by Mark Valenti CTS, President/CEO, The Sextant Group

  1. We are approaching the “Era of Abundance:” virtually unlimited bandwidth that is essentially free. This completely upsets the traditional economics notion of price set by supply and demand. Bandwidth is growing exponentially, and its abundance is one of the most important developments of our time. Traditional economics teaches us that price reflects the balance point between supply and demand. However, in the next decade, that notion is going to be turned on its head as bandwidth becomes essentially limitless and nearly free. If the supply of bandwidth becomes infinite, price becomes zero. What changes is the value proposition – something that is free begins to build value because of what you can do with it. The analogy that exemplifies this best is electricity. In the days of Thomas Edison and Nikolai Tesla, electricity originally was the product. But it didn’t take long for the energy generating industry to generate so much electricity that it became essentially free. In his book, The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google, Nicholas Carr draws a profound parallel between electricity and today’s Internet. When people have access to unlimited free bandwidth, what they do with it becomes the real game-changer. An example of this phenomenon is the US television industry: in 2013, more Americans got their real-time entertainment over the Internet than over traditional broadcast media, signaling a shift in advertising revenue from television networks to others.
  2. In this new era, many traditional physical things will become virtual. Music is already there — books are right behind. With the onset of local manufacturing using low-cost, high performance 3-D printers, many other traditional hard goods will become virtual. And as ownership of virtual “things” becomes commonplace, human behavior will begin to change. As 3-D printing technology matures, it is reasonable to imagine that one will buy a design for an article of clothing, print it out at home and bypass the entire retail chain of manufacturing, distribution and sales. The value will lie in the design and not in the object. We’re seeing this happen in the publishing industry as authors move from the large publishing houses to flexible self-publishing platforms such as CreateSpace and Ingram Spark. One implication for our higher education clients is a growing emphasis on teaching students creative and design skills. This trend requires fast, easy and low-cost prototyping which allows students to see and hold the immediate outcome of their creative process. As a result, we are seeing a growing interest in “maker spaces,” where students can design and build in rapid fashion.
  3. In the next five to fifteen years, we will likely see a computer chip with the cognitive processing capacity of a human – at an affordable price. This will disrupt everything: education, healthcare, and manufacturing at the very least. IBM’s entire corporate strategy is focused on cognitive computing. The term refers to a computer that programs itself through awareness of its environment. The implications are that a human teamed with a cognitive computer can do so much more than a human alone. Imagine a doctor that is working in conjunction with an intelligent agent. While the doctor is noting the patient’s symptoms, the computer can run through millions of case histories, sort by similarity, review successful past treatments and offer a comprehensive custom solution for the doctor to consider. This delivers a much more likely successful diagnosis and treatment than one doctor (or even an entire team) could do on his or her own. This notion of human/machine collaboration is extremely powerful and has implications for every facet of our society.