In a brilliant new piece of work, Thomas Friedman (author of The World is Flat) not only gives us a great synthesis of why the world feels so overwhelming right now, but also provides us with sage advice on how to cope with the accelerated change and even succeed into the future, at individual, company, community, and infrastructure levels.
This commentary considers and builds on his thesis at the individual and company levels for now, leaving his community and social/infrastructure themes for a later date. The pace of change – technological (driven by Moore’s law), socio-political and environmental – is outpacing that of the human adaptability to change, and it’s overwhelming. Not long ago (200 years), uncomfortable change was happening every 100 years or so. Since the industrial revolution, it has been happening every 30 years. Now in this era of accelerated change, it happens every five years. Mobile apps, big data, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, machine learning, the self-driving car…these are rushing at us at unprecedented speeds. And the bad news is that not only are we not coping, but those of us that fall behind do so at an accelerating rate! The winds of change of the 1960s have now become gale force!
Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, was correct to predict in 1965 that the processing power for computers would double every two years. To illustrate the impact of this technological change, (and also to show what could be possible if we applied our minds in the same way in different areas I suspect), Friedman quotes an example of a 1971 Volkswagen: subject to the same change as the microchip, a VW today would go at a speed of 483 000 kilometres per hour and would travel 3,2 million kilometres per 3,8 litres of petrol, which would cost 52 cents!