Technology just took another massive leap, but they’re so common these days we barely notice. Dealing with change like this will be one of the key skills of the future.
I have an announcement everybody: Jetpacks are here.
The future has arrived. And it looks awesome!
Check out the video here:
Two dudes in winged jet-packs, zooming around over Dubai.
Man, I can’t tell you how long I’ve been dreaming about jet-packs. And I guess I hadn’t tuned into the jet-pack technology in recent years (missed the industry expo a few years in a row), but now look at it!
There’s two technological revolutions bundled into the jet-pack. One is making wings strong enough to sustain flight at something like a 100km an hour, but light enough so someone can walk around with them around on their back.
And the second part is engines powerful and fuel-efficient enough that you don’t end up carrying too much weight around in fuel.
But now, wow, these guys are zooming around like fighter planes. It’s the total realisation of a sci-fi fantasy.
When I used to dream about jet-packs I always imagined it in some sort of Jetsons future. Steel and chrome buildings. Robot maids. Hovercraft. Lunar colonies.
But the jet-pack future is much more, I don’t know, ordinary. We still live in brick and timber houses. I eat sandwiches for lunch. I wear jeans. The lycra-body suits of the future have seen pretty slow take-up.
But this is the way of things. I think we used to imagine that our cultures would keep step with technology. Radical advances in technology would come with new ways of seeing the world – more lycra-based fashion.
But culture shifts slowly. We are creatures of habit, and ultimately, pretty resistant to change.
But technology doesn’t have any of that baggage. There’s nothing stopping it going from leap to glorious leap.
I mean think about the history of flight.
The Wright brother’s launched their first powered flight back in 1903. That’s only 112 years ago. Not long in the scheme of things.
And over the next century or so, we made international air-travel practically routine. We put people on the moon.
And now, you can strap a jet-pack to your back and pretend you’re superman. Right now it’s the domain of the ludicrously wealthy or well-sponsored. But how long til it becomes a new sport?
Right now we’ve got motorcycle clubs. How long til we have jet-pack clubs?
Sign me up. I can already see my monogramed jet-suit onesie.
But the point is, in the scheme of human existence, and even relative to Western Civilisation, the story of flight has been incredibly rapid.
But we’re on an exponential curve here. The pace of change is only accelerating.
There’s a old story about a king who had a very sick daughter. After many doctors failed, a travelling doctor came and said that he could cure her… for a price.
“What’s your price?” said the king.
“Oh, just a little rice.” He said. “Tell you what. Let’s take a chessboard. Put one grain of rice on the first square. 2 grain of the rice on the second, 4 grains of rice on the third… and so on. Let every square have twice as much rice.”
The king saw that there was only 64 squares on the chess board and thought, how bad could that be? A few bags of rice? No worries.
So the doctor cured the daughter, but when he came to collect, he bankrupted the entire kingdom.
Turns out if you double a single grain of rice 64 times, you end up with something like 18 million trillion grains of rice.
Laid end-to-end, that’s enough to take you to Alpha Centuri and back again.
This is the power of exponential growth. And computers are on an exponential growth trajectory.
Pretty much for the last 50 years, digital advance has followed Moore’s Law – named after one of the founders of Intel. That law says that the number of transistors on a silicon chip would double every two years.
Moore made that call back in 1965, and to everyone’s amazement, even his own, it came true. It’s still true.
And you can see the acceleration taking place right around us. In the time it took us to go from ‘Pong’ to ‘Pacman’ (1972 – 1980) we went from the i-pod (2002) to the i-phone4 (2010) – a touchscreen phone that handles all of our your digital needs – music, camera, internet etc. And it’s only getting faster.
And once machines start designing machines, things get really interesting. The future is going to be a wild ride (though it possibly ends in some dystopian disaster where robots make us all slaves.)
And the challenge for us is going to be adaptability. How are you going to handle the pace of change?
The 20th Century saw incredible changes. Someone born in the first part of the century died in a radically different world.
But our lives are going to be even more varied, beginning to end.
I expect that my funeral procession will involve a long line of noiseless, solar powered jet packs, and I’ll be able to participate via a digital simulation of my consciousness.
And that’s if I die at all.
But anything could be possible. When things are moving so fast, it’s impossible to know where we’ll end up.
That is potentially a cause of stress. We could get anxious about no knowing where the world is going. Not knowing if our skills are going to equip us for the future.
But that’s not a fun way to live.
In the future (if not already), finding peace with the unpredictable chaos of the world will be a key life skill. People will run weekend seminars on how to roll with radical technological upheavals at every turn. Maybe they’ll even start teaching it at schools.
That, and jet-pack lessons.
Is that vision exciting? What’s the most inspiring thing you can see on the horizon?