In my last post, I wrote: We are in a time that Historians will define as “The last days of the Technology Revolution”.  I agree that this statement sounds a little extreme – So, what do I mean?  In order to answer that question, we need to understand how Historians define the Industrial Revolution.

Wikipedia defines the Industrial Revolution as a, “period from the 18th to the 19th century where major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times.”  The reference continues with, “The Industrial Revolution marks a major turning point in human history; almost every aspect of daily life was influenced in some way.”  One could easily substitute “Technology” for “Industrial”, change the dates and apply that same definition to the current times. The defining phrase being, “almost every aspect of daily life was influenced in some way”.

Clearly, industrialization did not stop when the revolution ended.  Likewise, we are not currently entering a period in which technical innovation will cease; in fact, it is accelerating.  So, what does the term “revolution” mean?  It is my view that what Historians are referring to, when they define a period like the Industrial or Technology Revolution, is not the innovations that took place, but rather the societal impact they had.  The industrial, and now the technical, innovations have impacted governmental, business and educational institutions with revolutionary changes (not to mention how we personally interact with our friends and family).  And, only after society catches up by adapting their skills and socially adjusts, does the “revolution” part of the period end – because, at this point, there is a new normal.

Now, consider where we are today in relation to technology; one could say, we now have a new normal.  Most institutions have installed the foundational infrastructure and have a newly skilled workforce that is substantially capable of managing the technology that is available to them.  Sure, there are still shortages of skilled workers, but with each passing year the workforce, and therefore, the institutions they represent, become more technically capable.  

As individuals, we have also personally adapted.  The vast majority of people are now capable of managing the technology that is available in their personal lives – even if it is just their cell phone.  Being a technical guru, a “geek”, is no longer required; the support structure is in place to enable and empower the user to the level of their interest.  Help Desk support, online tools and social media now provide powerful resources to the consumer.  As an example, my Mother, who is not a child of the technical age (I’ll give you a hint: I am 49) and has no technical background, just set up her home network.  She integrated her iPad, iPhone, laptop and her new desk top computer on her wireless network and connected it all to iCloud.  She did it all with online tools and manufacturer phone support. 

So what’s next? It sounds like we are approaching the end of the Historian’s definition of a revolution – well not quite.  There is one piece left and it could be a significant challenge.  The last problem to solve is: how do we work together, collaborate, and share information in a group setting?  With all of this technology around us, it is still very common to use a standard whiteboard or flip chart to share information.  How are the meeting notes captured?  Surprisingly, most often, the solution is to use a digital camera to take a picture of the information for transcription and distribution; a process that is inefficient, error prone, and expensive. 

Now add an increasingly decentralized workforce to the puzzle and collaboration gets even more challenging.  Even with the use of videoconferencing and data sharing tools, like WebEx®, there are limitations.  You are still in presentation mode; you show your stuff and they show theirs – separate workspaces.  A very positive, creative, dynamic is added when we are able to work in the same space – even if it is a virtual workspace.  The video gaming industry has known this for years and supports this type of interactivity in increasingly sophisticated ways.  Imagine the power of Microsoft’s Kinetic® enabling your meeting space.  And, what if you could harness the screen sharing capabilities and interactivity of online gaming sites for your remote collaboration?  It would change everything.  It would change how we communicate. 

It might just mark the end of the Technology Revolution.

  2 Responses to “The Last Days of the Technology Revolution (Part 2)”

  1. Very interesting topic! Surprisingly, as one of the resident tech geeks here, I have never really thought about how this period would be viewed in history. I think I was born at the beginning of the “computer generation”, I often think of my 4yr old daughter growing up with no idea how the world functioned without e-mail, cell phones, media players, flat panel displays, or most shockingly… the Internet!
    After reading your article, I did some digging. This period is also being referred to as the “Digital Revolution.” I think there is still quite a bit of gas left in the tank of this revolution, for a few reasons.

    First, the interfaces. How we interact with technology. Our keyboard layout originated in 1873 to prevent “Type Writers” from jamming. The first mouse was introduced in 1963, and has seen equally minor changes since it’s introduction. The technology has advances drastically in the last 25 years, but the interfaces have not. The Microsoft’s Kinetic® you mentioned is a perfect example, as is Apple’s Siri® or touchpanels in general. There is so much focus on making tech faster and smaller, making it more natural or intuitive to use has been neglected. That is, until recently. I think this will be a major focus over the next decade or two.

    The second reason is integration into education or learning, in general. Interactive whiteboards and webcast classes are a start, but I feel they are just be scratching the surface. Interactive whiteboards are only recently becoming broadly integrated in classrooms. There is also still a generation of teachers who are try to figure out how to use them. Many reluctantly, and few effectively. As today’s kids grow up with these tools in the classroom and become teachers themselves, I think there will be a boom in how effectively they are used. Partially due to their comfort level with the technology, but also because of their positive and negative experiences with its early implementation. If I am right, that boom is about 15-20 years out.

    The last thing, which you mentioned, is collaboration. I see that as interaction with each other through technology. This will be very important to business, education and the personal space. I think it will be greatly driven by business needs. It will also have a major impact on the other two areas I mentioned. And not only is happening right now, it is what we do!

    Sorry this was so long, but it was an exciting topic! It is great to be such an important part of this revolution, and I look forward to your future articles.

    • First, thank you for your thoughtful comments and consideration of my post. Your comments are appreciated.

      In short, I think for the most part we have the same point of view. Although, I do disagree with you on a couple of points.

      Where we agree – You make three key points:

      1. The components to interface with technology have change very little until recently.
      2. These interface components need to change in order to support interactivity/collaboration in group environments.
      3. Training and social adaptation will be required.

      The first point is what I call the “Technology/Biology Interface”. This topic is the subject of my next post. Technology has changed a lot since its introduction – Our biology has not. The development of additional types of user interfaces are going to be key to enabling group interaction with technology.

      The second point is in line with my comments. To date, technological innovations have not been supportive of collaborative environments – This is changing. As you referenced, there are both consumer and commercial solutions currently on the market with more on the way. Although, Apple’s Siri(R) and touch panels are just further adaptations of the individual user interface.

      On the third point – Absolutely training will be required. This will happen just as user aptitude will improve as the younger generation moves into the workforce.

      Where we disagree:

      I disagree that it will take 15 to 20 years. Remember how I defined the “End”. I was not referring to the technology, it will continue to evolve. What I am referring to is how long it will take us as a society to reach the “New Normal” in our collaborative interactions. I think we are farther along the adoption curve than you suggest and therefore I think it will be a much shorter period; maybe five or ten years. I know I referred to the last “Days” in my title but I was speaking in relative terms. It was also a catchy title.

      You make the statement, “The last thing, which you mentioned, is collaboration. I see that as interaction with each other through technology.” I disagree, collaboration is what we do naturally as human beings. We were collaborating the first time we used our finger to draw an idea in the sand. I would argue that technology has been interfering with the way we naturally work together and that this will only be corrected as improved user interfaces and user skills are developed. I do agree that being able to work with remote coworkers is all a result of technology and it is a game changer.

      Thank you again for contributing to this discussion!

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