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A Brave New (Technological) World

Dan Schulman | PayPal

March 22,2018

Technology is changing things faster than we realize. And it’s going to upend everything in ways we can’t even imagine.

Everybody talks about the impact of technology, but we’re living through a more dramatic period of change than most of us even realize. This period of change threatens every one of us, and I don’t use that word lightly. It threatens our economies. It threatens our communities, our neighbors’ jobs – maybe even our own.

Technology impacts everything.

Moore’s law says that processing power doubles every 18 months, while the cost associated with that processing power drops by half at the same time. In 1981, IBM came out with the first PC that was powered by 29,000 transistors on a chip the size of your fingernail. In 2014, Apple had iPhone chips with two billion transistors. It cost 1/20th what you would have paid before. It was 1/25th the size. It was 300 times more powerful.

Today, you can get 10 billion transistors on a chip.

In today’s smartphone—and there are 4 billion out there—you have all the power of what was a 1987 Cray supercomputer in the palm of your hand. And smartphones are just the beginning. I’d bet there’ll be between 100 and 250 billion Internet of Everything, IoT, devices connected in the next few years – light bulbs, nanny cams, refrigerators, traffic cameras, fitness trackers, smoke detectors, even sensors in crops to know when to water based on rainfall – everything will be connected. With that connectivity comes an explosion of data, the new oil in a technological age.

Whatever you imagine the future might hold, it’s time to think much bigger.

That technology, and its potential uses, will impact every one of our industries in ways we don’t yet fully realize. Think about all the implications of autonomous driving. Obviously the auto manufacturing industry will be upended, but the effects are so much more than that. Traffic patterns will change completely as cars use IoT to “talk” to each other to optimize flow. Public transportation systems and roads will be utilized differently, so our infrastructure will be impacted. Home values near transportation hubs will completely change, so the real estate world is also affected. Car insurance rates will be different, so insurance companies get pulled into it as well. And that’s just because of one component of the technology that is coming down the pipeline.

Things are changing so fast that Moore’s law is eventually going to be replaced by quantum computing. Efficiency and quantum computing power is measured in qubits. A qubit is equivalent to one quadrillion transistors on a chip. Today, we are up to 16 qubits of quantum computing. In the next five to 10 years, we will likely get up to between 100 and 200 qubits of quantum computing power in a computer. And you can use quantum computing to do things you could never even imagine, even with the most powerful supercomputer today.

Technology is going to fundamentally change our economies, the state of our jobs, our neighborhoods, our communities, our elections. The speed at which things are moving is faster than I’ve ever seen. These days we really need to think about what is that future state. What could it be in our wildest dreams? What could it be in the wildest dreams of sci-fi writers? Odds are its coming. So are you really ready for a brave new world?

Whatever you imagine the future might hold, it’s time to think much bigger.

Dan Schulman | PayPal

Dan Schulman is president and CEO of PayPal and chairman of Symantec.