Want to predict the future? Think 100x.

My first computer was a Tandy 1400FD. It had an 8MHz processor (which you could slow down to 4.77MHz for those games that were synchronized to the processor). It had two floppy drives, 768KB of RAM, and no hard drive. It had a CGA monitor. The first modem I purchased for it was 1200 baud.

My smartphone is an iPhone 6. It has a 1.4GHz processor, 64GB of storage, and 1GB of RAM. It has a high-quality, multi-color screen. It has a host of other technologies like WiFi, Bluetooth, NFC, LTE, and sensors galore. It can download and upload data at speeds measured in tens of megabits.

When you compare these two computers, you see that their processor speed, storage, memory, and bandwidth are all at least 100 times (100x) different. And, my smartphone can also do about 100x the things my Tandy could do.

At the time I was using my Tandy, I don’t think I ever envisioned something like an iPhone 6 (though I did envision having a Tricorder). However, I could have predicted parts of the experience of using an iPhone 6 if I had asked myself, “What happens if all of these things in my computer became 100x faster, smaller, cheaper, or better?”

If you want to predict the future of technology, imagine what will happen if something in today’s technology gets faster, smaller, cheaper, or better, by a lot. For example:

  • What if everyone had bandwidth measured in the terabits, anywhere they went?
  • What if computers were as small as a grain of salt?
  • What if everyone had exabytes of storage, both locally and in the cloud?
  • What if you could put dozens of touch screens around your house, car, and workplace, for the same cost as one inexpensive tablet today?
  • What if every light, appliance, wall, floor, and piece of furniture in your home had an Internet-connected computer within it?
  • What if your devices understood not only your speech as well as a person, but could anticipate your thoughts by analyzing your brain waves?

Of course, not all of these things will happen at the same rate, if ever. And speed, size, cost, and quality are not the only factors that drive new technology. Yet, imagining 100x improvements are a good thought exercise if you are trying to look ahead beyond two or three years.

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