We are on the verge of a new world: a radically decentralized, more highly interconnected world. A global society that will fundamentally change your costs, efficiency, and reach, opening up a wealth of new opportunities for those who prepare for it; presenting a new set of challenges and pitfalls for those who don’t. Many institutions we once knew and trusted will fall by the wayside. Businesses that do not adapt – quickly – potentially face serious consequences over the next few years. Welcome to the global mesh.
This white paper will show your business how to survive and prosper in a world where:
- Your competition will be increasingly relentless and global The value of intellectual property could change dramatically
- Access to telecommunications and capital will be radically democratized
- An entirely new approach to risk management is needed
- An exponentially growing service economy will create new opportunities for us all
Recent decades have produced more technological changes than all of human history before it. We will show you how these trends will continue to accelerate over the next decade – and more importantly – how you and your business can prepare for these changes.
Understanding the Global Mesh
From September 26 to December 15th, 2014 protesters took to the streets of Hong Kong in a series of sit-in pro-democracy rallies. Peaking at 100,000 at any given time, their use of umbrellas as defense against tear gas gave rise to their moniker: The Umbrella Movement. In an effort to disband the protestors, the Chinese Government shut down cellular telephone service so the movement would be unable to communicate internally. But instead of dispersing, the protesters bypassed the traditional grid and used an app called FireChat that allowed them to connect their devices directly by relying on the Bluetooth or Wi-Fi links that exist between the phones By creating this network independent of the internet, FireChat became the glue that kept the protesters communicating with each other – and no authorities could stop it.
This event can be seen as a metaphor for where technology is going. Individuals who were once were dependent upon “providers” for various services will soon obtain said services through a network of individuals. Think of what AirBnB and Uber did for their markets: democratized them in a global mesh of independent resources. This trend will grow and change many other aspects of how we do business, from labor resources to capital to information technology and beyond. We are accelerating quickly toward a world where commerce takes place in a human cloud linked by technology, instead being centralized within large institutions.
The Impact of Disruptive Technology – 1800s Style
In 1860, messages were delivered via a peer-to-peer network – of 400 – 500 horses. The Pony Express carried letters, gold and valuables clear across the United States in lockable leather bags, using a fresh steed every 10 miles. They could make the trip from St. Joseph, MO to post-Gold Rush California in an unheard-of 10 days. Then the Pacific Telegraph line came along in 1861 and changed everything.
Since then, the amount of time it takes to deploy new technology has accelerated dramatically. It took the telephone 75 years to reach an audience of 50 million people. Radio and TV took 38 and 13 years, respectively. The Internet, four years. The smartphone app Angry Birds? Just 35 days.
Three Trends Driving the Global Mesh
Not long ago, the rise of the global mesh was a matter of conjecture, and lied in the realm of futurist predictions. Today, it is increasingly becoming a predictable result driven by the convergence of three trends:
For example, look at your iPhone, whose processor density doubled in capacity and halved in size every 18 months. If we extrapolate Moore’s Law to new solid state storage. Today, a typical mobile phone has a 32 GB capacity at a cost of a few hundred dollars. In 5 years a device the size of a ring will probably have 1 TB of capacity and will cost about $50. In 10 years, a device the size of a pencil dot will hold 10 TB and will cost about $10. And in 15 years, we will be able to hold all of the world’s information on a device the size of a phone.
Emerging technologies continue to shrink in size while becoming more powerful. Allowing for the wow factor of their initial rollout, they will also become less expensive. Moore’s Law, named after Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, states that processor density will double every 18 months. This principle has now held true ever since 1975.
The 30-Year Cycle:
Every thirty years, new technology completely disrupts the marketplace. For example, we mentioned how the Pony Express was made obsolete by the telegraph, invented in 1845 by Samuel Morse. Exactly 30 years later, Alexander Graham Bell introduced the telephone. In 1905, Marconi pioneered the radio. David Sarnoff at RCA helped bring television to the masses in the 1930s. The 1960s brought cable television, and the biggest disrupter of all in communications and content delivery was ushered in during the 1990s: the Internet. We are now due for the next cycle.
Ironically, disruptive technologies are rarely taken seriously when they are first introduced. The telephone was originally a rich man’s toy. When cable television first arrived, it was difficult to see this paid service usurping traditional broadcast television – until the advent of Ted Turner’s first “superstation” in 1976, followed by others that led cable television to become a staple in almost every American home. And now the Internet has replaced (or is in the process of replacing) what is left of every basic mode of communication and entertainment that came before it: Netflix and Hulu subscriptions instead of broadcast and cable television, satellite and streaming music instead of AM and FM radio, smartphones vastly outnumbering landlines, and even yes, the Pony Express and snail mail was replaced by the new-fangled electronic or “E” mail.
Convenience and Reliability versus Trust and Freedom:
The first two trends created new generations of centralized institutions, ranging from Bell Telephone to Microsoft. This trend, by comparison, is rapidly ushering in a new global era of decentralization.
As new technologies emerge, adoption has historically been based on consumer tradeoff between Convenience and Reliability vs. Trust and Freedom. For example, in the beginning Cable TV was not convenient or reliable. It required a service provider to run wires into and throughout the home and install and connect a separate box to each TV. But it’s success was driven by a drive for freedom from the limited choices available on standard TV. On the other hand, mobile technologies such as smart phones and tablets rose out of consumer desire for convenience and reliability. These devices are easy to set up and use and they provide convenient access to massive amounts information, news, and entertainment. However, consumers are starting to understand how these devices compromise their privacy by tracking their virtual and physical movements and sharing their information with corporations who seek to monetize it. This loss of privacy will likely drive consumers to make future technology choices that respect their privacy.
We are now seeing trends toward more convenience AND more privacy, in a way that stands the old paradigm on its head. This leads us straight to the use of Firechat in Asia and using Uber instead of calling a taxi company. Perhaps someday soon, finding capital, labor, and other resources through the mesh will be the new normal instead of a relying on a big bank or large corporation.
The question remains, how will these trends and global mesh affect you, assuming you aren’t a huge corporation? In more ways than you could imagine – in everything from your intellectual property rights to your IT infrastructure. And above all, the world you sell and compete in. Read on, and start thinking about how you can future-proof your own business.
“In order to see where we are going, we must understand where we’ve been.” – Anonymous