There’s no question we’re in the middle of a technological revolution. In the span of two decades, we’ve gone from the internet being a rarity for residential homes to being able to access the web from handheld devices practically everywhere. Thousands of new apps are created every day, and Moore’s Law continues to drive our computing power forward in bursts. But why are we seeing such advanced development in this age?
Factors for Our Success
These are just five of the biggest reasons why we’ve come so far:
- Emphasis on entrepreneurship. Though a number of individuals with passionate pursuits have driven technology forward, most advancements have come from major research departments, businesses, and organizations. As Jay Suites illustrates, entrepreneurship is something patriotic that feeds into the idea of the American dream. As a country, we still idolize this notion and the ideals behind it, and thanks to that entrepreneurial favoritism, more people are driven to innovate, create businesses, and compete to bring newer, better solutions to the market.
- Exponential potential. Technology has the potential to develop exponentially, rather than linearly. That is, rather than marching forward one step at a time, technology takes two steps, then four steps, then eight steps forward. The most popular description of this advancement pattern is Moore’s Law, which stipulates that the number of transistors capable of being placed per square inch of surface area doubles every year. However, this rate has slowed to approximately every 18 months, and may taper off completely within the next few years.
- Technology for technology. There’s also the idea that technology can be used to create other technology. Because we can design machines that build other machines, and now—as with Google’s RankBrain—algorithms that modify other algorithms automatically, our potential increases even further. With every leap forward in technological advancement, we’re actually increasing our own abilities to create even more technological advancements.
- Mass-market potential. Though somewhat cynical to say, it’s fairly obvious that one of the biggest motivators in the world is profit. We’ve experienced a massive surge in technological potential, in part, because of high consumer demand. Developers realize that there’s money to be made in finding a new, ingenious technological solution, and are thus driven to create it better and faster.
- Genuine human curiosity. Don’t discount the genuine human quality of curiosity that’s gotten us this far as a species. There’s something innate in human nature that drives us to try new things, explore new areas, and indulge our creativity; it’s suspected that this could be an evolutionarily advantageous quality that leads us to discover more about our environments and gives us greater chances for survival. In any case, many of us find ourselves hungry for new gadgets, more advanced tech, and revolutionary new breakthroughs precisely because of this quality.
How Far Can We Go?
These are the factors responsible for getting us to this point, but what about the next point, or the point after that? We’ve come an impressive way in the past 30 years or so, but what does the future hold for the next 30 years? Will our momentum begin to decline?
Examining these factors specifically, we can venture to make a guess. Our curious nature, the fact that technology can lead to the better development of future technology, and our hunger for entrepreneurship and profit are unlikely to wane anytime soon. However, as pointed out earlier, Moore’s Law is already declining and could decline further in the coming years. Some financial authorities have also pointed out that another “tech bubble” has formed; essentially, we’ve placed more value on tech companies and developments than they’re actually worth, and the repercussions of this dissonance could lead to a collapse of the sector.
Still, Moore’s Law only applies to one feature of computing technology and the collapse of the financial sector would only hold us back for so long. The primary drivers of technological ingenuity—entrepreneurship, exponential growth patterns, and curiosity—will likely allow us to preserve our momentum uninterrupted, and for the indefinite future.