technology

Only one tech trend is reliably predictable

Keeping pace with accelerating communications technology is critical to staying alert to what people are saying about your brand

The trick to making predictions is to pitch them a considerable distance into the future. Foreseeing the next decade imputes considerably more gravitas than calling the future tomorrow. It comes with the bonus that people will have long forgotten your prediction before they get to discover whether or not you were right – unless you are unlucky as Clifford Stoll was with his notorious 1995 essay ‘Why the internet will fail’.

But if we insist on shortening our vision to this calendar year, there is still one fundamental technology trend which we can safely hold to. It is the continuing relentless march of Moore’s Law, one of the reasons why the predictions of Clifford Stoll turned out to be so wrong.

Back in 1965 Gordon Moore, one of Intel’s founders, noticed that the density of transistors in integrated circuits was doubling approximately every two years. He predicted this trend would continue for the foreseeable future. And he was right, even decades beyond his original vision. The power of computers has kept on doubling about every two years (or halving in cost, if you prefer to look at it that way).

Effort is required to ensure there are no new gaps in your understanding of the ever greater technological and communication powers in the hands of employees, suppliers, stakeholders and journalists.

As a result, what used to be bulky, slow or expensive becomes small, fast and cheap – and therefore predictions based on technology failing for any of the first three reasons keep on turning out wrong.

It also makes the most important prediction for 2015 a pretty safe bet too: Moore’s Law will continue its relentless reworking of our world. Wearable technology, flying robots (or to give them their boring name, drones), self-driving vehicles, internet connections on almost all devices that live off electricity and even having computer algorithms write the news; they will all keep on moving from the domain of sci-fi to being a mundane, normal part of our lives.

None will have a magic tipping point in 2015 but the continuing, inexorable trends driving them all will be at work month after month. Those who don’t anticipate and adapt to these changes will find themselves increasingly left behind.

Silent, but deadly

Truly disruptive technology often happens with a loud bang, such as the first telephone call across the Atlantic and the first iPhone. But at a time when constant, continual enhancement – rather than radical innovation – dominates, the wise will recognise that communications technology evolves quickly and (amid the noise of everything else) sometimes quietly.

So when it comes to managing and transforming reputations, effort is required to ensure there are no new gaps in your understanding of the ever greater technological and communication powers in the hands of employees, suppliers, stakeholders and journalists.

Stories – both good and bad – can be convincingly documented, quickly published and widely spread, whether it’s an example of an employee improvising excellent customer service or a disturbing supply-chain failure.

The added twist in 2015 is that the increasing popularity of private messaging services means it is also increasingly hard to track what is happening. A few years ago a photo of such an incident might have gone up on Flickr, available for all to see and interested parties to track and react to. Today, it might get shared via a network such as Viber, locked away behind privacy settings and hidden from the outside world as it gathers select viewers; a gift to campaigners and detractors hoping to keep their powder dry.

That makes getting the fundamentals right all the more important. That not only involves running a business well in the first place, but also taking early signs of a possible problem online seriously and having well-practiced plans available to kick in. You may only get a small clue – the tip of the iceberg appearing above water – that something major is going on. Miss the clue and disaster may strike.

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