Four Years On…A Progress Report
Four years ago, I began blogging as a sounding board and as a means of chronicling the many ways in which technology is reinventing our world.
Back in March 2011, when I published my inaugural post:
- Apple Inc. introduced the iPad 2, featuring for the first time both front and rear-facing cameras.
- The price of Brent crude hovered near $120 a barrel. The average cost of regular gasoline in California was $4.02 a gallon.
- Hosni Mubarak had recently been ousted as Egypt’s President; Mohamed Morsi was preparing to take office; and the so-called Arab Spring was in full bloom.
- The Space Shuttle Discovery, after 27 years in service, made its final landing.
- The New York Times began to charge people to access content on its website.
- AT&T announced a $39 billion takeover bid – ultimately unsuccessful – for T-Mobile USA.
- Better Place, an electric-car venture headed by Shai Agassi, inaugurated its first battery-swapping station in Israel.
- The $75 million musical, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, was in previews on Broadway, even as director Julie Taymor was booted from the production.
- A funeral was held at Arlington National Cemetery for Frank Woodruff Buckles, 110 years old, the last surviving American veteran of World War I.
Four years is both a blink of the eye and an eternity. Where were you four years ago? Where will we all be four years from now?
I am not a futurist. Yet as an inventor, technology connoisseur, and corporate executive, it is my job to try and anticipate the ways in which our world will change – and where it will stay the same.
Since assuming my new role as vice chairman of Powermat, the company I founded in 2007, I have had more time to consider the pace of change and how best to manage it for the benefit of consumers and investors alike.
“The faster change comes, the harder it is to predict the future,” asserts Peter Russell, who back in 1983, in his bestselling book The Global Brain, forecast the coming Internet age and the revolution it would unleash.
It is Russell’s contention that because we are always trapped in our current mindsets, “it is impossible to see the inventions and discoveries that are yet to come.”
I agree, but only in part.
Four years ago, I wrote about the vast potential of wireless energy to change the way we interact with the world of powered devices, including cell phones, laptops, automobiles, and home appliances. “Within the next 5 to 10 years power cords will go the way of public pay phones, vinyl records and Walkmans – all technologies that have been replaced by better, more user-friendly versions of themselves,” I wrote here in March 2011
We are already witnessing that world unfold before our very eyes.
Whether you are flying the Delta-Shuttle from JFK Airport; sipping coffee in Cambridge, MA, Beverly Hills, San Francisco or London; munching French fries at McDonald’s in Manhattan; or driving the highways of America in your Cadillac ATS sport sedan, there is no longer a need to carry a wired charger to juice your mobile phone, tablet or other portable devices.
At home, my kitchen has been chord-free for years, relying on Powermat-enabled blenders, mixers, and other appliances. Soon, yours will be, too.
Globally, research and development spending was forecast to top $1.6 trillion in 2014, with even more money being funneled into creation this year, according to Battelle Memorial Institute, the world’s largest nonprofit research and development organization.
That’s a lot of money available to fuel change.
Beyond my obvious passion for wireless energy, there are incipient technologies that will arrive between now and 2019 in a wide variety of industries and niches that will leave us marveling at just how quaint our world was back in 2015.
Peter Russell is correct in that some of the innovations will explode on the scene spontaneously, with little or no foreknowledge.
But other changes are far easier to forecast than the coming of the Internet age was back when Russell nailed that prediction in 1983.
Like watching for a shooting star or bolt of lightening, we may not know exactly when and where the next technological innovations will strike, but we can focus our attention on quadrants of research and development that are exhibiting great promise.
In an article last June, “The world struggles to keep up with the pace of change in science and technology,” Peter Marsh of The Financial Times makes note of some of the most promising quadrants to observe. They include disruptive advancements, of course. But they also encompass incremental improvements that slowly add layers of progress to mature industries – such as steelmaking and oilfield services – until what emerges is unrecognizable when compared to decades-old technologies.
Looking for lightening to strike? Then keep an eye open for what’s to come soon enough in the areas of synthetic biology, water reclamation and hydroponics, replacement body parts, self-driving and electric vehicles, space exploration, and nanotechnology, to mention only a few promising regions.
In the weeks and months to come, I hope you will visit here often as I explore and evaluate all of these exciting disciplines.