I have used this picture for the better part of 18 months to describe the coming Third Revolution. The visual is getting broader exposure, so I wanted to provide a more detailed description. The blue curve is the science and technology progression curve. The progression of science and technology continues its unabated exponential rise, and leaders can only see so far on the curve. This creates an uncertainty that makes it difficult to understand the implications of technology into the future.
This progression starts with the technology foundation – or the Third Platform as IDC calls it. In their 10 Predictions For Emerging Technologies In 2015, IDC focuses on the disruptive impact of this Third platform. They describe the three waves of computing, the first being the early computing era of mainframes, and a second that encompassed the PC, networking, relational databases, and client server applications. The third wave in IDCs estimation is our current era, built around cloud computing, social applications, big data, and mobile computing.
I had the pleasure of meeting with Frank Gens – IDCs Chief Research Officer – while in Berlin. Frank believes this third platform will form the basis for the development of new solutions for the next 20 years. Rather than focus on new solutions, my focus is on the coming disruption and my belief that its ramifications are historic – here’s why. In a recent post on A New Economic Paradigm, I reference a recent book written by famous economist Jeremy Rifkin. In the book, Rifkin argues that a third revolution is upon us, and it is fueled by a new general purpose technology platform (GPT). In his book, he describes the economic paradigm shifts of the past, and points to three elements that converge to create a general purpose technology platform to drive the shift: new forms of communication, new forms of energy, and new mechanisms for transport and logistics. The two prior Industrial Revolutions were driven by this GPT phenomenon. In the first Industrial Revolution, it was the steam engine, the printing press, and the railroad. In the second, it was electricity, the telephone and the car. Rifkin believes a powerful Third Revolution platform is emerging to drive an economic paradigm shift in the next 40 years. The three components of this third revolution platform in his estimation are the Internet (communication), renewable energy (Energy), autonomous vehicles and the Internet of Things (Logistics and Transport).
If you look at the visual, the next stage of science and technology progression brings innovation accelerators. It is these and emerging accelerators that I believe elevate the Third Platform as defined by IDC, to general purpose technology platform as defined by Rifkin. This elevation makes it historic, and as this happens, a number of future scenarios emerge to form a second curve. The scenarios on this curve – depending on the degree of realization – could individually be massively disruptive. But when you consider that they themselves intersect and converge – the ramifications are considerable across every industry. Here again, leaders can only see so far on the future scenario curve. It is my continued belief that companies across every industry must dedicate time to analyze scenarios and experiment with responses. The level of urgency has to rise.
As this plays out, does it spawn a third curve – or third revolution? It does In Rifkin’s view, and in the process he sees a new economic paradigm. There is much speculation here, but one thing I believe will get much clearer in the next five years – and that is the historic nature of this Third Revolution.