Those vinyl discs were expensive, bulky, and easily marred. But we all bought them because we wanted to listen to music. People spent a lot of money on their stereos. But when I was in college, if a big truck hit the pothole outside my dorm, my record would jump. I never imagined that lasers and disks and computer files would become the way music would be collected, stored, and played. And the songs wouldn’t skip.
Looking back, many technological changes seem obvious. It’s obvious we should get television over wires and make phone conversations over the air. There’s so much more data in a video than in an audio conversation. It seems obvious that we should be able to see where our friends are going on a device we carry in our pockets. J.K. Rowling described these “marauders maps” fifteen years ago in her Harry Potter fantasy novels.
Many innovations are clear in hindsight. Today’s science fiction becomes tomorrow’s science fact. In fact, it’s hard to remember a world where people didn’t carry phones in their pockets, and it’s obvious that those phones should really be computers. But how do you tell the difference between visionary innovation and pie-in-the-sky dreaming? After all, back in the 1960s people fantasized about having personal jetpacks. I wanted my own spaceship and all I got was 144 characters on Twitter.
The key today is social. Things that connect us to one another are growing; what isolates us isn’t. Uber and Airbnb are fantastic—ride-sharing and house-sharing; wearable PCs, not so much. In fact, one of the reported advantages of Apple’s watch is that users didn’t have to interrupt real conversations to check their phones. And they don’t look creepy, like Google Glass.
Technology keeps moving forward, even if we would rather have things stay where they are. I’m just glad that I don’t have to worry about my records getting scratched by a fire truck going by.
Douglas R. Tengdin, CFA
Chief Investment Officer
Leave a comment if you have any questions—I read them all!