In 1994, I attended an event at the Waldorf Astoria in New York to discuss the Internet and what was its future. There were many of the players in discussion forums like Bill Gates, Steve Case, Larry Ellison, etc.
The keynote speakers were the Futurists, Alvin and Heidi Toffler.
In 1970 they wrote a book called Future Shock. Tofflers' main point was that the world was going through wrenching change from an industrial to a post industrial or technology society. Decades latter the book holds up well. One of their arguments is that the rate of change is accelerating. In other words, if you think the world is transforming fast now, just wait; soon it will be happening faster.
The Tofflers' concept of accelerating change is most pertinent to Silicon Valley and technology, which drive so much of the transformation in our economy but are also vulnerable to the forces they describe. How can such business retain their customers when there are always newer, shinier competitors coming along?
Tofflers' concept, Desynchronization, which they describe as “businesses and family structures are transforming at a much more rapid rate than are reforms in our education, political, and legal systems.”
During the event, Steve Case said Tofflers’ The Third Wave, published in 1980, was instrumental in his thinking while he created AOL. Ted Turner credited the Tofflers' with inspiring him to start CNN. Bill Gates said the Internet was not going to work and left, but we continued with the rest of the sessions.
In the summer of 1996, I went to work in Seattle as the Acting COO and CIO for Multiple Zones, the direct marketing company that produced The PC Zone and The MAC Zone catalogs, selling hardware and software from Microsoft and Apple.
During this period, I worked with Microsoft to beta test the ability to sell and download software over the Internet. Bill Gates changed his mind.
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