Editor's Message: The Future of Mobile Technology

I was preparing a talk about the future of mobile technology, and it got me thinking about innovation and how it evolves. Innovation has always been a means to find solutions for humanity’s problems. Technology, however, is a bit trickier because sometimes a new technology will spark a solution to a problem we didn’t know we had. And so this dance goes back and forth. We look towards technology for solutions to some of the world’s problems, and technology looks to humanity for ways to apply the newest breakthrough.

Ultimately, mobile technology is only a tool that helps us accomplish something we value. If our values change, or if we find better, more efficient tools, then mobile technology will fade and evolve into something else. What remains, however, what drives the innovation and creation of more efficient tools, is our basic need to communicate, share, live in safety, and grow personally and collectively.

Innovation is driven by value

In an interview sometime in 1997, Steve Jobs said not to try to create a market just because you have some cool technology. For a new innovation in technology to truly take off, it needs to be useful and valuable to the masses. However, this means that it’s the masses that decide what is useful and valuable. It doesn’t take long to realize that some of what we value and find useful isn’t necessarily the best for our long-term growth and stability on the planet. When I see the top-grossing apps in the App Store, I realize that the masses generally value entertainment over other areas of society, like education. If you don’t understand what I mean, just compare the salary of our best teachers versus the salary of our best entertainers. It’s as if we’d rather be entertained than educated. This could mean that today’s greatest innovations (the ones we find most “valuable”) will center on creating some form of entertainment value. It’s true that technology is also making enormous strides in improving critical areas of society like hunger, poverty, and lack of shelter. However, for the time being, we can assume that cat videos will generally get more views than TED talks. As our values change and grow, so will our main focus of innovation.

What's Our Role?

We often forget that we put people on the moon with the computing power equivalent to a couple of digital cameras. We got there because we were curious, like children are, about the world around us. We wanted to stand on top of the moon and show others that we were the best. We’re a little more grown-up now, and our technology is maturing to the point of being able to end hunger, disease, and poverty. However, since our values are still stuck on entertainment, it’s going to take some time to realize the full potential of the tools we have. Our ability to communicate and organize the masses, for example, is still a new idea that ranges in implementation from dance flash mobs (entertainment) to national revolutions (long-term value).

I would love to hear your thoughts, since these are the thoughts and questions that often occupy my mind. Shoot me an email at alex@iphonelife.com, or follow me on Twitter @alexcequea if you want to continue the conversation. Have a happy 2012!

January-February 2012
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