forces of supply and demand. But still creating atoms from nothing and manipulating them is still something which eludes us. So we have rephrased the problem itself. You don’t really need atoms to get the perception of atoms. Those atoms which make up objects in real world can be simply bits whose control we have absolutely mastered. That is why AR and VR are just two very natural directions for solving this problem. All in all it seems that it is a beautiful time to be Homo Sapien and our best days lie ahead of us.

 

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