Is technology progress measured by how far we've come or by what remains to be achieved?
The Wall Street Journal (9-10, October 2010) ran an interview with Peter Thiel, who in ranked #377 in Forbes 400 (2008) with a net worth of $1.3 billion. Thiel was a co-founder of Paypal. In 2004, Thiel made a $500,000 investment in Facebook for 25.2% of the company. Nice!
Remarkable for someone who has made a fortune in technology, Thiel now believes, as the Journal puts it, that “American ingenuity has hit a dead end.”
According to Thiel, “people don’t want to believe that technology is broken…Pharmaceuticals, robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology—all (of) these (are) areas where the progress has been a lot more limited than people think.”
Thiel bemoans our inability to achieve the vision of The Jetsons, as he states: “We don’t have flying cars. Space exploration is stalled. There are no undersea cities. Household robots do not cater to our needs…” According to Thiel, we have reached and are stuck in a long-term stagnation.
Thiel’s theory of technology stagnation is completely contrary, I believe, to the reality that most, if not all, of us are living each and every day, where technology is constantly on the move and if anything, we as organizations and individual struggle to keep pace.
For me personally, the refresh rate for technology is 2 years or less, depending on available cash flow for all the new stuff constantly hitting the market.
In my experience, technology is as dynamic as ever, if not more so. In fact, I have seen no evidence that Moore’s Law has been overcome by events (OBE).
Across government, I am seeing the interest and rate of adoption of new technologies steady or on the rise in areas as diverse as cloud computing, mobile computing, social computing, green computing, knowledge management, business intelligence, and geospatial information systems, and more.
There is no shortage of technology investments to make, IT projects to work on, and new technical capabilities to bring to the business.
While we may not have achieved the full vision set out by Hollywood and other technology visionaries, yet—rest assured, we are well are on way and barring unforeseen events, we most certainly will!
I don’t know about Spacely Sprockets’, but I’d place a few good investments bets around on a future that looks pretty darn close to The Jetsons, along with a good dose of Star Trek ingenuity for measure.
Perhaps Mr. Thiel’s views are a result of frustration that we have not achieved all that we can, rather than a reflection that we have not gotten anywhere. In any case, I enjoyed reading his views and look forward to learning more.