AS MARK Zuckerberg wrapped up yesterday’s press conference for the launch of Facebook Home, the social network’s new smartphone interface, he noted that only a third of the world’s population is on the internet today, adding “we’re really closer to the beginning of this than the end”. He’s right, and that should be an unnerving thought for anyone operating inside a well-established business model.
We are used to periods of innovation that briefly peak and then settle down, giving us time to absorb their gifts. But the relentless advance of Moore’s law, doubling the number of transistors on a microchip every two years, continues to expose us to exponential, accelerating change, something to which it is far harder to adapt.
Consider the other technology news in your feed today: the march of Bitcoin, which may be a bubble but also opens the possibility of a currency independent of government debasement; signs of the music industry’s continued disruption, with internet listening overtaking that previous mainstay, the radio; and the prediction that the PC, so recently the cutting edge of information technology, has only two more years before its sales are trumped by the latest generation of tablet computers – although by 2015, perhaps we’ll all be coveting Google Glasses instead.
One more iteration of Facebook software may not seem too significant, but growing connectivity and computing power and the virtualisation of everything from music to currency (soon perhaps even most industrial designs, via 3D printers) is in the process of shaking our commercial society’s very foundations. The minor tremors are fair warning of bigger earthquakes to come.
This is bad news for anyone who has grown comfortable building an entrenched position in a stable market. The only way to get ahead in the growing technological tumult will be to stay adaptable and accept that the pace of change isn’t going to slacken – quite the reverse. The singularity some predict may never arrive, but our future will not be short of shocks.