Do you ever look around while sitting in a cab, walking down the street, or out at a restaurant and notice all the people fixated on their phones? In the past, when dreaming about what our future world would be like, I for one was hoping for flying cars instead of 140 characters, but I’ve been known to set my sights too high. In full disclosure, I’m not going to pretend that I don’t stream movies, order dinner online, and use Uber.
But all the hype around tech hubs in major cities and start-ups in Silicon Valley does beg the question: are most of our technology achievements focused on making consumers more comfortable at the expense of helping businesses grow and increase wages for workers? When you think about technological advancement in a macro perspective, you think about big gains. You think about the things that move the needle and affect productivity and incomes. Like the steam engine, electricity, steel, the assembly line, just to name a few. Yes, I’m reaching pretty far back, but pause for a moment and think about the positive impact these technological improvements had on society.
If I’m traveling in a new city, I can pull up Yelp on my phone, search for a restaurant, read the reviews, and book a reservation. I love the convenience, but I was planning on eating out that evening anyways. One restaurant was going to win my business that night, regardless. It is fun, and easy, but did it fundamentally change anything?
We service the manufacturing sector, and the biggest fundamental gains in recent history streamlined inventory levels, back in 1995 to 2005. It’s been 10 years, and many are wondering, including Paul Krugman in his piece titled The Big Meh, what’s next? We may fall short of flying cars, but if we can get beyond 140 characters, we might be on the verge of something big.