Saturday, February 22, 2014

3D Printing ... What does it really mean

I have been thinking for some time now about the nature of work. What will the future look like? What skills are needed to be successful 5, 10 and 15 years? I have 3 grandchildren and I realize the world they will enter at adulthood will be very different from the one they play in now. It's hard enough trying to forecast what may be in 5 years ... but 15 is nearly impossible. The one thing I'm pretty sure of is the skill of 'learning quickly' will be at the top of the list. You'll just need to master new knowledge in record time. Knowing what to learn, how to find and discern relevant information, and how to integrate with everything else you know is "the" skill.

Oh, 3D printing ... that's where I started. Here is a whole new industry poised to take off in the next 5 years. In 10 years, we will envision nearly everything capable of local manufacturing ... from wrenches to food to drugs to clothing ... you name it. After all, its all made from the same star stuff found on earth. In 15 years, it will simply be the way to get stuff. You may still go to Amazon to look for product, but when you hit the One-Click button you'll simply get the file that defines the product. Your local 3d printer will do the rest.

How does this impact work. Will the new jobs be in making 3d printers? Transporting them around the world? Fixing them as they break? The answer is ... these functions will require very few people. The jobs will be in design ... creating those files that define a product, drug, food, clothing ... and nearly anything else you can think of. New products will simply be new designs.

We will become a bit based world where bits move around the planet at the speed of light. Hard products will take on the economics of digital music, movies, social media, etc. Very little fixed cost with almost no variable cost (except at the consumer end in making a copy) ... yielding very low prices. The cost of a design will be a function of difficulty to develop and size of audience to consume. Hmm ... 99 cents sounds like a good price for a design if the potential market is in the millions.

With industries racing toward smart digitization, robotics, and automation the future of work will be in creative and collaborative skills that can leverage a world of plenty ... that is plenty of very low cost resources from which services can be created. No one quite knows exactly how it will all play out ... but we do know that it will be faster than most can imagine. Think exponentially ... become an exponologist ... commit to life long constant learning.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

MacBook Pros for a Nickel by 2028

Scale is probably one of the most important skills necessary to become an exponential thinker. Recently Sal Kahn, the founder of KahnAcademy, came out with a video explaining exponential growth. It's worth watching. He shows how for many periods in the past, growth from a very small number seems imperceptible but at some point explodes with huge increments of change ... even though the rate of change remains constant.

Exponential Growth

In the real world you may have seen some of the terms in the chart below. It shows both expansion and decay based on exponential change. You will hear a lot about nano technology in months and years ahead. It is effectively 1 billionth of a meter. This is very small.
The promise is that it will lead to fundamental changes in everything from energy to manufacturing. Since computing power is on a course to double every 20 months or so, in 15 years we will see it grow from a relative 1 to 2^15 which equals 32,768. By the way, that would make a $1000 MacBook Pro worth less than a Nickel. 

That amount of computing power for the same price we pay for a single unit will lead to  a level of progress in Nanotechnology that is hard to comprehend.

SI multiples for metre (m)
10−1 mdmdecimetre101 mdamdecametre
10−2 mcmcentimetre102 mhmhectometre
10−3 mmmmillimetre103 mkmkilometre
10−6 m┬Ámmicrometre106 mMmmegametre
10−9 mnmnanometre109 mGmgigametre
10−12 mpmpicometre1012 mTmterametre
10−15 mfmfemtometre1015 mPmpetametre
10−18 mamattometre1018 mEmexametre
10−21 mzmzeptometre1021 mZmzettametre
10−24 mymyoctometre1024 mYmyottametre
Common prefixed units are in bold face.

So, this is why an understanding of scale and exponential growth and decay is so critical. Every individual and enterprise will be faced with and amount of change that will challenge the status quo. It's not in 100 years, it's around the corner.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

I love Starbucks and the Universe

I love going into Starbucks and ordering my favorite drink. If you have one of there cards, you get free songs, apps and other bonus items. The other day, there was a card with info about the free app of the week ... It was Brian Cox's Wonders of the Universe. So, I tried it. I was completely blown away. This is perhaps the best app I have every used on the iPad and iPhone. It is an interactive tour of reality ... namely ones ability to navigate from sub atomic particles (quarks) to the full universe. What I really like is that is gives you perspective and allows you to appreciate scale.

The Lesson of Exponential Growth: Rice and the Chess Board

The inventor of chess, Sessa, pleased the current king so much, that he was asked to name his own prize. His request seemed modest. One grain of rice doubled for each square on the board.

"If a chessboard were to have rice placed upon each square such that one grain were placed on the first square, two on the second, four on the third, and so on (doubling the number of grains on each subsequent square), how many grains of wheat would be on the chessboard at the finish?"

On the first half of the board, a total of 4,294,967,295 (232 − 1) grains of rice, or about 100,000 kg of rice (assuming 25 mg as the mass of one grain of rice) were counted. India's annual rice output is about 1,200,000 times that amount. Not that bad.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Startup Weekend

This past Saturday, I was asked to coach and mentor a number of entrepreneur teams that were competing in a "Startup Weekend" event at Fairleigh Dickinson University. It was a great event with over 50 competitors and more than 20 teams.

See the recent article in the Star Ledger about the event.

It was a real glimpse into how hard it is to chart out a space that has not been taken. Many teams came up with interesting ideas but quickly found out that others had already monetized them. Even if they thought their variant was unique and had significant value ...  getting the word out ... organizing around it ... and competing in a deflationary SAAS environment characterized by lots of 'free' services became a show stopper.

What's an Exponologist?

Quite simply, an Exponologist is someone who studies exponential growth and its impact on society.

What exactly does that mean?

With processing power doubling every 20 months or so, each 5 year period will experience an 8 fold increase. So, in 5 years one unit of processing power will grow to 8, in 10 years to 64 and in 15 years to 512. It is this exponential change which will drive changes in automation, robotics and nano technology ... all of which in turn impact work, prices and costs of virtually all products and services.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Power of IBM Watson

In 1997 my company, SetFocus, began operations and prior to our first class, we had to outfit a classroom with about 20 PCs. Back then, the latest and greatest was a 166mhz machine for about $1,000.

In an effort to shed further light on the notion of exponential thinking, it occurred to me, 'how does that compare to the IBM Watson computer'?

I also have this theory that all technology ends up at the checkout counter at the supper market ... when might that occur?