Living on the Edge of Exponential Change

Our future looks grim.  The economic situation is dire with little relief in sight. But short term gloom conceals deeper shifts in an ever-changing environment. The future may be much brighter than it seems.

There have been many turning points throughout history when breakthroughs in technology brought about huge changes in society. From the spinning wheel to the steam engine, to the automobile and the jet engine our lives continue to be transformed thanks to innovation and technology.

Once again we stand on the edge of an iconic shift in the way we think, work and play. A revolution in information technology is underway that will transform every aspect of our lives. We may see more change in the next five years than the last thirty. But what might those changes look like?

High on the list must be our ability to collect, share, analyze and assimilate information and engage with the technologies that deliver this. This capability is increasing at an exponential rate – everything from words and numbers to images, noises even movements processed in real time. Many new technologies contribute to this from sensors to virtualization to natural user interfaces, cloud computing and ultra-light devices.

As a result, our relationship with technology is fundamentally changing and with it our relationship with each other. It is becoming easier to perform tasks, work together, share information and control our lives. This represents a huge shift in power from corporations to individuals creating a new world of technology embedded in almost everything we do.

One beneficiary will be science.  Our understanding and ability to predict, prevent and eradicate diseases that have defied us for years have increased exponentially. The result will be longer, richer and more productive lives.

Social networks are overturning dictator ships and increasing access to power, influence and information. The outcome of elections, even the London riots, can be influenced by tweets. Even dating is different under Facebook.

Green technology becomes more important – more energy efficient data centers; paperless offices and a dramatic reduction in our dependence on fossil fuels.

Since the industrial revolution we have seen explosive growth in cities and the concentration of populations in large, dense urban areas. But if we no longer have to live near our work what does this mean for the future workplace? Can we live in Montana and work in New York?

And the gadgets of this new world? New diagnostic, less invasive medical systems; cars that can drive and navigate themselves with sensors that avoid accidents and anticipate congestion; virtual offices that can exist anywhere creating a new, more mobile workforce; homes that can be operated by computers controlled by gestures; instant access to unlimited computing for small and large businesses alike from devices that fit in our pocket. More powerful and accessible video technologies that reduce the need for travel.

And the implications for financial services?  The financial service business model is really about making money from information and relationships. Transactions are less important. New products and services are already emerging building new relationships in a more connected world. The future looks grim, but take a deeper look. It may be much brighter than it seems.

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