18 years ago, the Eastman Kodak company sold 85% of all photo paper on the planet and employed 86,200 people, 46,300 of them in the US. By 2015, they employed 6,500 people and surrendered what was left of the photo paper business so they could emerge from bankruptcy.
You may recall digital cameras were invented in 1975 and the first images had only 10,000 pixels. But with Moore’s law and as with most exponential technologies, it was only a disappointment for a short time. It soon became far superior and today it’s the dominant technology when it comes to recording images.
A similar transition will now happen with Artificial Intelligence, health, autonomous and electric cars, education, 3D printing, agriculture and jobs. Welcome to the 4th Industrial Revolution. Welcome to the Exponential Age.
Over the next 10 – 20 years, what happened to Kodak will happen in a lot of industries and most people won’t see it coming. Did you think in 1998 that by 2002 you would never use film again to take pictures?
Software will disrupt most traditional industries in the next 5-10 years.
Uber is just a software tool, they don’t own any cars, and are now the biggest taxi company in the world.
Airbnb is now the biggest hotel company in the world, although they don’t own any properties.
Artificial Intelligence. Computers become exponentially better in understanding the world. This year, a computer beat the best Go player in the world, 10 years earlier than expected.
In the US, young lawyers already don’t get jobs. Because of IBM Watson, you can get legal advice (so far for more or less basic stuff) within seconds, with 90% accuracy compared with 70% accuracy when done by humans.
So if you study law, stop immediately. There will be 90% fewer lawyers in the future, only specialists will remain.
Watson already helps nurses diagnose cancer 4 times more accurately than human nurses. Facebook now hasgoo.gl/9j56eH pattern recognition software that can recognize faces better than humans. In 2030, computers will become more intelligent than humans.
Autonomous cars: In 2017 the first self driving cars will appear for the public. Around 2020, the complete industry will start to be disrupted. You don’t want to own a car anymore. You will call a car with your phone, it will show up at your location and drive you to your destination. You will not need to park it, you only pay for the driven distance and can be productive while driving. Our grandchildren will never get a driver’s licence and will never own a car.
It wiIl change the city landscape, because we will need 90-95% fewer cars for that. We can transform former parking spaces into parks. 1.2 million people die each year in car accidents worldwide. We now have one accident every 60,000 mi (100,000 km), with autonomous driving that will drop to one accident in 6 million mi (10 million km). That’s a million fewer car accident deaths each year.
Most car companies will probably become bankrupt. Traditional car companies will try the evolutionary approach and just build a better car, while tech companies (Tesla, Apple, Google) will do the revolutionary approach and build a computer on wheels.
Many engineers from Volkswagen and Audi are completely terrified of Tesla.
Insurance companies will have massive trouble because without accidents, the insurance will become 100x cheaper. Their car insurance business model will disappear.
Real estate will change. Because if you can work while you commute, people will move further away to live in a more beautiful neighborhood.
Electric cars will become mainstream about 2020. Cities will be less noisy because all new cars will run on electricity. Electricity will become incredibly cheap and clean: Solar production has been on an exponential curve for 30 years, but you can now see the burgeoning impact.
Last year, more solar energy was installed worldwide than fossil. Energy companies are desperately trying to limit access to the grid to prevent competition from home solar installations, but that can’t last. Technology will take care of that strategy.
With cheap electricity comes cheap and abundant water. Desalination of salt water now only needs 2kwh per cubic meter (@ 0.25 cents). We don’t have scarce water in most places, we only have scarce drinking water. Imagine what will be possible if anyone can have as much clean water as he wants, for nearly no cost.
Health: The Tricorder X price will be announced this year. There are companies who will build a medical device (called the “Tricorder” from Star Trek) that works with your phone, which takes your retina scan, your blood sample and you breathe into it.
It then analyzes 54 biomarkers that will identify nearly any disease. It will be cheap, so in a few years everyone on this planet will have access to world class medical analysis, nearly for free. Goodbye, medical establishment.
3D printing: The price of the cheapest 3D printer came down from $18,000 to $400 within 10 years. In the same time, it became 100 times faster. All major shoe companies have already started 3D printing shoes.
Some spare airplane parts are already 3D printed in remote airports. The space station now has a printer that eliminates the need for the large amount of spare parts they used to have in the past. At the end of this year, new smart phones will have 3D scanning
possibilities. You can then 3D scan your feet and print your perfect shoe at home.
In China, they already 3D printed and built a complete 6-storey office building. By 2027, 10% of everything that’s being produced will be 3D printed.
Business opportunities: If you think of a niche you want to go into, ask yourself, “in the future, do you think we will have that?” and if the answer is yes, how can you make that happen sooner?
If it doesn’t work with your phone, forget the idea. And any idea designed for success in the 20th century is doomed to failure in the 21st century.
Work: 70-80% of jobs will disappear in the next 20 years. There will be a lot of new jobs, but it is not clear if there will be enough new jobs in such a small time.
Agriculture: There will be a $100 agricultural robot in the future. Farmers in 3rd world countries can then become managers of their field instead of working all day on their fields.
Aeroponics will need much less water. The first Petri dish produced veal, is now available and will be cheaper than cow produced veal in 2018. Right now, 30% of all agricultural surface is used for cows. Imagine if we don’t need that space anymore. There are several
startups who will bring insect protein to the market shortly. It contains more protein than meat. It will be labeled as “alternative protein source” (because most people still reject the idea of eating insects).
There is an app called “moodies” which can already tell in which mood you’re in. By 2020 there will be apps that can tell by your facial expressions, if you are lying. Imagine a political debate where it’s being displayed when they’re telling the truth and when they’ re not.
Bitcoin may even become the default reserve currency. Of the world.
Longevity: Right now, the average life span increases by 3 months per year. Four years ago, the life span was 79 years, now it’s 80 years. The increase itself is increasing and by 2036, there will be more that one year increase per year. So we all might live for a long, long time, probably way more than 100.
Education: The cheapest smart phones are already at $10 in Africa and Asia. By 2020, 70% of all humans will own a smart phone. That means everyone has the same access to world class education.
Every child can use the Khan Academy for everything a child learns at school in First World countries. The software is already released in Indonesia and will soon be available in Arabic, Swahili and Chinese. The potential is staggering. They will give the English app away for free, so that children in Africa can become fluent in English within half a year.
For the record, Khan Academy is a non-profit educational organization created in 2006 by educator Salman Khan with a goal of creating an accessible place for people to be educated. The organization produces short lectures in the form of YouTube videos.
Please note: The title I gave this post, the reference to explain the Kahn Academy, and considerable additional editing, is my product. The idea itself arrived on my computer several days ago from an unknown source. I was intrigued by the idea, frustrated by not knowing the original source, but decided to check some of the claims and found several factual mistakes. I didn’t want to promote errors so began an editing process before sharing it. The Kodak numbers were clearly wrong so I corrected those and expanded on what happened to Kodak. A significant number of other edits were necessary, some just syntax or grammer and context. The image that accompanies the article was my contribution. My guess is that about 30% of this is mine, and 70% from someone/somewhere else. My apologies for not making this attribution comment before sending it out as a blog post. I was called on this by Dale Smith, for whom I thank for catching what was not an effort to mislead, but a rush to get something done between phone calls.