Do you remember a time before Google? A time when cars only ran on gasoline and ‘mobile computing’ meant calculating how long you had to run to work off that latte? The last ten years has seen a seismic shift in the tools we use to go about our daily lives. In this first of a two part series, we’ll take a brief look at three influential innovations over the last decade. In part two we’ll put on our shiny prognostication hat and look ahead to the next decade and the emerging technologies that will change our world. (Spoiler: It looks nothing like the Jetson’s.)
Next Generation Electric Cars
We truly are a culture of the automobile. It’s almost impossible to imagine our world without cars. As with all good things, however, there was a price to be paid. Air and noise pollution from oil and gas-fueled automobiles threatened to choke our largest cities. New thinking was required. When inventor and entrepreneur Elon Musk began delivering Tesla Roadsters to customers in 2008, that new thinking had arrived. Telsa’s plug in electric vehicles’ sales jumped from just 19 in 2010 to roughly 95,000 as of June 2013. The world was hungry for change.
In February 2005, the video-sharing website YouTube launched and rapidly became a pop culture mainstay. For the first time, the average person had unprecedented influence over the media. With just a handheld video camera (or even a phone), anyone in the world could record and broadcast newsworthy events or cat videos. International bloggers started telling stories swept under the rug by authoritarian regimes. User-edited Wikipedia became (and remains) the resource of choice for people around the world. The user-generated movement became so compelling that in 2006 Time magazine named “You” its Person of the Year. As musician and Queen of Twitter Amanda Palmer (whose album and tour was funded through a record-breaking Kickstarter campaign) often proclaims to her fans, “We are the media.”
As you may imagine, social media is the primary vehicle for this new wave of user-generated content. Through it, we’ve brought about change in the world, such as the massive fundraising campaigns for the Haiti earthquake in 2010, redefined journalism – the death of Osama Bin Laden was being reported on Twitter before the major news outlets caught wind of it – and created entertainment stars like Justin Bieber. (Well… Nobody’s perfect.)
There was a time when a ‘computer’ was a beige (or if you were really cool, black) box on your desk, attached to a monitor, keyboard and mouse. It was a ‘home’ or ‘office’ device. The idea of being ‘mobile’ usually meant using a notebook computer, a device that in those days weighed almost as much as the desktop model, making it less than ideal to carry about all day. Fast-forward a few years, and while of course desktop computers still exist, they are rapidly being replaced with more compact and light notebook computers. Another fast growing group have decided to forgo the traditional form factor entirely, opting for a handheld device like a tablet or smartphone. People are now composing documents, making music and even editing videos on portable devices that weigh about the same as a desktop computer’s keyboard. Increasingly, smartphones and tablet are being used as primary computing devices. CCS Insight, a telecommunications analyst firm, predicts that by 2017 more mobile devices will be in use than there are people on the planet – about 6.6 billion, if you were wondering.
These are just a few of the technologies that have altered our world in the last decade. There are many more of course, the mapping of the human genome, surgical robotics, the ostrich pillow, etc.
Next week, we’ll be looking into the future to predict the most influential innovations that are still to come. In the meantime, what do you think was the most influential piece of technology from the last decade?