In a primitive society, 15% of the population died violently; today that number is just .03%, according to Peter Diamandis. Mr. Diamandis, the keynote speaker that kicked off a packed 2014 ILTA Conference themed “Imagine,” is an author, entrepreneur and space enthusiast with a medical degree from Harvard.
Violence today is just 1/500th of what it used to be he said, though that’s a hard conclusion to ascertain from the typical coverage on the 24 hour news networks. The news, he said, is appealing to an inherent instinct to pay attention to negative news that’s rooted in a primitive world.
For example, if a human missed a bit of good news, say scoop on a bit of food, it was a minor setback. However if a human missed a bit of negative news, say a hungry tiger lying wait in the bushes, that person’s “genes were out of the gene pool.”
A Path to Abundance
“Today a kid in a garage can start a company, that goes viral and can touch a billion people,” stated Mr. Diamandis in an effort to seemingly underscore just how far civilization has progressed.
Citing an article in The Economist titled, “Towards the end of Poverty,” Mr. Diamandis argued that civilization is headed towards a “path of abundance.” He noted, for example, that our very definition of poverty has changed. According to his presentation, of Americans classified as poor today:
- 99% have electricity, water, flushing toilets and a refrigerator
- 95% have a television
- 88% have a telephone
- 70% have a car & home air conditioning
“We are constantly redefining what we call poor,” according to the slides he presented on screen.
Speed and Disruption
If the world feels like its speeding up, it’s likely the result of the speed of disruption, which Mr. Diamandis defines in the context of “exponential.”
Alluding to Moore’s Law, he explained to the effect, that if output of a given technology doubled in two years initially, it will double again in just 12 months and be completed at a lower of costs. In other words, the process of creating faster technological inventions is itself becoming faster.
He provided several examples including:
- GPS. In 1981, the first commercial GPS receiver weight 53 lbs. and cost $119,900. In 2010, a GPS receiver fit on a single chip that cost $5; such devices are ubiquitous on the dashboards of SUVs.
- Digital cameras. The first digital camera was developed in 1976, weighed 3.75 lbs., cost $10,000 and took pictures the size of .01 megapixels. In 2014 digital cameras weigh .03 lbs., cost $10 and the images are 10 megapixels. Today, a camera is a standard feature – along with a computer, music player, watch, calculator – on a mobile phone.
What Disruption puts at Stake
Disruption can mean stress for the process or business that is being disrupted – or opportunity for the organization creating the disruption.
In 1996 Kodak, which rejected the digital camera and remained focused on its print-film heritage, had 140,000 employees and a market capitalization of $28 billion dollars, he said. By 2012, the company had just 17,000 employees went bankrupt even while Instagram, a startup photo app with just 9 employees was acquired by Facebook for $1 billion that same year.
The rate as which companies rise and fall he noted, happens in an exponentially faster cycle. For example, in the 1920s, a company had a projected lifespan of 67 years; today that lifespan is just 15 years. It is a consequence of the compound effect resulting from building “faster computers to build faster computers to build faster computers.”
Disruption is Deceptive
Disruption may not happen overnight – it is likely an appearance of a 6-step framework pictured nearby. Technologies may dwell in a “deceptive” development phase for years before exploding in a hockey-stick shaped curve. A case in point is 3D printing, which according to Mr. Diamandis, is a 35-year-old technology that has taken the world by storm of late.
IBM’s Watson project earned headlines for winning on the game show Jeapordy, but it may well be in a deception phase. What happens when Watson’s computing power – and ability to identify the most likely answer in fractions of a second from vast volumes of information – is available by subscription on a mobile phone? Will it provide better answers to medical questions than doctors? Will it provide better legal options than lawyers?
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The talk of disruption in the legal industry draws arguments from many sides. Whether or not disruption is a bit of food or a hungry tiger depends on one’s perspective. What might be easier to agree on is that Mr. Diamandis presented compelling ideas in an excellent beginning to a technology conference themed “Imagine.”
Photo credit: Peter Diamandis – The World of Disruptive Technologies and Abundance as presented to the 2014 ILTA conference.
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