I liked the point the authors made about the difference between Waze and older GPS navigation systems. Both of those technologies are relatively new (20o0’s vs 2010’s) and yet they are world apart. That is because of the big data revolution made possible by the proliferation of Internet-connected devices. Not only can we know precisely where we are in the world (GPS) and what roads to take (GPS navigation), we can now pool every other user’s position and use this to make accurate map that reflects current traffic (Waze).
The authors are arguing that it is precisely that third element that drives the digital revolution. There is a good reason why there is a flood of startups being founded right now in the technology market, and it is not only because of the lack of barriers to entry. No – it is because about every single market and service can be disrupted by pooling data and knowledge from everyone else.
This trend also shows no signs of stopping. It made a big impression on me when the authors pointed out that we are just one step away from running out of SI prefixes when it comes to the amount of information exchanged on the internet, and how quickly we got there. (Watson’s database, after all, takes up “only” 4 terabytes – I have 25% of that in my laptop right now! And that is 200 million documents, including the whole Wikipedia!)
It is incredibly exciting to live in this era of infinite possibility! Just think of all the hard problems computer scientists were trying to solve for the past 60 years that became possible thanks to this big data revolution: Speech recognition with Siri, image recognition, beating the best human in Go, self-driving cars. Video recognition is fast becoming a reality too, and we are talking about a problem that makes speech recognition seem like a piece of cake. When put into this sort of context, Waze does not actually seem all that exciting anymore – that is how amazing the technology has become! With these sort of tools becoming a reality soon, who knows what kind of products people will build that seem like sci-fi to us right now…