The Idea Dude


Friday, January 06, 2006

The next new thing...

I've been following the debate on Web 2.0 with much interest. There are those who see it as the phoenix rising from the dotcom ashes, while others debunk it as the rehash of the old world. As someone who started in the 8 bit world and saw life before the Internet, I think the truth is somewhere in between. It is true that many concepts expounded by supposedly new innovators have been around for a while, but isn't that just the way of nature and technology, ie. some ideas are plain dumb and doomed to failure and some hit the mark at the right time. Many also are way ahead of the curve because either the technology was not capable enough, the network infrastructure was inadequate or the novelty was beyond human appreciation at the time.

In retrospect, the dotcom crash early this century was nature's way of saying things got out of hand. Valuations were ridiculous and many solutions were poorly executed in their haste to get to market. The correction was inevitable even though it hurt a lot of people (me included). Given some of the recent acquisitions (Skype) and stock prices (Google), seems like we're headed for another technology whirlwind. It can't happen again you say...well it happened after the 96/97 correction when everyone licked their wounds and said technology would never recovered. In fact, technology blossomed to unprecedented levels.

Subjectively, it seems that technology goes through boom/bust cycles that last approximately 5-6 years. Something like the 7 lean years and 7 fat years concept. Probably has something to do with the memory span of people. Takes 5 years to forget a bad event and spawn a new generation of savy (maybe it should read as naive) VCs and entrepreneurs. It makes a lot of sense...I don't know what gene or DNA strand governs our optimism but there is something that sets us apart from other animals. We are inherently optimistic people (why else would lotteries and gambling continue to thrive). We are a hopeful breed. Anyway technology comes in waves, the first wave is always huge and always unsustainable due to wild expectations, it is followed by a period of disillusionment and naysayers. What is interesting is the second wave which is much smaller, more practical and the only survivors are the tenacious and practical. ie. the survival of the fittest...ergo...the Internet Evolution. Artificial Intelligence is one fine example. While the intelligent machine comparable to the human counterpart is still a holy grail, there are many fine examples of fuzzy logic, neural networks, speech recognition innovations that have made it into our cameras, washing machines and telecommunications systems. Technology matures to become commodities where it is an enabler and not there for its own sake.

So where does this put Web 2.0. The Internet has indeed changed our lives. For those we lived through dial-up, ISDN and DSL, today with 3G networks, 802.x, Wimax, the revolution er...evolution is real. We are becoming permanently connected. The more important thing is that the disintermediation and Cluetrain Manifesto ideas of the late 90s is now becoming a de facto way of life. There are no rules or structure to consumers and producers. The ability to reach out and to connect and be connected to changes the way we run our lives and do business. Web 2.0 is the awakening innovators and thinkers emerging from the ashes. I'm sure there will be ideas we haven't seen before and there will be many that look like deja vu. But in the grand scheme of things, we are looking at micro-revolutions in the Internet evolution. A very exciting place to be...although I'm sure my son will one day look back and view this time as a historical footnote...such is the speed of innovation and the power of the human intellect to promote change at breakneck speed.

I remember reading a quote from someone many years ago, probably said tongue-in-cheek, there are three things that surely lead to destruction, money, sex and technology. Money is the fastest, sex is the most pleasurable and technology the most certain. As my son would say...."whatever floats your boat!"


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