Reflection by KATIE R.
Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:
Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com, states that how we will deal with future technological advances depends on how we categorize the changes. We have already seen so many changes in the last few years with the quick upswing in online activities as the Internet opened up the world not only in terms or communication but also in global trade. He has some interesting parallels between the discovery of the Internet and historical rise and fall of businesses in the past. In looking at the past, we may be able to fine tune our game plan for what the future has in store.
He makes the point that most people would immediately equate the .com industry with the California gold rush.
But are they really comparable??
They do both deal with real issues…the amount of gold found in the goldfields in the 1800’s and the real presence of the Internet. Both had a major impact on both the economy as whole and on the individual. Both suffered major crashes. During both, people who would not normally get out of their comfort zones were willing to take a risk for the big rewards. In the gold rush, individuals who were in successful professions, such as doctors, dropped everything in order to cash into what would have been an unheard of amount of money at the time. The same could be said for the Internet…..the potential for great wealth lured thousands. There was an infinite number of people wanting to profit by setting up online websites selling anything and everything to the public. There were so many players in both the gold rush and the Internet boom that while some did make money the majority waited too long and by the time they wanted to make their fortune….luck had run out. One of many problem they faced was just as simple as survival of the fittest. Even Amazon.com suffered in the headlines when all the Internet .com industry came crashing down. And while both the gold rush and the Internet both had tremendous hype when they were first discovered they were both equally blasted when the good times seemed to be over.
Jeff says that while the parallels between the gold rush and the Internet have some validity, gold is a finite product while the Internet is not. Therefore, he suggests that the Internet is much more in line with the electric industry. Both are industries that build on their new discoveries. The electric revolution began as the simple invention of the light bulb. That paved the way for countless ideas that advanced the technology we now know and enjoy. The light bulb was not simply a way to conduct electricity but a symbol of the entire infrastructure that had to be developed in order to deliver electricity to the public. Once that was accomplished, it opened a door for entire industries. Washers, dryers, irons, and a slew of appliances that could run on the new medium. So in Jeff’s mind, the Internet has more in common with the electric industry in that both have an infinite number of innovations open to them. Where we go can only be limited by our imagination.
Jeff states the innovation has no limits. But, although, the Internet, like all technology, still has many problems that need to be addressed. Advances are sometimes difficult but with continued optimism and the human spirit of resilience, the problems can be overcome. The outcome will be useful to all……we know that we are all accustomed to our appliances that we take for granted. We do not give a second thought to the ideas that provided us with our microwaves, washers, computers, IPhone, etc. All of these things came about by building on what came before. Great thinkers and innovators have always studied and learned from each other. They all seek to improve on what is available and coming up with the next “gadget”.
Who knows what comes next. Maybe someone who watched Jeff’s talk on TED will be inspired.
As Jeff said, sometimes a new invention just needs to wait for the appropriate time to be discovered.