Like many, I follow with interest the trajectory and vectors of technology trends in our time. As I read the 2016 surveys, however, I am struck by the esoteric nature of the developments and the lack of context of the engineering investments made by today’s technology companies.
Based on readouts from firms such as Deloitte, Goldman Sachs and others, the consensus seems to include and focus on the following developmental platforms:
- Cognitive computing
- Machine to Machine wireless communication ( Internet of Things)
- Continued development of Big Data and analytics
- Cloud computing
- Semiconductor advancement
For purposes of length and space, I won’t go into each of these individually, but, taken together, they represent and decidedly incremental leap in computing power and potential reach. For me, the key word is potential – and the question remains as to the applicability of these platforms to the everyday lives of ordinary people.
For example, I live in South Central Pennsylvania – a region whose economy is largely driven by working, family farms and small businesses. As I review these trends, I reflect on how the engineering investments made by large technology firms match the market needs of a region like this. And, more universally, how do the developers envision the use of their innovations to improve the quality of life for the disenfranchised American middle and lower income classes.?
I believe that the working and poor families of this country do not pay attention to the technological initiatives being put forth by companies like AT&T, IBM, Cisco, Wipro Technologies and others. There is a large dichotomy between the end user demand for these technologies and the forecasted revenue engines that they represent to corporate interests.
Clearly, innovation is a hallmark of American capitalism. And innovation in software engineering is front and center in today’s information based economy. Correspondingly, many prominently attribute our current educational and jobs crisis on a lack of a national skill set in the areas of software and code development. But the nagging thought remains that until companies find a profitable way to apply technology to the social and economic needs of the full compliment of the population, then they will be left with a glut of supply and a skeptical and questioning market demand.
In other words, if you build it, they will not necessarily come unless the design and purpose of technical innovation matches the urgent needs of our societal crises.