Back to the Future Day

So, the future has finally arrived and today is ‘Back to the Future Day‘. Just in case you have missed any of the newspaper, internet and television reports that have been ‘flying’ around this week, today is the day that Marty McFly and Doc Brown travel to in the 1980s movie Back To The Future II as dialled into the very high-tech (I love the Dymo labels) console of the modified (i.e. to make it fly) Delorean DMC-12 motor car. As you can see the official time we can expect Marty and Doc Brown to arrive is (or was) 04:29 (presumably that’s Pacific Time).

Back to the Future Delorean Display
Back to the Future Delorean Display

Depending on when you read this therefore you might still get a chance to watch one of the numerous Marty McFly countdown clocks hitting zero.

Most of the articles have focussed on how its creators did or didn’t get the technology right. Whilst things like electric cars, wearable tech, drones and smart glasses have come to fruition what’s more interesting is what the film completely missed i.e. the Internet,  smartphones and all the gadgets which we now take for granted thanks to a further 30 years (i.e. since 1985, when the first film came out) of Moore’s Law.

Coincidentally one day before ‘Back to the Future’ day I gave a talk to a group of university students which was focussed on how technology has changed in the last 30 years due to the effects of Moore’s Law. It’s hard to believe that back in 1985, when the first Back to the Future film was released, a gigabyte of hard disk storage cost $71,000 and a megabyte of RAM cost $880. Today those costs are 5 cents and a lot less than 1 cent respectively. This is why it’s now possible for all of us to be walking around carrying smart devices which have more compute power and storage than even the largest and fastest super computers of a decade or so ago.

It’s also why the statement made by Jim Deters, founder of the education community Galvanise, is so true, namely that today:

“Two guys in a Starbucks can have access to the same computing power as a Fortune 500 company.”

Today anyone with a laptop, a good internet connection and the right tools can set themselves up to disrupt whole industries that once seemed secure and impeneterable to newcomers. These are the disruptors who are building new business models that are driving new revenue streams and providing great, differentiated client experiences (I’m talking the likes of Uber, Netflix and further back Amazon and Google). People use the term ‘digital Darwinism’, meaning the phenomenon of technology and society evolving faster than an organization can adapt, to try and describe what is happening here. As Charles Darwin said:

“It’s not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

Interestingly IBM is working with Galvanise in San Francisco at its Bluemix Garage where it brings together entrepreneurs and start ups, as well as established enterprises, to work with new platform as a service (PaaS) tools like IBM Bluemix, Cloudant and Watson to help them create and build new and disruptive applications. IBM also recently announced its Bluemix Garage Method which aims to combine industry best practices on Design Thinking, Lean Startup, Agile Development, DevOps, and Cloud to build and deliver innovative and disruptive solutions.

There are a number of Bluemix Garages opening around the world (currently they are in London, Toronto, Nice and Melbourne) as well as local pop-up garages. If you can’t get to a garage and want to have a play with Bluemix yourself you can sign up for a free registration here.

It’s not clear how long Moore’s Law has left to run and whether non-silicon based technologies, that overcome some of the laws of physics that are threatening the ongoing exponential growth of transistors in chips, will ever be viable. It’s also not clear how relevant Moore’s Law actually is in the age of Cloud computing. One thing that is certain however is that we already have access to enough technology and tools that mean we are only limited by our ideas and imaginations in creating new and disruptive business models.

Now, where did I leave my hoverboard so I can get off to my next meeting.

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