Any Sufficiently Advanced Technology is Indistinguishable from Magic
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." If this quote from Arthur C. Clarke is true, then we live in truly magical times indeed.
How could Martin Cooper, 'Father of the cell phone' have foreseen the technological advance, ubiquitous adoption (91% of people on earth have cell phones), and personal importance of his watershed invention, now commonplace and largely taken for granted. The technology is so pervasive; the number of mobile connections equals people on earth (6.8 billion), which is more than the number who own a toothbrush (4.2 billion).
While being mesmerised by the innovation, boundless potential and technological wonder of our digital zeitgeist, it is important to remember that technology at its core, is an indiscriminate enabler of business processes, both good and bad. In a nutshell, information technology directs, distributes and accelerates the information with which it deals.
Of these features, the most potentially troublesome is that of acceleration. Acceleration is deceptive in that by simply accelerating poor business processes, it may appear that the process is improved, when in fact, it has only been sped up, producing faster garbage. In order to truly maximize the capabilities of the incredible technologies we wield, it is critical that at the core of our optimization efforts exists a clear and intimate understanding of why we pursue the business goals we do. Otherwise, we risk mistaking the resulting products and services as the intended goal.
This fatal mistake has been the kiss of death for many technology companies who lost track of the essence of their original purpose, or their 'why'. Overtime, companies mistook the resulting service or product, a 'what' for the new mission instead of recognizing that the mission was unintentionally redirected. Witness the very public and recent demise of Kodak who appear to have supplanted their original mission of memory preservation, with the identity of a photographic company, and fell victim to the fleeting nature of the very technology that birthed the industry they pioneered. Technology is fleeting, purpose is not.
In terms of the future of mobility, from my perspective, the trend is pretty robust and obvious. From the earliest computers that took up entire floors of buildings, through the Hub and spoke model and the advent of personal computing, to laptops and finally mobile computing, we see that computing has become more: Affordable, Powerful, Personal, Pervasive and Convenient.
This makes perfect sense, as the ultimate function of computers is to assist us with our daily needs, and through this evolution, we're beginning to see them transform from simple, stand-alone tools that we use to calculate, observe and control, to complex, interlinked systems of sensors, capable of truly assisting us.
This change is not only rapid, but accelerating as well. If done right, it will eventually blend into daily life, invisibly, and simply help us to get things done. Perhaps Antoine Saint-Exupery stated it most eloquently in his book 'Wind, Sand and Stars', he asserted, "The more perfect a machine becomes, the more they are invisible behind their function. It seems that perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to take away... At the climax of its evolution, the machine conceals itself entirely."
This article was written by Dr Brian Laughlin, Technical Fellow, Technical Architecture & Strategic Planning, The Boeing Company.