A recent PBS special on the coming-of-age of Silicon Valley reminded me of the excitement I had dreaming up the seemingly endless uses for my family’s first home computer (a Timex Sinclair 1000, with 1.5k of built-in memory, circa 1982), and the epochal significance of the work everyone in the technology sector is doing today, more than 30 years later.
It’s easy to lose sight of this significance when we are busy tending to our individual duties in our day-to-day work, most especially if we are not the engineers or developers that dream this stuff up. But every person working in the technology sector – yes, marketers and public relations pros included – is contributing in an important way to a period that will be afforded at least equal weight with other great epochs, like the Age of Discovery and the Industrial Revolution.
And we are nowhere near the point of winding it down. More likely, we are at the earliest stages. I won’t pretend to be a technology historian, but I’m guessing many would claim the epoch began with large computers instructed by switches and punch cards, then shifted into high gear with the invention of the microchip, and exploded with the global Internet. Can there be much more to it? (Answer ‘yes’ if you fear a world where Facebook is the pinnacle of all technology innovation).
We are only just exploring what is possible when everyone is connected to every bit of knowledge and equipped with sufficient computing power to grok it. Consider the impact technology has on the realm of healthcare. We intuitively know, for example, that a physician with access to every revelation of medical research, and the computing power to analyze it all in a split second to prescribe the absolute best treatment plan customized for your genotype, is a thousand times more helpful to you than the isolated knowledge of a physician who is 30 years out of med school staring at your chart. But we’re not there yet.
And while we’re dreaming about those boundless possibilities, there are smart people working on 3D printing, the Internet of Things, quantum computing, and any number of other tantalizing concepts. Our imaginations can continue to run wild for years to come, just as they have been doing for the past several decades.
So what contribution do we, the people toiling away in public relations firms and marketing agencies, or in corporate communications and marketing departments, make to all of this? We all know there are plenty of great inventions that wallowed for decades only because the guy who got the patent didn’t have the first clue about how to share his or her idea with others. We are the ones who get the word out in language people can understand and embrace. The jobs we do help choose the winners and losers. Not everyone has to be a Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg to take some credit!