Tech Paradigms: What They Are and What to Expect in the Future

September 13, 2016

6:00 pm

“There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” That’s one far-sighted prediction from 1977, a time immediately before today’s technology cycle began. The old ways of thinking, in which a personal computer had no place, shifted rapidly. What does today’s paradigm look like and how might it change in the future? That’s what the book Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital: The Dynamics of Bubbles and Golden Ages, by Carlota Perez, and a new Medium post from Julian Counihan.

Past Paradigms

Carlota Perez relies on older theories: Schumpeter’s theories of the clustering of innovations is used to explain why any large tech innovation leads to a greater shift in the economy, opening up new work opportunities. Shifting industries also lead to bubbles and crises down the line. From her book:

“These findings are illustrated with examples from the past two centuries: the industrial revolution, the age of steam and railways, the age of steel and electricity, the emergence of mass production and automobiles, and the current information revolution/knowledge society.”

Today’s Paradigm

The newest of these cycles? The “internet and telecommunications technology cycle,” which Counihan marks as beginning with the invention of the microprocessor in the 1970s. The ways people react to the new normal become codified as “common sense,” and those things, today, include how startups are created and described. From Counihan:

“What is the paradigm of today’s application stage? Whenever you hear commonly used business model strategies, such as product-market-fit, lean start-up, [blank]-as-a-service, [blank]-for-x , you are ingesting one facet of the paradigm. These strategies are the commonalities among two decades of successful application stage businesses.”

The Future Paradigm?

The good news: We’ve got a ways to go before we need to start preparing for another huge, industry-disrupting shift.

“In my view, this cycle has many more years to go improving process, communication, and integrating into every last fiber of the economy. Smart investors are still funding new iterations of platforms or entrants into new geographies.”

The bad news: No one can really predict what comes next.

“This paradigm has proven a reliable framework for designing an internet platform. However it won’t be the paradigm for the next technology cycle and it may not be a perfect template for every business today.”

And anyone who attempts to predict the next cycle will likely wind up looking something like that 1977 futurist. The safest bet is to stick to the ironically safe trait of trying to “disrupt” things with your newest “Uber for X” startup.

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Adam is a writer with an interest in a variety of mediums, from podcasts to comic books to video essays to novels to blogging — too many, basically. He's based out of Seattle, and remains a staunch defender of his state's slogan: "sayWA." In his spare time, he recommends articles about science fiction on Twitter, @AdamRRowe

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