What will survive?
This blog post intends to take us to a completely different thought space and challenge our base premises. Ericsson speaks about 50 billion things connected by 2020. Likewise Cisco and Intel talk about the internet of things. Is that really interesting though? Is it relevant to consider what “things” will continue to exist or is it more interesting to ask why things exist in the first place?
First, let’s simplify the billions of different things into 3 basic categories:
• Things we need to physically survive
• Things that increase our power
• Things that transport other things
Water, food and clothes are good examples of things we need to survive. In the future we will probably still need these things (see English sarcasm). Tractors, cranes and diggers are all examples of things that increase our physical capability or power (muscle complement). In the future, we will probably also still need these things (English sarcasm repeated).
The most interesting group however is the things that transport other things. The challenge here is that in many cases we have forgotten why these things existed in the first place. They have taken the primary role in our minds and this is where these things will get disrupted, replaced and de-materialized. They have also taken primary roles in the companies that produce them. When this happens, these dominant companies are ripe for death unless they pro-actively re-invent themselves by remembering why they originally existed.
When I speak about things that transport other things I am not thinking primarily about cars that transport people as much as things that transport concepts that only make sense to the the human senses. History has continuously shown us to want to communicate these concepts beyond the immediate geography and it has always been a battle between reach and time. For the ﬁrst time since the Industrial Revolution it is possible to distribute human invented concepts digitally, rather than physically. And once they are digital, they can be enhanced or completely re-invented. Suddenly time and reach are no longer limited by the bounds of the physical world, only by the bounds of the digital one.
This is the foundational truth that is powering the total disruption behind the Networked Society – be it good or bad, listen to Radio Lab’s podcast, ‘Speed’.
The following are percentages of smartphone users who no longer have physical things:
• Alarm Clocks: 54%
• Wristwatches: 46%
• Stand-alone cameras: 39%
• Laptop PCs: 28%
• Gaming consoles: 11%
• TVs: 6%
• Books: 6%
Put into context, we can say that:
• Alarm Clocks and Wristwatches physically distribute time
• Cameras and film physically distribute images
• TVs and Books physically distribute video and text
• Etc. etc…
Most companies exist as a result of the Industrial Revolution where orchestrated manufacturing and operation were a necessity for the scale of growth required. This is why the change caused by the Networked Society is relevant to almost all industries and brings into question whether big companies will be relevant in the future.
Does your company manufacture a legacy transport mechanism? What do you think you should manufacture going forward? What categories of things do you think will survive and have a role in the Networked Society?
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