How long ago is long ago? How fast is fast?
So apparently, the first iPhone came out 10 years ago today. That kind of hit me.
The first iPod came out in October 2001, 16 years ago.
The World Wide Web was made open to the public in 1991, 26 years ago and it didn’t become widespread for a while after that let alone a commonly understood concept.
Does all of that seem like a time long, long ago and far away?
Or does it perhaps not seem so long ago at all?
Ten years isn’t a very long time to completely change the way people communicate and spend their free moments. Twenty six years isn’t very long to change the entire way we interact with knowlege, information and each other. If you’re over 40 these are things you remember happening and which were preceded by a whole prior world where those technologies could not even be conceived of. The world is indeed changing quickly, but some people have internalized that change as normal while other feels constantly pushed back into their seat, as if on a plane, waiting for the acceleration to end and the cruising phase to begin.
So here’s the truth, the acceleration phase isn’t going to end any time soon.
For example, it might seem the peak of cell phone technology must surely be approaching as each iteration of those supercomputers in our pockets seems more and more similar to the last. But the power underneath them and the abilities they can connect across the internet are only going to continue accelerating in power and complexity. The continuing acceleration is being driven by applications of the latest research from Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.
Many people are justifiably worried about employment in a world running at this pace. They feel like the world is moving along and leaving them behind. In any country there are many reasons for unemployment but technological change is a large part of it and going forward it will be an increasingly important part of that. So maybe people need to ponder about what ‘long ago’ and ‘fast’ mean to them these days. Even more importantly, we all need to talk about this more deeply and start finding solutions that allow society to continue to grow and flourish even if the nature of technology in our lives and the nature employment itself changes in the coming years.
Here are some recent articles on the topic for further thoughts:
- This great post by Scott Santens that lays out many of these issues as they stand right now in a way that’s easy to understand.
- Take a look at this post by Andrew Ng on where the abilities of AI are right now and what the real near term risks are to employment.
- Closer to home, some of the leading professors in AI and Machine Learning at the University of Toronto are pushing for the creation of an AI institute in the Toronto area.