It’s funny. When you look at popular tech media or tweets from important tech people, you’ll find a lot of hype about:
- Artificial intelligence
- Autonomous cars
- Virtual reality
- Stem cells
- Cancer treatments
- 3D printers
- Quantum computers
- DNA sequencing
- Personalized medicine
I am just as hyped about these technologies as everyone else.
I totally believe in strong artificial intelligence, being driven to the office in a robot car (or just going there in virtual reality). I also believe in defying death, and that should be one of the most important goals of humanity.
But as I look around, especially outside Europe and USA, I see things very differently:
The most powerful technologies are not those we talk about. It’s those that become unambiguous.
What’s even more funny is that we don’t ever talk about the technologies that are actually the most powerful.
To illustrate the point, let me share my last Sunday:
I just arrived in Bangkok airport last Sunday. Honestly, I know very little about Thailand, even less about Bangkok.
Years back, I would have printed plenty of documents, understood the area I was going to stay in, studied basic Thai phrases, gotten money beforehand, bought a plane ticket months before and made sure to buy a stable hotel that was easy to find.
Today I arrived in a very different manner. On arrival I bought a SIM card for less than 15 USD (unlimited 3G, 3GB of 4G).
I bought the plane ticket 3 weeks before, on my smartphone. I had no papers printed at all. I had not studied any map. No money withdrawn yet. I only had my suitcase with absolutely no preparation.
After getting my SIMcard, I opened my Uber app on my smartphone. I found the address of my apartment rented on Airbnb by opening their app, on my smartphone. I found my Uber and drove to the apartment.
I opened Tripadvisor, on my smartphone, to find a good “cheap eat” restaurant nearby. I went down on the street, and acted like a local because of Google Maps, on my smartphone.
I am trying to avoid rice, so I said “OK Google, say no rice and more vegetables please, in Thai” to my smartphone. It translated perfectly and said the Thai sentence out loud, and I had a wonderful meal paying 2 USD.
What is my point?
Five years ago we had all of these technologies. We had Google Maps, Google Translate, cheap smartphones, SIMcards with Internet and websites with reviews of restaurants.
But the last 5 years have made these technologies CRAZY good.
Today, everyone with a smartphone (2+ billion people, growing more and more rapidly every year) has access to these services.
That means any kid with a smartphone can:
- Access to the world’s information
- Access resources to learn any skill
- Speak any sentence in any language, even without knowing written language (yes, it’s not perfect grammar, but good enough to get the point through!)
- Join online marketplaces and be a part of the global trade
The point is. No one writes about “location-based services”, “social media”, “review websites” or an “online encyclopedia” anymore.
It’s old news.
However, in 2015, these technologies come together to become the most powerful technology: Unambiguous access to smartphones and the Internet.
I find it very interesting that someday, probably less than ten years in the future, we will look back on virtual reality, stem cells, 3D printers, Bitcoin, quantum computers and artificial intelligence in the same way.
The big difference, however, is the wider amount of technologies that become mature.
Five years ago we saw smartphones, sensors, screens and GPS start to mature and become unambiguous.
Soon, the same process will start, but with way more technologies, and potentially technologies with an even greater impact.
It’s going to be an exciting world.