Looking at Technology and Society From a Decade Perspective

 We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction.

—Bill Gates, The Road Ahead (1996)

I made my first email account in 1998 with Yahoo! when I was in grade school in the Philippines. I made one using Internet Explorer on a school computer running Windows 98 that accessed the Internet through a dial-up connection. A full 20 years ago as of this writing.

2008 was the rise of the social revolution, 1.5 years after Facebook allowed everyone ages 13+ on the network, a year after Twitter was created. It was also a year after Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPhone. A full 10 years ago as of this writing.

Today, it’s 2018 and things on the come-up are: the blockchain and cryptocurrency, virtual and augmented reality, AI and machine learning, and CRISPR (gene splicing).

It gets me thinking about where the world will be 10 and 20 years from now. Did I foresee that the Internet would be this prevalent 20 years ago? I knew it was exciting, and I knew we were at a frontier, but no, I did not even imagine it would be at this level. That I could get a car dispatched to my location with a push of a button using a supercomputer in my pocket that’s connected to the Internet 24/7. Or that I can get a peek into what’s happening in the world this instant by opening an application on said pocket supercomputer where many experts and laymen alike are freely providing their takes and thoughts around various subjects around the clock and I can see them by the second. Or that people will be akin to TV shows producing instantaneous content for others to watch or that they will be akin to magazines with highly edited photos where their friends and the masses could follow their lives.

Even in 2008, when I thought I was extremely late to technology, I did not think it would evolve this much, and that society as a whole would drastically evolve along with it. I had a gist it would, but not to this extent: how the iPhone would be this dominant, how Netflix would be the primary way we consume entertainment, how the Internet would give rise to many more media companies both scale and niche, how I can order food directly to my apartment with a variety of apps. In 2008, Spotify and Airbnb were just founded, and household names today like Uber, Lyft, Instagram, Snap weren’t even founded yet.

That tells me that the future is hard to predict and it may go beyond any of your wildest expectations if you simply look at the present. But, that things can also change dramatically in a decade’s time because people are working hard to make innovative things happen, building for a future they believe in. This happens slow but its impact is sudden where seemingly overnight they become a natural fabric of our lives and we wonder how we’ve gone without these things before.

I think about 2008 and 1998 and how wildly different the world is at 2018, and also how the world can be wildly different in 2028 and 2038 from where (when?) I’m sitting, with these new technologies on the rise. There is both hype and doubt around all of these, but something tells me its only a matter of time, even if it feels slow at the moment. And because my perspective is so narrowly focused on the present, what will happen 10 and 20 years from now will surely defy my wildest expectations in 2018.

I can’t wait to read this in a decades’ and two decades’ time and look back at where technology was in 2018 and where we were as a society and compare it to what technologies will be around and where we will be then.

Technology dictates where society goes. On one hand, sometimes I feel so behind, like I felt 10 years ago and 20 years ago. On another, I feel like I’m only at the beginning.

Then I realize perspective is what makes all the difference.

 Jeff Bezos just passed Bill Gates in net worth. When that happened, that basically tells you the Internet revolution has now overtaken the PC revolution. It’s been 20 years for the Internet revolution to overtake the PC revolution. It might take 20 years for Satoshi Nakamoto to overtake Jeff Bezos, but I think it will happen.

—Naval Ravikant, Blockstack Summit 2017


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