I often joke with my friends and family about being filled with an intense level of jealousy towards my kids. All it takes is one look at the technology I used in school, and then to look at the technology they will be using in school to learn with, and I can’t help it. I grew up playing Oregon Trail on a Macintosh computer, that was viewed as the lesser computer at the time. My how times have changed. My kids are going to be introduced to the iPad in Kindergarten. Who knows what they will be using as a learning tool by the time they reach high school.
A seemingly small change in teaching tools is only one example of the many changes, or shifts, our society is going through right now. I would even go so far to say we are in the middle of a series of paradigm shifts.
These paradigm shifts are far reaching and will have a heavy impact on our day-to-day lives, but will have an even greater impact on the lives of our children. Have you taken a moment to sit and think about all of the different industries being changed? It’s alright if you haven’t, some of them are easy to dismiss as another fad when briefly mentioned on the nightly news, while others never even make the nightly news.
An obvious industry currently going through a change is television. Currently, your options are to sign up for cable through a handful of providers, paying a monthly fee for a couple hundred channels. You’re lucky if you even watch twenty of those channels on a regular basis. Consumers waste a lot of money on cable television, and some forward thinking companies know this. Look at Netflix, Amazon or Hulu. All of these companies provide streaming video content, on demand, on nearly any device with an Internet connection — and for a minimal fee.
Not only are consumers able to “cut the cord,” ditching traditional cable providers, and save some money at the same time, but they’re also able to take control of their viewing schedule. As it sits now, you watch what shows are on at the given time they’re on, because that’s what the networks say. With a streaming-only setup, you’re in control. If you want to watch an entire season of “House of Cards” in one sitting, you can.
It’s going to take more than these three companies to get on board with an on demand à la carte approach for the industry to truly change, but the shift has started and I can’t see it stopping. Look at HBO’s original series “Game of Thrones.” There’s two barriers viewers must get through before being able to watch this amazing series: a cable subscription and an accompanying HBO subscription.
Both of which are expensive, especially if you only want to watch just one show. What’s the end result for HBO? Instead of a huge jump in revenue, it now gets to boast it has created the most pirated show of all time. Well done, old cable. Viewers are illegally downloading episode after episode and watching them when it’s convenient. The shift can’t be ignored by larger networks for much longer.
A new technology is going to have far reaching changes across multiple industries. That new technology is 3D printing. 3D printing is here, it’s real and it’s going to change our lives. You may have recently heard stories of a 3D printed skull implant being approved by the FDA. Seems like something from the movies, right? It’s not. I can sit here and go on and on about how 3D printers are going to change the way we shop for, and purchase products. After all, that’s how it’s being marketed: make at home products and medical solutions. Both are true, and shifts that should be taken seriously. But one of the more intriguing, or perhaps frightening aspects of 3D printing has nothing to do with printing out a replacement part for the shelf you just broke. It has to do with guns.
Right now, 3D printers are capable of printing a working gun. Guns made of ABS plastic (the same plastic used to make legos), untraceable and completely disposable. Think of 3D printed guns from the point of view of a cartel. For under $2,000 anyone can purchase a 3D printer the size of a microwave, hook it up to a computer, either download or create the proper CAD files and print out a working gun. Instead of worrying about illegally importing guns, they can build unlimited guns, and dispose of them after being used in a crime in a matter of minutes. And with as much money as a cartel has, it wouldn’t purchase one printer. With the right plans, equipment and personnel, an entire arsenal can be printed.
In the right hands a lot of good can be done with a 3D printer. In the wrong hands, well, it’s not fun to think about what evil can be done with a 3D printer and some plastic, but it’s time we start talking about the potential repercussions. It only takes a few seconds with the right search term on Google and you can find the proper files to print out a gun of your own, should you have access to a 3D printer.
Speaking of Google. Isn’t it amazing the shift we’ve all gone through, without even realizing it, in terms of searching for and finding information? In the past, a trip to the local library was spent doing several searches for books on a topic, reading, more searches and yet more reading were required to gain a basic understanding of a topic. It was a lot of work. Now, with the Internet and search services such as Google, finding information on a topic can be done in just minutes. We no longer view gathering information as a long, boring process, because we get to look for it using technology, and often end up looking a memes of grumpy cat during the process. Compare that to the librarian telling you to be quiet, and it’s apparent why we’ve gravitated to searching online.
I tend to view my computer or smartphone screen as a window, looking at it is the equivalent of looking out into a giant world of information. With the introduction of smartphones, the collection and processing of information isn’t a computer only affair anymore. The shift here isn’t one of desktop to mobile, that’s already occurred, but the shift is from equipment that’s relatively expensive to widely affordable. Right now, anybody of the proper age can walk into Wal-Mart and purchase a smartphone, capable of searching the collective knowledge of the world using the Internet — from anywhere — for under $100. The future has arrived.
Recently I stumbled upon the classic television show “Mr. Rogers” on Hulu Plus and my kids, naturally, were hooked. The first episode we watched was from 1981. I wasn’t even born in 1981. The cameras followed as Mr. Rogers went on a jog to a garage in his neighborhood. I guess you could call it a neighbor’s garage. In the garage, there were a couple of guys who built electric cars. The small cars, which looked more like small trucks, each had 19 batteries with a maximum distance of 50-miles before needing to be recharged.
The episode reminded me just how long people have been attempting to make electric cars and failing. Sure, a range of fifty miles back in 1981 might have seemed like a technological achievement, but it surely wasn’t anything that would have improved the life of the average consumer. It wasn’t going to change a life. This car was built by hobbyists, for hobbyists.
Then I started looking at what we have available in the form of electric cars now. Hybrid cars are growing in popularity, but these cars aren’t true electric cars. You can view them more as a gateway car. The gateway they’re creating is to a 100%, non-gas reliant, electric car. A car with a maximum distance of 300-miles on a single charge, top speed of 125 MPH, fully decked out with the expected features of a 2013 model car and then some.
The car I just described exists, and is available right now for anyone with enough money to purchase. You may have heard of Tesla Motors recently, as the CEO Elon Musk took The New York Times to task over a recent review of Tesla’s Model S.
The review, as it turns out, included some fabricated data by the reporter, in an attempt to discredit how economical an electric car is. Unbeknownst to the reporter, Tesla tracks a car’s data during a review and was able to provide damning evidence the car actually performed as expected.
What was overlooked during the back and forth that ensued between Musk and the reporter was how far technology has come. Tesla Motors is producing cars that are a feasible (in terms of distance, size, features. Pricing is a different story, more on that in a bit.) electric car for the average driver.
Charging your car can be done at home, or at compatible charging stations across the U.S., or by using one of Tesla Motors’ Supercharging stations. A Supercharger will give a car 150 miles of range in just 30-minutes of charging time. No longer are we viewing range by quantity of gas in the tank, but by the amount of miles a charge can carry. Tesla Motors, against all odds, against big oil and without new government regulations is building a network for Superchargers to support electric cars across the nation. In the not so distant future we will be able to go on a road trip, stop at a local diner, charge up our car and take in the local culture and enjoy the fact we haven’t spent a dime on gas (or charging for that matter. Supercharging stations are free to use for Tesla owners.).
The biggest hurdle facing Tesla Motors from going mainstream with its lineup is cost. Right now, you can’t find a Tesla Motors car for under $52,000. To its credit, Musk has announced his plans for getting the Tesla Motors line down to a more economical price point, and it sounds like it will work, but it’s going to take time. With each car sold, the profit goes directly back into the company, furthering research, development and ultimately lowering the cost to produce wallet friendly vehicles. Oil companies should be scared.
Last month in the PULP I took a look at Simple, a banking startup looking to improve the way customers interact with and view banks. The article takes a look at how Simple is not only treating customers the way we want to be treated, but it’s also changing the way we interact with banks. Our society has been shifting to one where we no longer need or want to visit businesses in person, instead we tap on a screen or click a mouse to send a payment, deposit money and order items. Those items are then delivered to our front door the next day, from China. With companies like Simple, this trend is going to continue, and our children will grow up hearing us tell stories: “You kids have it easy. Back in my day we had to get in the car, drive to the bank, sign and walk inside to deposit a check. We actually had to look a lady in the eye to get our money into an account.”
That reminds me of another shift — ordering products online. Right now we order products, select a shipping option and wait X days for it to arrive. Yea, that’s going to change too. Amazon and Google are currently working on same day delivery services. That’s right. Soon you’ll be able to order something from Amazon, and have it show up on your doorstep the same afternoon. It’s currently being piloted in a few select cities, and if all goes well, we will see it rolled out to larger metropolitans in the near future. Talk about instant gratification. Not only can we then take advantage of the unbelievably low prices Amazon offers, but we won’t have to wait more than a few hours to get our hands on the products. Where do I sign up?
There’s many more examples of industries going through a paradigm shift, on some level; more than I have room to write about. Uber is changing the way we view calling a cab, and the prices we pay for mediocre service, by letting users hail a private town car for the same price as a taxi using their iPhone. Every city Uber has launched in, a controversy has followed, often times leading to Uber being ordered to shut down. All shut down orders to date have been reversed, due to user outrage. Right now, Uber is fighting the Colorado Public Utilities Commission and taxi companies in Denver, just to stay open. We sure hope they win. Uber is a threat. It’s a shift from the norm.
The term Paradigm Shift generation applies to us just as much as it does our kids, since they’ll be the ones benefitting the most from the various shifts in logic. Entrepreneurs our age are affecting change, dramatic change in some cases, at all levels across the globe. Whether it’s taking on big taxi’s, big oil or big banks, it’s amazing what a few lines of code and fresh perspective on how things should be, not how they’ve always been, can improve our daily lives.