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Why the future always surprises us
Material posted: Publication date: 30-04-2018
What is familiar in this, can get revolutionary implications for the future. To know the impact of innovation on the world — difficult. But to predict — you can.

When Peter Drucker first met the chief Executive officer of ay-bi-em Thomas Watson, he was somewhat puzzled. "He started talking about some data processing, — says Drucker, I do not understand. Then I told him about the conversation my editor. He called Watson crazy and threw the interview."

It was in the early 1930-ies, when "computers" were women, performing mechanical calculations. The idea that data can be a valuable product still did not fit in the heads. And the coming decades simply did not fit: this required not only technological advances, but also changes in work practices.

In the twentieth century there were two important era of innovation. First began to gain momentum in the 1920-ies, and the second most influential in the 1990's. Now we are on the verge of another innovation of the era. Its impact is likely to have broad implications. But we did, and Drucker in the 1930s, still not able to understand what lies ahead.

The first wave of internal combustion and electricity

The first age of innovation in the twentieth century actually began in the 1880s: the invention of the internal combustion engine in Germany and the opening of Edison's first power plant in America — pearl Street. All this can be compared with the usual curiosity, which cause high-tech gadgets, and these people — had their first followers.

That really will change the world is outside the context of the current time

In the next decade innovations began to gain momentum. Up hundreds of automobile companies, including the first unsuccessful attempt of Henry Ford and his successful Ford motor company, which became the pioneer in the direction. Then began the "war of currents" between Edison and Westinghouse, thanks to which increased power generation and decreased its price.


However, until the 1920-ies all the above have little to no impact on society. Machines needed infrastructure: roads, gas stations. Electricity gave light, but that it helped to improve the performance, it was necessary to redesign the factory and review the workflow itself.

And that's when things went downhill. The car changed logistics of plants with the city of North moved to rural East, to replace the corner shops come shopping, followed by shopping centres and retailers. New appliances — refrigerators, air conditioners and radios — fundamentally changed everyday life. Nothing was the same.

The second wave — the germ, atom and particle

The second wave of innovation began around the 1950-ies. But its background was formed long before this period. In 1928 Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin. Einstein's theory led physicists to the development of the first principles of quantum mechanics in the 1920-ies and the problem of formalism David Hilbert inspired Turing to the creation of a model of a universal computer in 1935.

And yet, like the internal combustion engine and electricity, the real impact of these innovations was to come. Penicillin Fleming has not yet had therapeutic uses: needed was further development. And only in 1945 it appeared on the market. Quantum mechanics and "machine" Turing was no more than theoretical constructs.

Then the changes began to gain momentum. The first commercial computer, UNIVAK entered in the lives of people during the election of 1952, when his predictions surpassed human experts. In the same decade appeared first nuclear power plant began to grow nuclear medicine. Further studies of antibiotics has led to a "Golden age in the 60-ies and 70-ies".

Now these early revolution went far beyond its scope. The standard model of physics was largely completed in 1960-ies. Since 1987, it was invented only one new class of antibiotics — the taikomochi. And Moore's law about the doubling of a continuous classical processing power has slowed down and is approaching its physical limit.

A new era of innovation — genomics, nanotechnology and robotics

Today we step into a new era of innovation. As in the previous, we can't know exactly what changes it will bring. We are reminded of a people a century ago. They could enjoy electric light or a Sunday drive, but had no idea about such things as the modern retail trade, household appliances or social revolution.

As far as I can tell, the main technologies of this new era will be genomics, nanotechnology, and robotics. They will fundamentally change approaches in the treatment of diseases, the creation of new products and strengthen the economy. Much harder to say what effect these changes. The only thing we can say for sure — they are no less important as in previous times.

Just as the digital age was based on the fruits of the era of electricity, a new era of innovation will be built on computational technology. New computer chips, specializing in artificial intelligence, as well as a completely new computer architecture such as neuromorphic and quantum computing will have an impact on genetic engineering and other compounds at the atomic and molecular levels. But how exactly this happens is not clear.

This all leaves us in a sort of technological limbo. Our productivity is getting worse — what has been called the Great stagnation. These new technologies offer us a better future. But we can't be sure how and in what way it will be better. The first age of innovation has led to 50 years of growth of labor productivity in the period from 1920 to 1970. The second is to improve labor productivity in the period 1995 to 2005.

Us what the future brings?

The future can be vague. Quantum computing in the future can be in thousands, if not millions, of times more powerful than provided by today's computers. So it's not just that the old job will run faster. Jobs are created, which we do not have the slightest idea.

In the case of quantum computing, you need to simulate quantum systems such as atoms and molecules, which can help us to change the development of medicines, materials, and manufacturing. Unfortunately, scientists still do not know what to do with the data that produces a quantum computer: no one has experienced anything like this before.

Over time, they learn to do it. That, in turn, will lead to the creation of new products engineers, and new business models for entrepreneurs. What they will be? Building a causal chain based on current experience, we can only talk about guesswork. But the potential really is staggering.

The truth is that the real innovation of the future is not like anything that we know in the present. What actually will change the world, always outside the context of a modern. The reason is simple — the world has not changed, to understand it. You need to build ecosystems and to identify critical issues requiring action so that something is cleared up. It takes time.

Meanwhile, we can only watch and wonder. Even those who are actively involved in the creation of this new future, I see only a small part of it. But what we can do is to be open to the future and connected with him. Peter Drucker might have thought that Thomas Watson cranky, but continued to communicate with him. Today both are considered seers.

Greg Satell ( Greg Satell)


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