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Technology, toaster-ovens, and the future…

I attended a McGladrey Emerging Technology conference recently, aptly entitled “Innovation Overload” ( http://mcgladrey.com/Search-Results?q=emerging+technology&sp_cs=UTF-8 ).  The keynote speaker was David Smith, a technologist and a futurist.  Coincidently, I heard another futurist and engineer present just four months ago.  

I suspect one of the reasons why futurists are popular speakers is they are provocative.  Part of their “WOW Factor” is those little known, yet shocking facts about what’s going on all around us that we don’t realize.  Here are a few examples: 

  • With today’s technology, we can record everything – and everything is a lot!
  • Among the 5 most appreciated technologies of the past 100 years – the microwave oven topped the list (followed very closely by – the garage door opener). 
  • 90% of the computer chips manufactured today don’t go into computers.  As it turns out, automobiles and household appliances are common computer chip destinations.  David emphasized that when we turn the key to start our car, before the signal ever reaches the starter, it first boots-up the car’s on-board computer chips.  He went on to state that today’s automobiles have more computing power than the Cray computers that dominated headlines for computing power in the 1990’s.  (Remember the ‘90’s?)
  • 70% of the Internet traffic does not involve a person; it’s machine-to-machine communications (often posing as human beings).  So how do we know if those Tweets are coming from a person or that toaster-oven with all the computer chips on your kitchen countertop? 

David went on to complete his “shock and awe” presentation about what the technology future has is store for us.  Very provocative. 

Some of his statements I took issue with.  For instance, he warned of possible disaster if businesses put their business applications in “the Cloud”.  He said, “The Internet might go down” and then your business couldn’t operate.  

During break, I sought David out to express an opposing view (i.e. “argue”).  You see, the Internet never goes down.  Perhaps your connection goes down, but not the Internet.  Still a problem, no doubt; but if your Internet connection goes down at the office, according to his futuristic presentation, you could simply go home and plug-in from your toaster-oven, yes?  

But after a few minutes of trying to argue with our futurist, I could tell 4 things: 

  1. He didn’t have the same sense of humor when it comes to the hype over futuristic technology as I do.  He gets paid to prognosticate about what will happen “someday” (with a fair bit of vagueness on the “when”, I might add); I actually have to make a living selling this stuff; yet he’s the serious one.
  2. Then it dawned on me that you really can’t argue with a futurist – his position is based on events that haven’t taken place yet, so we don’t know if he is accurate.  (Not quite the same when our Managers review our sales forecast, true?) 
  3. Reminds me of our weathermen and their “pinpoint” radar, technology, and forecasts.  (Which reminds me of those times I’m digging out of the snow storm that was supposed to miss us.)  But, we can’t argue with the weatherman, either.
  4. And all of this arguing  with technologists, futurists, engineers, and weathermen reminds me of our favorite, Unknown Sage: 

Arguing with an engineer is like wrestling a pig in the mud. After a few hours you realize, the pig likes it.                                 

Have to go now – my refrigerator just texted me. 

GAP 

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4 Comments


  1. Jim Anderson
    Apr 09, 2012

    Gary-

    My opinion is that futurists are the counter of historians and they share a significant similarity. In both cases each are providing their opinion, hopefully well informed, but still an opinion of events that are simply not accessible for 100% validation. But they can be very entertaining and thought provoking if they’ve done their homework. Thanks for passing today’s message along. I enjoyed it.

    Jim


    • Gary
      Apr 09, 2012

      Thanks Jim – excellent clarification of historians and futurists! I hadn’t thought of them that way. Thx, GAP


  2. Ray
    Apr 09, 2012

    Gary,

    You know me, I have some apps in teh cloud, but not everything. I don’t think we have seen anything dramatic that can wreak havoc on the net.

    “During break, I sought David out to express an opposing view (i.e. “argue”). You see, the Internet never goes down. Perhaps your connection goes down, but not the Internet. Still a problem, no doubt; but if your Internet connection goes down at the office, according to his futuristic presentation, you could simply go home and plug-in from your toaster-oven, yes? ”

    Nothing is 100%


    • Gary
      Apr 09, 2012

      Hi Ray, I absolutely know you! I trust things are well in the Pacific NW. I have returned to where you and I originally met. Anyway, thank you very much for your comment. And yes I think you’re right – nothing is 100%. Sage advice for anyone venturing into new technology. Hope to see you at SuiteWorld in May. Thx, GAP

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