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When people ask me what I am researching, I confess it can be a difficult question to answer. Sometimes I will highlight a topic I have written a report about, such as mobile payments or the Internet of Things; at other points, I’ll just pick something that is current but not too overblown. Right now, the latter could be machine learning and algorithms for example, which has long roots but which is generating quite a lot of interest.
The fact of the matter, however, is that my brain doesn’t work like that. Technology is having a profound impact on just about every aspect of what we do, how we work and indeed, how long we live. While it would make sense to specialise, as indeed I have done at various points in my career, parts of my brain refuse to co-operate, insisting on following lines of thinking that I would rather they didn’t.
It’s like pulling a thread on a jumper. Right now, for example, Virtual Reality is rocking my boat — but why? I can’t help asking the so-what questions: what does it do for us, where does it go that we can’t otherwise, and so on. Frequently the answer lies not in any one technology, but in the way they inter-operate: the Internet of Things is in reality a vast, distributed data generator, very little of the latter we have yet learned to exploit.
All of which means that, while the various cool (a.k.a. hyped) things going on in technology are interesting, my own view is that they will have more of an impact as they start converging. We could be… no, let me rephrase, we are just scratching the surface of what technology enables us to do. In the book I am drafting, to be called Smart Shift, I call this the Law of Diminishing Thresholds — as costs fall, so the solution space expands. Exponentially.
I believe that the last few years, as interesting as they have been, will be seen as a pause in the overall cycle of innovation, as the tide withdraws only to come crashing back upon the shore. Even the current darlings of the industry are reaping what has already been sown; but new seeds are already growing, and it is on the basis of these that the next wave of corporate and societal change will be felt.
In the knowledge that we are on the brink of a breakthrough, I present a technological map of the future. I drew this largely to get this off my chest (and boy, is that a relief) but also to set the scene. Anybody focusing on one area or another is missing the emerging bigger picture, and as the future will be build upon this foundation, so it is important to see as much of it as possible.
At the moment I have more questions than answers — another confession. I wish it were different because, if I knew what the future held, I could start placing a few bets. Sure, robots; sure, semantics; sure, self-programming and orchestration, all of which will have a profound impact. I’ll be expanding on these topics here at GigaOm.
As things stand however, I will make only one hard prediction: hold on to your hats, it’s going to be quite a ride.
P.S. If you have any questions or you want me to run through the technological map of the future, please do get in touch.
Original version posted on LinkedIn on 16 February 2016.