Three steps to the future: The Cloud, the API economy and AI are changing the world

A super-modern SOMA is taking shape in San Francisco © Lennart Frantzell

Step 1: the Cloud changes everything

When Silicon Valley was beginning to take shape in the 60s, 70s and 80s, it was around Stanford University in Palo Alto and the still virgin lands along the bay to the east. The brains came from Stanford and the virgin lands were needed for the massive data centers that the startup companies used in those days.

The programmers came from wherever and the venture capital from Sand Hill Road right next door to Stanford.

And so it continued, with a steadily expanding Silicon Valley with tens of thousands of neat and tidy little four-bedroom one-family houses along idyllic tree-lined suburban streets next to gigantic shopping centers and even larger parking lots squeezed into a narrow little valley.

It was all dreadfully boring.

San Francisco, well it was “the city” where one went on the weekend for some fun and a walk along the Embarcadero to Pier 39 and Golden Gate Park, before one headed back home to the Valley.

The cloud up-ended all that. By virtualizing the data center, AWS, which was launched in March 2006, suddenly made it possible for startup companies to forego the data center and move to San Francisco with a few laptops and a dog that conveniently fit into the smallest closet-sized office in SOMA that you could imagine.

And the office could just as easily be an incubator as a privately owned mini-office.

Step 2: APIs make Cloud resources easily accessible

With the arrival of the Cloud, software resources became cheap and the API concept created a whole new interconnected software economy.

The APIs were easy to use, and they allowed complicated software to be simplified and easy-to-use without having to understand the ins and outs of the underlying code. It was like shopping ready-made lasagna dinners at the supermarket. Pop them in the oven and they were done.

So socially starved programmers and entrepreneurs moved from stodgy Silicon Valley to small socially promising apartments in the city and a more glamorous social life.

Quiet tree-lined streets were out and trendy bars and mingle at cool Meetups with programmers in dirty sneakers and messy pizza and soda delivered by sweaty bikers were definitely in.

And against this background a surprising thing happened, the cloud and its APIs suddenly made it possible for programmers all over the world to use and re-use cloud resources wherever they were. Suddenly borders were out and nobody could live without WiFi.

Something I was reminded of when as a developer advocate I spent some time in Nairobi in Kenya and realized that the startups there use the very same APIs that I was using in Silicon Valley.

Step 3: With API-accessible AI in the Cloud everyone can write AI apps

Today’s AI services such as Watson Cognitive services, all come with RESTful APIs that make it really easy for students as young as in their mid teens to write cognitive apps by using API calls:

With new languages like Swift and with drag-and-drop environments like Node-RED, it is becoming easy for whoever wants to, to create innovative apps with AI functionality. Apps that can go viral on social networks.

You don’t have to be in San Francisco, Seattle or even Berlin or Shenzhen to use the APIs. You can be wherever you want to be. All you need is access to the cloud and the latest APIs. And this trend has only just got started.

And that will surely change the world.