MAX­I­MUM DIS­RUP­TION

A new book called iDis­rupted claims that business, the econ­omy, and even hu­man na­ture are about to see huge changes, as Michael Baxter ex­plains

Australian T3 - - OPINION -

Look for­ward a few years and the world will be a very dif­fer­ent place. Many of the gi­ant com­pa­nies with which we are cur­rently fa­mil­iar will have de­parted this place and joined the great stock ex­change in the sky.

iDis­rupted is a book about dis­rup­tive tech­nol­ogy – tech­nol­ogy that will wreak havoc and cause great changes. Among the pre­dic­tions: if you were to write a list of the world’s 100 largest com­pa­nies in 2012, and re­visit it in 2043, only 19 or so of those firms would still ap­pear in that chart. The book also claims that the rate of in­no­va­tion is set to ac­cel­er­ate at an as­ton­ish­ing speed.

Here are two rea­sons why... Firstly, there’s Moore’s Law – the ob­ser­va­tion that com­puter power dou­bles ev­ery 24 months. In 1965, In­tel’s Gor­don Moore pre­dicted that the num­ber of tran­sis­tors on an in­te­grated cir­cuit would dou­ble ev­ery two years. If the fam­ily sa­loon car had seen its top speed in­crease on a sim­i­lar tra­jec­tory, to­day it would travel at roughly ten times the speed of light.

Faster com­put­ers mat­ter. When the hu­man genome project got un­der­way, progress was so slow that crit­ics said it would take more than a hun­dred years to com­plete. Even­tu­ally it cost $2.7 bil­lion and took 13 years to se­quence

the first hu­man genome. Thanks in part to more pow­er­ful com­put­ers, it now costs just a few thou­sand dol­lars and the process can be com­pleted in a mat­ter of hours.

The sec­ond rea­son is the in­ter­net. Ideas build upon ideas. No medium in his­tory can match the in­ter­net for fa­cil­i­tat­ing the spread of ideas across the globe.

So why will so many com­pa­nies fail? Firstly, this has hap­pened be­fore. Of the world’s top com­pa­nies in 1912, only 19 were still on that list in 1995; 29 had gone bust. His­tory is set to re­peat it­self, but the next cy­cle will be a com­pressed ver­sion of the last. Oil, en­ergy, bank­ing and the car in­dus­try are all vul­ner­a­ble. The car in­dus­try? Surely not! Why?

Firstly, it’s al­ready hap­pen­ing. The rate of car use is still grow­ing, but at a slow­ing rate. Ex­perts pre­dict that by 2050 the num­ber of au­to­mo­biles in Ger­many will fall by 50%. Then there are self-driv­ing cars. The re­la­tion­ship be­tween driver and car is quite in­ti­mate. The car is like an ex­ten­sion of our­selves. With self-driv­ing ma­chines, some­thing will be lost. Cars will just be things.

Then throw the rise of the shar­ing econ­omy into the mix. The eco­nomics of self-driv­ing cars com­bined with lift shar­ing will be so com­pelling that peo­ple will start ques­tion­ing whether they re­ally need a car to drive. There’s a no­tice­able at­ti­tude change too. The Mil­len­nial Gen­er­a­tion (that’s peo­ple born within a few years of the year 2000) are typ­i­cally more at­tached to their smart­phone than they are to their car.

Elec­tric cars will cause dis­rup­tion as well. The car in­dus­try is some­what cyn­i­cal about elec­tric cars. How­ever, the com­bi­na­tion of nan­otech­nolo­gies – such as car­bon nan­otubes and graphene – with lithium-ion, -lithium-sul­fur bat­ter­ies and new su­per­con­duc­tors will rev­o­lu­tionise en­ergy stor­age.

Tech­nol­ogy will trans­form business, the econ­omy and may even change what it is to be hu­man. This is both ex­cit­ing and terrifying. Few seem to ap­pre­ci­ate the changes that are oc­cur­ring. Step­ping into this new tech­no­log­i­cal age blind is a very dan­ger­ous thing to do. That is why few things are more im­por­tant than un­der­stand­ing this new world. Michael is co-au­thor of iDis­rupted, on sale now in both e-book and con­ven­tional for­mats. See idis­rupted.com for more

NO MEDIUM CAN MATCH THE IN­TER­NET FOR FA­CIL­I­TAT­ING THE SPREAD OF IDEAS

MICHAEL BAXTER

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