By Hassan Baig
As a technologist I make it a point to keep an eye out for developments happening not only in my niche of the tech industry, but at the entire sector as a whole. This is very helpful for me in my capacity as a CEO since it enables me in understanding the macro picture and planning strategically for the future.
As Eisenhower famously said: “I have found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable”. Below I share some current tech trends unfolding in the world today. I hope my readers will find this list useful and informative.
Big Tech Trend # 1 – Consumer Apps:
The first noteworthy trend is the ongoing march of consumer apps (circa 2005). I was in my junior year at Duke University when Mark Zuckerberg wrote the first incarnation of Facebook from his dorm in Harvard. Within months, many of us were testing its open-beta and giving Mark a means to grow his social network to unforeseen heights.
Those were the early beginnings of consumer apps – the industry had existed before but the frenzy with which it was about to be hit would end up drawing comparisons to the California Gold Rush of 1850’s. Large-scale democratization of the space occurred in 2007 when Facebook opened up the platform to allow 3rd party apps. Soon Apple, Google et al followed suit to make consumer apps a space no one could ignore.
Today the space is beginning to cool down somewhat. While far from bottoming out, there has been a tendency among VCs sitting in Silicon Valley to hold back on blindly funding the consumer space like they have been doing before. In its stead, VCs are beginning to look towards enterprise apps (i.e. apps requiring CIO approval rather than consumer download). Some say they are the future, but my take is consumer and enterprise will probably coexist from here on out.
Big Tech Trend # 2 – Big Data:
A typical user’s digital footprint is increasingly becoming larger. Just imagine it. Playing social games, WhatsApping friends, liking pages/posts on the web, putting up pictures, tagging friends, posting status updates, editing wikis, checking into physical locations – all of it has logarithmically increased the trail of breadcrumbs generated per internet user. The term ‘Big Data’ has been coined to refer to this very data explosion.
The biggest opportunity rearing its head with the rise of Big Data is user behaviour analytics. Big Data – complex as it is to analyse data sets running in numerous terabytes - accords the kind of precision to behaviour modelling which was hitherto considered science fiction.
Be it brands connecting to their customers, or governments keeping tabs on citizens of the state, or marketers looking into behaviour shaping, or even the way Google fetches results for you – anything and everything is being affected by Big Data. Just like a philosopher may find these times exciting for they portend the definitive test of the existence of free will, technologists too are excited about how deep the rabbit hole goes.
Big Tech Trend #3 – To Infinity & Beyond:
Founder’s Fund, headed by Paypal’s Peter Thiel and Facebook’s Sean Parker, is a hot new VC firm in Silicon Valley with a rather telling slogan: "We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters". This slogan is indicative of the mood the Valley’s elite are in currently.
And why do the Valley elite matter? Because they’re the channel through which capital investments flow into entrepreneurs’ company accounts. Thus when the Valley elite disregard the past 20 years of innovation with the kind of eagerness the Renaissance derided the Middle Ages with, you can rest assured that a new world order is afoot.
Google’s self-driving cars, Apple’s Siri powered by hive intelligence and SpaceX’s endeavour to colonize Mars are all symptoms of the ambitiousness prevalent among some of the smartest – and well-funded – minds on the planet today.
In short we are standing on the cusp of a new dawn, and it’s looking to be a long, productive day before the inevitability of night sets in again.
Big Tech Trend #4 – Singularitarianism:
Thus far we’ve been looking at technology trends under the microscope, so now let’s take a step back and look at the macro picture. Where is all this accelerating development headed? Some say that a so-called ‘technological singularity’ lies in humanity’s future.
While the concept itself is nothing new, the current state of tech growth is breathing a new life into Singularitarianism as it is called. Supporters of this school of thought envisage a world where tech-based economies double in size every month if not every week, where autonomous technology is ubiquitous, and where the distance between the haves and the have-nots is almost infinite.
Whereas much of Singularitarian literature is speculative in nature, it does mark a belief that though adoption of tech can still be considered optional in today’s world, it will be as fundamental as food and drink in the decades to come. Where would that leave pre-tech economies? In the clutches of a new kind of slavery and exploitation, unless the leaders of today are able to plan and prepare for the incoming tomorrow. In a Pakistani context, you and I are these very leaders, and the choices we make in these times are going to define the destiny of our coming generations.
The writer is running White Rabbit Studios – a social game development startup – since last 3 years. He is a student of history and an expert at negotiating the numerous travails of tech entrepreneurship in Pakistan.