Prepare for the future of information technology has been saved
Prepare for the future of information technology
Building strategy by studying the past
In this series of videos, Mike Bechtel explains that the history of IT has been a steady evolution of advances along three cornerstones of computing: interaction, information, and computation. But the future of IT takes these three cornerstones to where we only thought possible.
By studying the history of the three cornerstones of computing: interaction, information, and computation, you can build a strategy that is fit for the future. The first computers required a doctorate in computing; then point-and-click made it possible for everyone to use a computer without knowing code; in the future of ambient computing, you won’t even know you’re using a computer.
The only language with a greater install base than, say, Java, is English or Mandarin. And the only signal with a greater install base than those is human hardware—thought.
– Mike Bechtel, managing director and chief futurist, Deloitte Consulting LLP
Brief History of the Future: Interaction
As the technologies that power our interaction with machines get more and more complex, the end-user experience gets simpler and simpler. We’ll evolve from learning how to work with computers to computers learning to work with us.
Brief History of the Future: Information
Our second cornerstone is at the very heart of IT, data, or information, which, 100 years ago, pretty much meant math. We began by creating structured data, and now we’re finding faster and better ways to collect it, analyze it, and even teach computers how to think on their own. “What can go wrong with trainable AI that can emulate a collection of uniquely human traits?” said every sci-fi movie ever.
Brief History of the Future: Computation
And finally, the future of computers wouldn’t be complete without computation: the logic and decision-making process that turns inputs to outputs and makes everything go. It’s the story of miniaturization to nonexistence—from land to cloud to information floating over a park bench and beyond.
What can you do next as a technology leader?
Today, leaders should recognize that a move to greater simplicity comes with a responsibility. In a world where every interaction, everything we do is mediated through technology, we need to make sure we don't leave anybody behind. When technology gadgets and niceties become lived necessities, we need to, as we like to say, mind the digital gap. Leave no one behind, because these technologies will become table stakes not just for working with machines, but also for communicating with one another.
Leaders today should be aware that it’s our opportunity to work with these impressive creations rather than against them. The truth is that these tools are not malevolent; they’re merely very useful. And it’s our opportunity as leaders to partner with them and, critically, to teach our digital children well. To train them not to do as we’ve done—not to make historical oversights and omissions faster—but to embody our shared values. To be fair, to be equitable, to be inclusive, and above all, to be understandable, so that the privileges we give mechanical minds are governed by the oversight needed to ensure that we’re creating a better future.
Lastly, today’s leaders should recognize that to continuously innovate, we need to invest in the two Ms: margins and moonshots. Margins and the free space in our professional day to dream, to be curious, to experiment and follow our passions. Secondly, moonshots. Dreaming big, aligning and inspiring big generational goals. What’s our Apollo mission? What’s our Hoover Dam? Chicago architect Daniel Burnham famously said, ”Make no small plans, for they have not the power to stir our hearts, and they themselves won’t even be realized.”