The Future is Now

Stanford University

In a place as forward thinking and technology driven as Silicon Valley, what someone said just five years ago can seem ancient. New technologies continue to emerge at an ever-faster rate and our expectations are challenged time and again. To appreciate just how far we’ve come, let’s step back in time and see whether or not what we thought of the future came to pass.

In 2003, Jen-Hsun Huang, the co-founder of visual-computing pioneer NVIDIA, described virtual-reality goggles as if he were holding an Oculus Rift headset in his hands. If anyone would know what would lie ahead in this space, it would’ve been Huang. But when he mentions “extremely lightweight displays that you put on as goggles with head tracking,” it sounds impressively similar to the cardboard ones Google just debuted that use your smartphone’s accelerometer to track head movement.

Much of what we envisioned about the future is already manifesting in the world around us, and the evolution is quite apparent. In fact, the rate at which technology has been able to disrupt and force traditional businesses to evolve and stay relevant is nothing short of unprecedented.

Nearly 20 years ago, Silicon Valley luminary Vinod Khosla predicted that phone companies would have the rug pulled out from under them within a decade, once long-distance calling became free. He recalled this in a 2008 talk as part of the DFJ Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Seminar series. And yet, beyond free long-distance calling, we’re now at a point where even using the word “Skype” as a verb has become passé.

Khosla was uncanny in predicting how disruptive technology would be. But he also pointed out something else that’s now understood as fact: entrepreneurship shapes our future. The key is in recognizing the opportunities in existing markets and established processes that are ripe for disruption. That’s where innovative change can be brought about.

Steve Ballmer, former CEO of Microsoft, describes a landscape where technology companies of all sizes emerge and fade away with time. In a world where the industry will become increasingly dynamic, our computing devices will become smarter and smarter. This excites Ballmer greatly, as captured in the video below:

The beauty of our time is that technology continues to shape our world at a faster pace than ever before. But the question remains: What else will the future bring about to exceed our expectations?