Advancing technologies are more than changing society and business. Accelerating technological advances are transforming the way in which we live. The world is being re-shaped as never before. We don’t have the policies and regulations to govern the use of these technologies. This is because we lack perspective. How will others exploit technology? The rules of ethical conduct and best practices are being developed. The juries still out in some cases. Think FaceBook and Cambridge Analytica.

Scandalous Aftermath: FaceBook Survived. Cambridge Analytica Did Not.

What are the implications of this rapid transformational change? Our lives, society, and the way we do business are shape-shifting before our very eyes.

How Did We Get Here

To understand where we are at, it’s a good idea to take a look at where we’ve been. The wheels of progress, in the modern sense, began 259 years ago. That’s when we moved from an agrarian, hand-crafted, society to one propelled by manufacturing and industry. Started in the Britain of 1760 with the steam engine, this era enabled new manufacturing processes and that led to the building of factories.

Every aspect of daily life was influenced on various levels. The quality of life changed and all for the better. The average income and population began to have unprecedented and sustained growth. For the first time, the fundamental standard of living began to improve. This was true not only for Britain but for other countries as well.

The Four Industrial Revolutions

The First Industrial Revolution lasted from about 1760 to about 1860. There were inventions like locomotives, steamboats, steamships, and the electrical telegraph. But none of these were powerful enough to drive a high rate of growth

Since that time, there have seen 3 distinct periods in modern human history. Each one of them propelled civilization forward.

These industrial revolutions usually lasted an entire century. You had a hundred years to get used to things. And things became different over time. Rapid economic growth didn’t begin until 1870. This is the time we now call the Second Industrial Revolution. A group of new innovations enabled advanced machinery in steam-power factories. Henry Ford mastered the moving assembly line and ushered in the age of mass production.

A third great change began building momentum with the advent of digital technology. This would later be referred to as the “Digital Revolution” or Third Industrial Revolution.

Compare a Mainframe Computer from the late 1950s with the Personal Computer from 1883

Beginning in the early 1960s, we saw refrigerator size computers become smaller and smaller. These computers shrunk. They also became faster and faster. Computing capacity became greater. Things were made faster and more economically using digital manufacturing. These digitally manufactured items could be made in much smaller quantities. Processes became hyper-flexible, and customized manufacturing reached a whole new level. All with much less labor required to get the work done.

Steve Jobs as he presents the first iPhone

Exponential Growth

The amount of technological advancement being added to the system is proportional to the amount already present. The bigger the system is, the greater the increase. 

Up until now, each preceding industrial revolution lasted about a century. I would argue that we are now in the throws of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. It began in the year 2007 when Steve Jobs took the stage at the Moscone Center and presented the first iPhone. 2007 saw the global expansion of FaceBook and Twitter.

The four epochs of technology. Now at the beginning of a new era defined by AI, quantum computing, 3D printing, and the Internet of Things, companies and governments struggle to keep up.

AT&T, iPhone’s exclusive connectivity partner, rolled out “software-enabled networks.” This made it possible to handle the cellular traffic created by the rise of the smartphone. The Fourth Revolution is about smart technologies and connected devices.

Global Devices and Connections Growth

Cisco’s annual VNI Report predicts that by 2022, more than 28 billion devices will be connected. That’s up from 18 billion in 2017.
Connectivity and data flow took off in 2007. It wasn’t only the developing world. It was everybody that could connect to the Internet. The single, most powerful paradigm-shifting game-changer was cloud computing. Although the idea for Cloud computing was invented by Joseph Carl Robnett Licklider in the 1960s, it took decades of development before becoming the cloud that we know today. Google CEO Eric Schmidt introduced the term on August 9, 2006. The cloud as a storage provider didn’t become available until 2007. Cloud technology became a great enabler. The exponential growth of technology has been one of the by-products of the cloud.

The power of cloud computing is tremendous by itself. Combine it with the power of wireless and you have a cocktail of computational power that’s without precedent. Compete, design, think, imagine, connect, and collaborate with anyone anywhere and at any time.

Human beings have built better tools but they have never built a tool quite like the cloud.

“Some tools had reach but were not rich in capabilities; others were rich in capability but had a limited number of people who could use them. They had no reach. We have never had this much richness with this much reach.”
Craig Mundie, Former Chief Research & Strategy Officer, Microsoft

Not that long ago, you’d have to be in government, or the military, to access the kind of computing power in the cloud. Years later, you needed to be an enterprise CEO or something of that caliber. Now, with a credit card, you can leverage all the benefits of cloud computing.

More Devices Than People

Today, there are more connected mobile devices than there are people. It’s true that half the world still has no mobile devices. But that will change as well. Soon, everyone will be connected.

Cloud computing technology accelerates the sharing of knowledge, new ideas, and innovations. This digital freeway carries all this energy and tools from one end of the planet to the other. Anyone can plug in and start a new business. People can participate in debates. They can acquire new skills, or export the latest product.

One person can educate millions with an Internet learning platform. A single person can entertain, inspire, and educate millions. Using an Internet learning platform, physicians can share a new vaccine. Software engineers can develop a new application for the whole world. All of this and more can happen and does happen, in the blink of an eye.

The Power of Collaboration

As the individual has a stronger voice, the cloud amplifies the power of many. We are collaborators. Human beings as a collective are now a force that accomplishes amazing things. Acting together, we now have the power to do good at a speed and scope never imagined before. You pick which problem to take on next. Is it to reverse environmental pollution? Feed the hungry? House the homeless?

Cloud computing is fueling tremendous individual accomplishments. The cloud empowers companies of all sizes to advance in ways that are truly impressive.

It’s inevitable that jobs are going to be impacted. Artificial intelligence automates a variety of tasks. It will transform many jobs. There will be new and different jobs. Maybe these will be jobs we can’t conceive of today. They haven’t been created yet. But they will drive the economic growth of tomorrow.

The Fourth Revolution will nurture increased human creative and intellectual productivity.

Global Collaboration Possibilities

Workers will be able to spend more time on creative, collaboration. There will be a need for complex problem-solving. These are tasks that robotic automation can’t handle so well. There is no substitute for human intuition. The hard-earned experience prepares leaders to make the right call. There are times when heart-felt risk-taking is better than logical calculations.

Thriving in the Age of Acceleration

There are certain characteristics that successful companies will have. Companies that will thrive during the Fourth Industrial Revolution will be nimble. Leadership will be responsive to changing technologies. They will respond to shifting market needs. Corporate cultures will have steady programs of on-going learning for all employees. Talent development, life-long learning, and career re-invention are critical to the future workforce.

The scale and breadth of technology are revolutionizing the way we do business. If you’re a business owner or leading a large enterprise company, and you’re thinking about moving to the cloud but haven’t made the move yet. You have to ask yourself the question: if I don’t take the trouble disrupting my business now, will my business risk being disrupted entirely in the future?”