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In March of 2017 we asisted to a very interesting conference by Barak Berkowitz. We want to share the main tips.

Barak is the Director of Operation and Strategy and the MIT Media Lab. He is founder of MarketCentrix, a consumer strategy consultancy for tech companies.  He consults to start-ups, VCs and Large companies.  Past clients have included, Digital Garage, Apple, Sony, Fujifilm, Polycom and many others. He also serves as an investor and advisor to many start-ups including LittleBits, New Context, Improbable and Quixey

First of all, he began explaining the story about the origen of the chess game. The inventor of chess explained his game to the emperor of India. The game introduced the king and queen, knights, bishops, castles and the pawn representing the serfs of the nation. It demonstrated the importance of all members of society. The emperor was so impressed he offered the inventor a reward of his choosing. He asked one grain of rice to be placed on the first square of the board and to doubled on each subsequent square. The emperor protested, believing that the reward was too small but the inventor persisted. When they reached the 32nd square, the reward amounts to the production from a few acres of rice patties, significant but not unreasonable. By the 64th square, it is estimated that the total amount of rice would amount to a pile the size of Mount Everest. This is a simple explanation of a geometric series.

After this story, he explained Moore´s law. A theory that Gordon Moore published in a 1965 article in Electronics Magazine. Moore noted that the number of transistors in a minimum cost integrated circuit had been doubling every 12 months. He predicted that this same rate of improvement would continue into the future. The law was modified slightly to 18 months.

Then he mentioned Ray Kurzweil an American author, inventor, futurist, and a director of engineering at Google. He coined the phrase “The second half of the chessboard” and made the relation between the story and Moore´s law. He pointed that our human intuition can’t cope with the constant doubling after the 32nd square of the board.

Furthermore, Berkowitz made a reference to Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson who developed the chessboard metaphor further in their excellent book “The Second Machine Age”. They calculated that if Moore’s Law started in 1958, and the doubling period was every 18 months, “by that calculation, we entered the second half of the chessboard with digital progress in 2006”

As a result, if the calculated dates are reasonable, the clear implication McAfee points out is that we are only at the beginning of this. We are still in the early part of the second half of the chessboard.
The implications are profound and they are all around us. Every day we are using the Google search engine, Google maps, social media, and the list goes on. This functionality was only a dream a short 10 years ago. Google Glass and the Google Driverless Car are only small, incremental examples of what we can expect in the near future.

Finally, we want to mention Keith Havilanld´s words about implications for enterprises. This richness of compute and storage power allows the redundancies that make large-scale cloud computing not only feasible, but competitively essential and inevitable.  For most purposes, it is already inherently cheaper, more (potentially) agile and secure. The new technologies also facilitate new types of business model, new sources of insight on a gigantic scale and new demands from their end clients.  Immediacy in business matters more than ever. As a result, Enterprise IT has embarked on a long period of transformation and change – maybe a decade of marvels and dark dangers. Any organisation now needs to think more about tech opportunity and invention, than optimisation of the server estate, or cost per development hour.

Whether we will create true artificial intelligence (A.I.) in the next decade, or next century, or ever remains an unanswerable question. The current rush to digital will prove to be part-bubble driven by over enthusiasm.  There will be broken promises, and conventional challenges around service and costs. Legacy rarely dies, but grows larger.

But what is clear is that the opportunity to invent and innovate grows ever more profound as we move into the next great phase of digital history. It’s time for imagination and for all technology practitioners to look forward. 



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