Technologies and the future

Yesterday in the “Introduction to Computer Systems”, a student asked: “Which technologies have the greatest potential to change the world over the next decade?” I answered: “Technologies change very quickly, it is difficult to predict. However, I believe Machine Learning has the greatest potential to change many things as it can affect every industry, every business, and every country. This technology can analyze and learn a large amount of data in a very short time. It can optimize many operations from manufacturing to businesses. Today, machine learning technology is still changing, as it is being integrated with fast computers, neural networks, deep learning but soon it will become a very powerful technology in the near future. If you are students in computer science or Information systems, you must learn Machine learning as many things in the future will use this technology.”

Another student asked: “Besides Machine Learning, what do we need to pay attention to? I told the class: “Of course, there are many potential technologies such as 3D Printing, Cloud Computing, Robotics, 5G networks, Internet of Things, Computing security, Genome editing, and Synthetic biology. These technologies will change our world in the next five or ten years. How fast they will change and how much effect they will have are depending on how companies are applying them to build products. These are also areas that many startups are working on because they all have the potential to disrupt the market. Different technologies require different approaches and business applications. For example, today many startups are focusing on trends. Artificial intelligence is considered the hottest trend so more people are working on it. Currently, there were over 6,000 startups focusing on Artificial intelligence in the U.S. alone. Of course, some will do well but many will fail. The next hot things are 3D printing, 5 G networks, and Robotics where Japan, Germany, and China currently dominates the market even they are still in the earlier stage. There are emerging technologies with difficult issues to solve such as Computing Security, Genome Editing, Synthetic biology but these will require more companies to work on them before they grow bigger.”

In my opinion, there are many opportunities in technologies because we are in the most rapid period of technological change in history. If we look back in the 1980s when the personal computer was invented. Nobody predicted that it could change everything. The same also happened when the Internet was created. The problem was most people did not understand the potential of technology changes as they were still doing the same thing as nothing has happened. There were ten largest computer companies with hundred thousand engineers working there when Apple computer was found. No one paid attention to that technology. Today, with the exception of IBM, all of them went bankrupt as they did not understand technology changes.

Today we are facing the same issue, many company leaders are still thinking as they are still living in the 20th century even we are in the 21st century already. Their people are still doing the same thing that they do every day. They go to meetings and plan their business as nothing has happened. No one pays attention to what is happening outside of their work. The sentiment is if it does not impact them, they do not care. They may read something about technologies but do not understand its impact. They do not want to change the way they think even technologies keep changing and changing fast. They do not believe that technologies can change their jobs, their industries, and their way of living. They do not understand how technologies will change the way businesses operate, the way people work and everything else. They do not believe that the pace of change can be fast and furious.

A student asked: “In that case, what should the company leaders do?” I answered: “Leaders must consider a change in management. To remain in business, they must change the way people think and work. Company leaders need to look back into history and ask: “What happen to all the successful companies of the past and where are they now? Why 95% of the largest companies in the world were gone in the last 25 years of the 20th century? Why smaller companies created in the last 25 years of the 20th century are now the largest and most powerful companies of the 21st century? Why companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft etc. were so successful? What have they done differently? When technologies change, you must also change your mindset and if the management cannot change, then replacing them with a younger generation of workers who understand technologies better. If you are students today, ask yourselves, what do you want to learn?


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University
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