Saturday, 6 May 2017

The Next Big Thing

"The future is already here - it's just not very evenly distributed." ~ William Gibson

"It takes 20 years to make an overnight success." ~ Eddie Cantor

"We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run" ~ Roy Amara

A mainframe in your pocket? .... It is difficult to imagine the unimaginable ... to "think outside the box" but  ... there is always a next big thing ... its about human nature not just technology.

The next big thing usually starts at the edge ... innovations and experiments that fail or progress slowly in the background ... things which the leading edge innovators and experimenters can't help messing around with .. its in their nature. Exponential development of digital technology means that big, rare and expensive things become small common and cheap things .. the first mobile phone experiment filled the back of a transit van and can you remember those big "brick" mobile phones.

"Old Technologies Never Die, They Just Don't Get Updated" 
The PC peaked in the mid naughties and the smartphone became the next big thing. We still use radios, televisions, PCs, photocopiers, printers and so on ... old technologies stick around - they also become accommodated and assimilated into the fabric of the next generation - its almost like an organic lifecycle .... dust to dust, ashes to ashes .. the passing of old technologies give life to the next generation ... and increasingly their bits are recycled as well :)

The next big thing is built on the last big thing ... infrastructure platforms are necessary to build not just the present but the future. The microcomputer was built on microchips .. the previous developments with integrated circuits. The Web was built on the Net. The Cloud was built on the Web and so on.

The next big thing is built from todays things ... combination gives exponential emergence - the iPhone didn't come out of nowhere 10 years ago ... it was knitted from mobile phones, PDA's and whole whole lot more contemporary tech and ideas ... it was the packaging of all these things together that caused the frog to jump and get our attention. Remember the Psion Organiser, the Apple Newton, the Nokia Communicator. In the early naughties the two big technology threads were mobile phones and PDAs and the next big thing was predicted to be a unification of computing and communications and just how these threads would be knitted together into the the next big thing. I remember using the Compaq Ipaq in the early naughties and could see how mobile phones could do away with keypad and just have a smartscreen ... however, I wasn't Steve Jobs :)

Evolution needs diversity to select from and today we have a cambrian explosion or rich primordial soup of new tech - the "genetic" ingredients and all the conditions for the "next big thing" to emerge. Today is one of the most exciting times for developing tech that I have ever known - AI, natural language processing, machine vision, IoT, VR, AR, 360, depth sensing "seeing" cameras, 3D printing, robotics plus all the platform and infrastructure of the last big things - smartphones, Wireless comms, Web, Net, Cloud and social.

Which ingredients are used, how they are combined and used for the next big thing is anyone's guess ... the conditions for the next big thing to emerge, get our attention and cross the chasm are like the ingredients of the next big thing - a combination. Chance, circumstance, design, economics, capability, need and desire.

One thing is clear though ... the next big thing is not determined by technology but by human nature - it can take quite a while but people will knit together the next big thing from the threads they find today. 

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