Power of Soft Technology

Those who had access to technology always had an edge over the others who couldn’t have access to, or refused to embrace it. People who had guns won over the people who had swords; farmers who knew rain water harvesting methods make it to market over those who don’t have this knowledge; people who had IT to manage their inventory could scale and deliver to the world – even if it is just sugar water.

Technology, over generations have not only proven to be a key differentiator but have also taken humanity into newer possibilities. Who knew man would reach moon, Mars or discover galaxies beyond the known universe.

Electricity, telephony, clocks, assembly line, money, metallurgy and agriculture are handful of technologies that have impacted our world in the sort of deeply transformative way in a day-to-day world as we know it.

However, Written Language and money are sort of ‘Soft Technologies’, capable of being embodied in a variety of specific physical forms. One can write on sand with fingers, on stone or author a book. One can embody money (value) in paper currency, coins, credit cards.

Possessing these soft technologies are powerful beyond imagination and must be exercised with responsibility.

Software has the same relationship to any specific sort of computing hardware! As a simple example, a 14-year-old teenager today can learn programming, contribute significantly to open-source projects, and become a talented professional-grade programmer before age 18.

Stock markets of the world can be embodied into network of buyers and sellers and can replicate the behavior of physical market. Youtube has changed the way we watch videos and Facebook has changed the way we meet friends. Software can change the way farmers sow/harvest, children in govt. school get access to world class infrastructure and education, unskilled labor acquire skills based on nation’s GDP growth. One result of this increased potential was that technologists began to grope towards a collective vision commonly called the Internet of Things.

Money and written language both transformed the world in similarly profound ways. Software, however, is more flexible and powerful than either.

Writing is very flexible: we can write with a finger on sand or with an electron beam on a pinhead. Money is even more flexible: anything from cigarettes in a prison and salt in the ancient world to modern fiat currencies can work. But software can increasingly go wherever writing and money can go, and beyond. Software can make writing into Wikipedia and can make money disconnect from its hardware (mobile wallets & IMPS)!

The opportunities presented by software are expanding, and the risks of being caught on the wrong side of the transformation are increasing. Those who have correctly calibrated the impact of software are winning.

And the winners are not winning by small margins or temporarily either. And this appears to be true at all levels from individuals to businesses to nations.

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