Just had an interesting banter about the future of technology with a technologist.
We like to think that technology is special.
In the words of Arthur C Clarke: “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”, and he’s right.
It is why I’ve spent my life being in awe of the speed of technology change.
From old mainframe systems with punched card programming to the steady march of computing into the home and now the hand, I’ve loved seeing how magical technologies change the way we live, communicate, relate and think about our world.
It’s amazing impact on all industries, particularly entertainment, is another magical change in living that we’ve been lucky enough to observe and live through.
Downloading a newly released movie to watch on an iPad in an airport lounge whilst waiting for a delayed flight would have been inconceivable just a few years ago, but is now simple.
And with this change, we have seen roles, structures, industries and organisations change dramatically: from the luxury of air travel to its steady commoditisation; from music in stores to music over the air; from the idea of collecting groceries to having them delivered; from the book to the kindle; and more.
Our lives are dramatically altered by such change, and our banking services are too … more gradually, but they are changing too.
Through this generation of change, we have also seen a gradual change in the role of the technology wizards who wield their magic.
From head of data processing to information processing to information technology to information, the chiefs of technology have gradually evolved from administrators of automation to strategic board advisors.
And yet all of this is about to change, and change dramatically, for the managers of technology will be made redundant in the near future.
Who needs technologists at board level when the technology is being made as easy as electricity?
When you can give all your processing to cloud-based services and when all technology is as easy to use as an electricity point, who needs a highly-paid manager of such magic?
In other words, when the magic becomes mainstream, the magicians become redundant.
This was a point we were both musing over as we talked about telephones and electricity.
When the telephone was first deployed, it was put into the mailrooms of companies as it was seen as a replacement for post.
Later on, heads of networking and telecommunications became commonplace, and some still are, but the head of telephone sanitisation has disappeared.
Similarly, the head of electricity has disappeared.
In the land of long ago, most manufacturing firms had a head of electricity as they had to move from steam and water power, to this new-fangled voltage stuff.
They would need wiring and planning of wires; assistance on which voltage classifications to use; and consultancy about the layout of points to which machinery could be attached.
All of this was complex stuff … but it’s now not magical or even of interest.
We just live with it and use it, and the electricity firms handle all the issues of how to get it our plug points.
That’s what will happen with compute technology of 2012.
Today, we have magicians who organise it all for us but, already, we can see cloud computing, HTML5, apps, smartphone and table PCs eradicating the magic and making it something that we just enjoy as part of life.
So very soon, the magicians will disappear as the technology firms handle all the issues of how to get the magic to our touch points.
Bye, bye CIO.
Hello … ?