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mar 21

Will the ‘new electricity’ please stand up

Incredibly, we are living in an age where the ‘next electricity’ is coming into fruition. Or so we are told. The problem is, this looming boom has been promised via any number of technologies.

Driverless vehicles, AI, drones, VR, 3d printing, crypto-currencies, are all coming to disrupt. At any one time, each of these is touted as the next big thing. But honestly, which, if any, will tilt the world on its axis? And how many of these will just offer marginal improvements to our lives?

Signal for fads

It’s no secret: truly disruptive technologies don’t arrive via marching band. As is the case with all of the above ‘new electrcities,’ all of them are accompanied with the blaring of horns & and crashing of cymbals. The madness of crowds and the media are stoking the flames all around us, and just as it was with videophones in the ’80s and jetpacks of the ’50s, the hype around 3d printing, drones, etc., is palpable.

Glossy high-production ads for ‘Learn Machine Learning in Two Weeks’ fill my laptop screen to the brim. This is an easy tell to be bearish, not long, such technologies.

Room for one

It may be the case that one of the forementioned techs is truly the new disruptor, but what are the odds that we will witness two concurrent ‘Second Coming of Christ,’ let alone three; or four!

If one uses glossy media ads as an anti-signal, then AI certainly has them all beat — though cryptocurrencies are a close second. The number of billboards around San Francisco, and high profile ads on the Internet is staggering. Of course, there’s money to be made in funneling all the hype into troughs. However, bubbles need not be correlated to lasting technologies.

(AI has had a long road to arrive where it currently sits. In a certain regard, it has come in more like the tide, not like a trendy wave. It’s this gnarly fact that makes AI so tough to call, despite all the tells to be bearish.)

Real movers

With so many hot technologies, the surface of the tech waters is boiling, making it hard to see anything lurking just below the waterline. But the true ‘new electricity’ may just be flying under the radar. Will it rear its head long enough for some of us to catch a glimpse before it impregnates our daily lives? If history can teach us anything, it’s that it will be a scramble to capitalize on the next big thing.

Truly groundbreaking technologies arrive unannounced in the dark of night; not with marching bands that stoke our enthusiasm. How will this all play out? And who will be the ones to capture a piece of the ‘new electricity’?

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