The next big technological shift affecting all three accelerators is the photonics revolution: using lasers and crystal holography to store information — think Superman’s Fortress of Solitude.
We’ve already been rummaging around in the foothills of this particular mountain of change. Magnetic drives give way to optical drives, and copper cable is joined by fiber optics enabling the transmission of data in the form of light rather than magnetic charge. Just as laying down steel tracks for the railroads transformed the economic and social landscape in the late 19th Century, our crisscrossing the oceans and continents with fiber optics in the late 1990s transformed the modern landscape — only to a far greater degree and in a fraction of the time.
These three accelerators describe a curve that starts out almost imperceptibly slow. In the ’80s, it started curving upward to the point where we could almost start to feel the change. By the end of the ’90s it was impossible not to feel it. Yet today, oddly, people often seem to feel the technology revolution is over, that the biggest changes are behind us.
This is a grave mistake.
As radical a change as we’ve seen with fiber optics, we’ve barely scratched the surface of the photonics revolution. Crystal holography is yet another technology that will give us inconceivably vast amounts of data, all stored in three-dimensional and instantly retrievable form. Information about virtually everything, at your fingertips: just add light and stir.
And that’s just storage.
Our microchips get faster and faster, as well. We’ve already stepped into the next frontier in processing: nanotechnology and quantum computing. Researchers have charted the workings of soon to be constructed nano-computers that store infinitesimal bits of information (called qubits, for quantum bits) on single atoms.
And what about bandwidth? That may be the greatest shift of all. We have already stepped off our copper wires and onto fiber optic cables, and now we’re stepping off those translucent filaments onto … thin air. We have become the high-wire artist without the net and without the wire; flying through the air with the greatest of ease. Fiber optics will continue to provide the backbone of communications but, with advances in wireless transmission, our capacity to increase bandwidth, both wired and wireless, has virtually no upward limit.
Photonics, crystal holography, nanotechnology, quantum computing, and infinitely extensible wireless transmission will all accelerate the virtualization of business processes using many innovative iterations of cloud computing. The rate of change ahead will make the days of 1999’s “Internet boom” seem like a quiet autumn afternoon sitting on the front porch rocking chair watching the leaves turn.
What’s critical to remember here is that none of this is a maybe. This accelerating rate of change is as certain as the sun rising in the East tomorrow morning, and it’s going to sweep across our landscape like the technological tsunami it is.
This is going to happen whether we want it to or not. From education to healthcare, agriculture to energy to manufacturing, it will burst through every industry and every institution, metamorphosing everything and leaving nothing untouched in its wake. It will be deeply disruptive to every aspect of every industry and every aspect of human activity … except for those who see it coming.
Daniel Burrus is considered one of the world’s leading technology forecasters and business strategists, and is the founder and CEO of Burrus Research, a research and consulting firm that monitors global advancements in technology driven trends to help clients better understand how technological, social and business forces are converging to create enormous, untapped opportunities. He is the author of six books, including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal best seller Flash Foresight: How To See the Invisible and Do the Impossible as well as the highly acclaimed Technotrends.