All of this now fits in your smart phone.

All of this now fits in your smart phone.

We’re going to see more change in the next decade than we’ve seen in the last 100 years.

Think about this.  The first iPhone came out only 8 1/2 years ago.  June 29, 2007.

Prior to the iPhone, the vast majority of cell phones just made calls, and had perhaps very simplistic games.

The BlackBerry was the most “smart” phone before the iPhone — and it was mostly a classic cell phone plus email.  Advanced for the time?  Sure.  But nothing compared to even that first generation iPhone.

Within three years of the iPhone’s launch, the smart phone market grew to bigger than the PC market.

Now there’s not only iPhones, but a whole slew of Android manufacturers, plus contenders from Microsoft and others.

In this latest Christmas season, more people shopped on Amazon on mobile devices than their computers.

There was a great picture circulating a year or two ago that showed a Radio Shack ad, featuring all sorts of electronics.  A computer for $1,599.  A video camera for $799.  A “mobile cellular telephone” for $199 — it actually had a cord to the receiver/transmitter box.  A radio, a tape recorder, a phone and an answering machine, a CD player, and more.  Today, essentially every item on that Radio Shack ad is included in your average smart phone.  And it’s hardly a surprise in light of that transformation that Radio Shack filed for bankruptcy last year.

But it’s not just technology that’s changing…

Our entire economy is seeing some tectonic shifts.

Retail is shifting online, with overnight or two-day delivery of almost anything you need now feeling like the easier, more convenient option than going to a store less than a mile away.

Uber has completely disrupted the taxi industry by giving folks who want a ride a direct connection to folks willing to give it to them — and is quickly taking over the on-demand transportation market from taxis.  Airbnb did the same thing to the hotel industry, and now books more room nights than any hotel company on the planet.

Perhaps closer to home for those of us who are writers, I’m noticing more and more “news” in my Google News results that are news stories clearly rewritten by a computer algorithm, designed to create content, attract traffic, and pull in advertising revenue.  These are painful to read, at best, but it’s a trend worth paying attention to.

Self-driving car technology is rapidly accelerating (pun noted).  The newest Tesla announcement is that your can can serve as its own valet.  Leaving the movies and ready for a ride?  Simply summon your car.  It will drive from wherever it is parked to your location, pulling up by itself, ready to go.  The technology is sufficient now that we could essentially hand over the task of driving to self-driving cars.  They’re safer than humans, according to millions of miles of testing.  The manufacturing, public sentiment, and regulations simply haven’t caught up yet.

And the trucking industry?  Well, truck drivers are ripe for displacement by self-driving big rigs that operate 24/7 without need for sleep or bathroom breaks.  Again — the tech is there, it just needs to overcome barriers to implementation.

Robotics have long been a boon to manufacturing.  There’s an extraordinary number of tasks in precision manufacturing that have only become possible because we now have computer-controlled robotics to execute them.  That trend is only continuing, and spilling over into other industries…

Picture this: the fast food restaurant of the future (about 10 years from now)…  You walk up to the counter, and select your order from a touch screen, visual menu.  When it asks for payment, you simply wave a sensor over the screen — maybe it’s in your pocket computer, on a universal ID card, or in a small discreet bracelet or watch you wear (or even — gasp — implanted!).  You wait a couple minutes while robots in the back room cook your burger, put it on the bun with the toppings you requested, cook fries to go with it, package it all up, place it nicely on a tray, and slide it across the counter to you.  It’s a completely cash-less, no-staff-needed operation that delivers consistently better service and food than anything you get today.

Should I go on?

Technology is accelerating at an exponential pace…

We’re getting bigger leaps in technological innovation faster than ever before.

Jobs that can be automated already are.  And they will continue to be.  But let’s not just assume I’m talking about robots here.  There’s physical automation, and mental automation.

Tiny, application-specific instances of artificial intelligence continue to make their way into our daily lives.

Siri, for example, on the iPhone (and its equivalent on other devices).  You talk, it listens and interprets what you’re saying, and responds if it can.  And in many cases, it can.  That’s incredible artificial intelligence that’s made its way into our daily lives in a way that we would have thought was incredibly futuristic just 10 years ago.

Or Google Maps.  You type in an address, and tell it you want directions to get there.  It finds out where you are, calculates all the possible routes to get there, takes into account current traffic volume and speed where possible, considers construction and other factors, and gives you multiple possible routes with expected travel times.

These barely scratch the surface.  The innovations taking place today will be trumped tomorrow by innovations that seem even more futuristic.

And as artificial intelligence accelerates, there’s going to a very interesting phenomenon that begins to occur.  The technology will actually innovate on itself.

If you’ve ever seen an exponential curve, you know what comes next.  It’s moving along the bottom, sloping gently up but barely moving.  Then it starts to curve up, faster and faster.  Then, it goes vertical.

That’s what’s going to happen when artificial intelligence is able to innovate on itself.  And that’s a situation it is nearly impossible to wrap our brains around.

I don’t expect the exponential takeoff within the next 10 years — probably within about 25 if the folks I follow on these subjects are right.  But the road to get there is only going to see accelerating change.  It will be massive.

So…  What does this mean for you?

Well, this is supposed to be a marketing essay, so I’ll try to tie it back.  Expect change to be REQUIRED to stay afloat, more and faster than ever before.  It used to be you could create a mass-market product, and let it run for decades before it petered off.  And with a few exceptions in the commodity-level consumer products space, that model is nearly dead.

Today, most businesses need to reinvent themselves every couple years to stay relevant.  If not faster.  The expectation is newer, better, latest, greatest.

I expect as we go forward you will have three paths in front of you.  Reject it.  Embrace it.  Or die.

Reject it: there will be a subset of the population who will be, for lack of a better word, nostalgic.  They will long for a simpler time, and it will be a valid niche to serve them.

Embrace it: the vast majority of businesses will be required to keep up.  Consumers will expect their experience to increase exponentially alongside tech and innovation.  It will be a huge challenge AND a huge opportunity.

Die: if you don’t acknowledge this rapid change — either by going with or against it — you will suffer and eventually become irrelevant.

This is the future we have ahead of us…

Regardless of what you think of his politics, Obama’s comments on this subject during last night’s State of the Union were spot-on.

The world is changing, fast.  And it will only continue to change, even faster.

This will lead to a new economy, that will not adhere to any previous economic model.  We will be forced to think of work, business, and wealth in some very different ways.

Do I have answers?  Not really.

Except that right now, this is something you need to be aware of, and paying attention to.

Yours for bigger breakthroughs,

Roy Furr

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