Blinded by the speed of change
My grandfather lived through an incredible period of technological change. He saw the invention of the automobile, the airplane and the rocket. He lived through the dawn of the atomic age and the mainframe computer. He didn’t live long enough to see the PC or the impact it would have on my professional life, but he was around for the creation of a lot of the technology that laid the foundation for what’s happening today.
I’ve been at this for a long time myself. I remember working on an early IBM PC. Later, I accessed the text-based internet via a 300-baud modem. I can recall the earliest days of the World Wide Web.
My first cell phone was a Motorola brick phone. My first iPhone was the 3. Bottom line is I’ve seen a lot of technological change, and I’ve never seen anything like we’re seeing these past months, weeks and days.
Consider for a moment that ChatGPT 3.5 took the world by storm in December. Last week, while I was on vacation, OpenAI released ChatGPT 4, which OpenAI unabashedly called “state of the art.” This week, we saw the announcement of plug-ins for the internet itself and useful tools like Expedia, WolframAlpha and so many others, suddenly accelerating generative AI in new and exciting directions.
All of this is happening with stunning speed. It feels like we’re living through an inflection point, much like we saw with the first IBM PC, the internet, the web, the iPhone. But this moment of change is happening so fast, we’ve barely got time to process the latest twist before the next iteration comes flying down the chute.
Like those moments we saw with the advent of personal computing, connected computing and mobile computing, you know that something huge is happening, but it’s not clear yet what it will become. At the moment, we know that there is an exciting new technology that can change the way we interact with computers, but we aren’t clear yet how that will play out, any more than we knew how the web or smartphones would transform our lives in ways we really couldn’t imagine in the earliest days.
On a panel last week led by Docker CEO Scott Johnston, Ilan Rabinovich, SVP of product and community at Datadog, talked about the similarities between what we’re seeing now and the early days of the internet.
I’m a journalist who specializes in investigative reporting and writing. I have written for the New York Times and other publications.