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Thoughts on technology from Peter Leyden

Editor's Note: At the recent Dental Trade Alliance meeting in Washington, D.C., I had the chance to hear thoughts on technology from Peter Leyden. Leyden is the Founder and CEO of Next Agenda, a new media startup helping organizations solve complex challenges by connecting offline and online worlds through the innovative use of video and then scaling up online collaboration through the use of next generation web tools. He works with clients who are wrestling with large-scale public problems in economics and energy, as well as large companies that are dealing with the pressures of our highly integrated global economy.


Leyden is a former managing editor of the original Wired magazine, which helped define the digital revolution and invent the early World Wide Web. He was the director of the New Politics Institute, which helped transition people in politics to the new media tools like web video and social networking that ultimately culminated in Barack Obama's transformative campaign in 2008.

I found his thoughts very interesting, and I think you will as well...


We are in a reinvention of America. There are deep structural changes to the fabric of the economy and society. We are also facing unprecedented challenges. The old system simply can't cope with them. The old way of doing things simply won't work anymore.


Bursts of innovation have characterized the presidencies of Jefferson, Lincoln, and both Roosevelts. We are in the middle of another burst now. We are going through the most fundamental technology transformation in our country's history. Everything is connected and everything is becoming globalized. People in the future will look back on these days and see that this is when the world truly became global. We’re going from national to global. We're going from a 20th century world to a 21st century world.


The last transformative time was during Franklin Roosevelt's presidency. The people of the time took their technologies and resources at the time, including brainpower, and accomplished amazing things. They pulled the U.S. out of the Great Depression. They defeated Hitler and fascism and contained Communism. They built an international system based on the United Nations and the World Bank. They grew the middle class with programs such as Social Security and the GI Bill.


Our challenges include climate change, terrorism, the Baby Boomer retirement, a breakdown of education and our heath systems, and more. We've never faced these problems before ... but the people of President Roosevelt's time had never faced challenges like they faced either.


So what is happening next? There are several sub-transformations that are energizing the overall transformation of our world.


Technology: The logic of Moore's law (what happens when you keep doubling again and again) has been going on for a long time. Our computers are smaller and faster. In 30 years, we've gone from 1 mhz for $5,000 to 2,000 mhz for $1,000. Think of the supercomputers of the 1970s versus today's iPad. Computers are 10,000 times cheaper now than they were in the 1970s, and this doubling is expected to continue for another decade.


In 2010, 77.4% of North America was "online" compared to 31.5% in 2000. That number has jumped from 13% to 58.4% in Europe. Nearly 75% of humans now have a cell phone. In 2010, 15 million iPads were sold. In 2011, that number is moving toward 48 million.


Amazon is now selling more eBooks than paperbacks and three times more eBooks than hardbacks.


With your phone, you can now shoot HD video, edit it on the phone, and easily upload. Apps make incredibly complex things very easy, and 5.5 million apps are sold on a daily basis. We spent a million years trying to figure out how to communicate with our faces. Now we can make video calls from our phones or computers and see those facial expressions.


There have been two Internet booms. The one in the 1990s was low-bandwidth. Since the dawn of the 21st century, we've had a high-bandwidth boom. This has affected the music, television, and film industries. 


Video accounts now make up 51% of all Internet traffic. It is estimated to grow to 90% by 2015. YouTube now has more than 2 billion views a day, and more than 24 hours of video is uploaded every minute into YouTube. More video is uploaded in 60 days on YouTube than all TV networks produced in 60 years.


Facebook is now the third-biggest country in the world with 800 million people. They add 700,000 new users a day. 50% of active users log on every day. They spend 55 minutes per day on Facebook. With Twitter, 5 billion tweets are posted quarterly. 


The millennial generation (anyone in their 20s or teens now) is the biggest generation in American history. Currently there are 74 million Baby Boomers and 83 million millennials. This generation is very diverse (40% come from minority groups), very endowed, most globally minded, very civic minded, and very optimistic. Is this the next "greatest generation"? They have many of the same characteristics.


By 2050, Hispanics will make up almost one-third of Americans (29%). This is a flashback to the 20th century immigration of Italian, Irish, and Jewish people. On the flip side, the current U.S. majority (white) will be a minority in 2050, with 47% being white. 


Think about the recent Middle Eastern turmoil. It is because of the new thinking of millennials. Some statistics to think about — 61% of Egyptians are under 30, and 73% of people in Yemen are under 30. It is a very young region. They don't care about how things were done in the past. They are focused on the future and how to make things better. These are the customers you need to be thinking about.


By 2050, China and India GDP will eclipse the West. By 2050, Europe and Japan are going to be out of the GDP big picture. China still has 18% of its population living in poverty. Only 1% of China's 560 million residents breathe air that is considered safe by the European Union.

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