Analogue Evolution, Digital Revolution: Tipping Points in Technology

Technological progress is non-linear. Sometimes, innovation is a smooth curve; hundreds of small, incremental improvements over the lifetime of a technology - until something comes along that changes the game; an idea, an innovation, that fundamentally challenges our assumptions around what technology can achieve. Within the last two decades, technology has profoundly and irreversibly changed the shape of human society; how we work, how we relax, how we communicate and collaborate. And, in almost every case, the key has been digitalisation; the ability to take another element of our reality and turn it into a stream of bits.

With the benefit of hindsight, it’s easy to see the tipping points, to identify the moments when a particular technology or idea achieved critical mass, when something went from being an interesting prototype to a viable product – but for people who were there at the time, it often wasn’t nearly so obvious. Now, as we enter what MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee are calling the “Second Machine Age”, it makes sense to ask: what’s the next wave of innovation going to look like - and how will we know when it arrives?

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