So many feelings as I am writing my last blog post for #IS6621, a hashtag that will be missed. A great deal has changed since being rattled by that first class. I learned how to tweet, how insightful 800 words can be, and all about emerging technology that is going to rock our world.
When I wrote my first blog post reflecting on my initial thoughts and expectations of this course, I focused largely on the social media half of the title, because it’s what I thought I knew. I would say, more so than I was incorrect, is that I was incomplete. Young, naïve 21 and 7 months year-old me was focused on how businesses would use social media, how I would get better at it for business, and yeah also the emerging technology digital business aspect, whatever that means.
Over the course of the semester, Twitter doubled the character limit for tweets and Bitcoin’s value increased by over 250% or about $7000. Facebook began allowing kids onto its platform and Elon Musk made perhaps a half a dozen ambitious goals and promises for the coming years in vehicle production and interplanetary travel.
Speaking of Musk, I figured I’d pair an end of semester reflection with a follow-up from my presentation last week. I discussed primarily how musk’s companies are involved in AI and his thoughts on the future of the technology, but now I will use things he’s done, said, and been a part of to recap the semester.
“This is a huge amount of risk, will cost a lot, and there’s a good chance we won’t succeed,” he says. “But we’re going to try and do our best.”
On starting regular, somewhat affordable interplanetary travel, Musk remarks “This is a huge amount of risk, will cost a lot, and there’s a good chance we won’t succeed. But we’re going to try and do our best.” I know when Elon Musk announced last week that he would be sending his very own Tesla Roadster into space aboard Falcon Heavy, many were skeptical. However, not that I don’t doubt delays, but Spacex has already proven some strength recently. In 2017 alone, the company launched 16 rockets, and started reusing rockets, which is a significant step towards achieving their goal.
This parallels with much of what we discussed throughout class, in that the future is already here. By that, I mean to say, that these emerging technologies, though nascent and at times unintelligible by most, they are already being implemented. Augmented reality, for example, has been used by millions since Pokémon Go’s rise to popularity in the summer of 2016. While we may not have witnessed the full potential that this technology has in revolutionizing retail, AR is starting to creep into normality, sliding into our everyday lives.
Machine learning and artificial technology have come along quite a bit, even in the past year or two. Facebook uses AI to track messaging and then serve you appropriate advertising. Saudi Arabia granted citizenship to Sophia, the robot which was definitely more of a PR stunt so get Saudi Arabia on the world stage, with technology not oil. However, this is not insignificant. AI will continue to improve, and in the near future, this growth is predicted to be exponential.
Musk’s solution to this intimidating growth was establishing OpenAI, to prepare for regulation and training of artificial intelligence.
Next, as been discussed on Twitter and beyond, the Boring Company plans to dig tunnels with the goal of alleviating traffic pains. Yes, this current plan will directly benefit Elon Musk, as its route goes from his home to office. However, upon thinking further about this, is this not how innovation works? We innovate to create new solutions to solve current problems. Where would we be today if Johannes Gutenberg did not see a need for a more efficient way to copy text, eventually through the printing press? Or if Thomas Edison and Jospeh Wilson Swan did not see a need to escape dependency on daylight, with the result being the creation of electric lightbulbs? Yes, I know I am being dramatic, but what I am saying is: yes, Musk will benefit if the Boring Company successfully builds out tunnel systems in LA, but so will others.
There are of course, some issues with his current plan, like will it instead of relieve traffic, induce further demand for drivers, like widening the roads sometimes does. Additionally, will this expensive fix just band-aid the original source of frustration, and inhibit future city planning. However, if this process bodes successful in LA, I could see many other cities plagued with perpetual traffic jams to reap similar benefits.
Our discussion on machine learning, among other aspects of emerging technology, follows this same trend of developing in the form of problem solving. Take Amazon distribution centers, for example. They were created to solve the problem of inefficiency in logistics of distribution. Now, the product you receive ordered a day and a half ago arrives at your doorstep, with only about a minute of human interaction. Machine learning allows robots to become better and better, and see problems that perhaps, humans have not even picked up on.
The next example of Musk’s crossover into #IS6621 I will bring up is the release of the a fully-electric semi-autonomous truck, the Tesla Semi. This is an example of bringing new technology to old segments. While Tesla boasts a full-fledge remodeling of the semi-truck to design the Semi, it is not the only industry that traditionally uses old technology or no technology being revamped by new innovation. This was among the most covered topics in class—that is, emerging technology revolutionizing nearly every industry, from grocery shopping to healthcare. Companies are capitalizing on a shift in consumer sentiment around technology, and taking advantage through the use of new technologies to create new efficiencies not possible before.
To bring it all together, social media actually plays a significant role in the success of this all. Musk has a huge following across social medias, and he even, like someone else who has a lot of power I can think of, makes announcements via Twitter. Musk uses his own platform to not only promote his companies and missions, but also to cultivate his fan following. Like many other companies I have had the pleasure of learning about from my classmates, from presentations, blogs, and Twitter, social media allows for brands to create a personality and connect with consumers in a way not possible anywhere else.
To bring it all together, social media and digital business was a class unlike any other. Something unique about this course was that the topics discussed in class came up in daily conversation, and vice versa, which just goes to show the relevance. What makes #IS6621 so difficult, I am sure, to plan and teach, is that the topics are constantly changing, and we must be agile enough to change with them. #IS6621 will continue to be an awesome course because it will continue to evolve.
And with that, I am signing off (which of course, couldn’t happen without one last office gif :) )