The Golden Age of Technology

The Future is now, but are we ready for it? It doesn’t feel like we are. Not a day goes by without someone complaining about how fast things are moving. Too many projects, too many companies, too many conferences.

Technology and the changes taking place in our world are not going to slow down, they are going to speed up. To lend perspective to where we are going — I believe we are standing at the foot of a mountain who’s peak is so high that we cannot comprehend the ascent yet to come.

This is a great thing. To live at this time, right now and be able to participate in the creation of the future. As a technologist or entrepreneur the impact of the emerging technologies like machine learning and the ‘race to the bottom’ on pricing of commodity services and components like web hosting are not just creating immense value for companies like Google and Amazon, but also lowing or outright removing the barrier to entry for everyone else.

About 15 years ago I bootstrapped a company with a few friends. We failed. The failure itself was in part because the barriers we had to overcome were too high and opaque for us given our experience at the time. Fast forward to the past few years — I’ve funded, assisted and worked with founders who have been able to skip over or address many of those same challenges for a fraction of the cost both in time and money. Even something like a basic brand website or ecommerce deployment is now trivial cost and you are online in a day or two. Only 10 years ago this used to take weeks or months and cost thousands of dollars (time+money).

This same ‘race to the bottom’ applies in the enterprise space. Several years ago it was unheard of if you wanted to launch a micro-site in a few hours. Doing something like that to help promote a new product used to be a multi-month project with dozens of people and teams involved and was often not worth the cost. Now its as close to ‘on demand’ as you can imagine with Squarespace, AWS, Tectonic, Shopify and the like.

These changes aren’t just about geeks being able to quickly deploy and access software though. The resources that are now cheaply and easily available are driving huge economic and social shifts which will have long reaching and cascading effects.

During this time we’ve seen the rise of communication and social networks as an economic enabler across both basic coordination and transactions. While many people have and use SMS to coordinate economic activity, especially in the developing world the premier platform of the past decade was Facebook.

Facebook was really ‘social 1.0’ and it was really created in a pre-mobile, and very western-centric era. It is showing its age. What comes next? With smart phones everywhere, and half the world moving beyond SMS what does the world look like with 5, 6 or 10 billion connected users who all have a Smart Phone or even Siri or Alexa in their pocket or on their wrist? What new platforms and paradigms will rise?

We’ve never even approached having any platform which can address half the world let alone one that has a contextually diverse engagement model. Text? Voice? Touch? Imagine if all of these were seamlessly connected and available as they’ve been portrayed in pop culture like Eureka, Star Trek, Minority Report and similar?

That is going to happen. In our lifetime.

The impact of these changes is already being seen first hand worldwide. Children are being raised with a vast array of technology and on-demand services from a very young age. Numerous studies have shown access to mobile devices and the internet has helped increase GDP and literacy in the populations of African and South East Asian countries — two of the most under-served and impoverished regions in the world.

Improved logistics and food creation coming from autonomous systems, drones, CRISPR and other technologies will continue to reduce or eliminate extreme poverty in the areas which have been hardest to reach and serve for generations. Over the past 10–20 years we’ve seen immense growth in these area’s already, and as much as the BRIC countries helped drive worldwide growth in the 00’s there are dozens of still-untapped countries which will rise to the fore and drive the next wave of economic growth.

Why does this matter? The level of connectivity and global awareness has never been higher, and the impact that this shift has on traditional economic models and companies has been immense. Yet we still have below 50% of the world population connected. As more and more people are brought into the connected age there will be more and more globalization and as a result more Brexit and Trump.

Because of these shifting sands it is no longer viable to rest on a static plan (life or business) and poorly structured regulation. Standing still is a death sentence for any ambition you might have. Regardless of who you are — change is coming.

Everyone needs to understand that the total global economy is going to explode and be reshaped over and over again in the next 30–50 years as more and more people gain access to basic goods and services. This is a good thing, Globalization has been a powerful (mostly positive) change agent, but as with any change there will be challenges.

The golden age for technology is here and now and the potential market for engagement, products and other new ideas is still growing by leaps and bounds. The chance to build something great was not yesterday. It is not tomorrow. It is RIGHT NOW.