By 2045, human beings will become a new species, half human, half machine.Or so futurist Ray Kurzweil believes. He argues that by looking at the how tech is being developed that one day we will sort of merge with machines and society will reach a state of “technological singularity.”
That’s because, in part, computer processors double in speed every year while they get increasingly smaller. One day, we’ll inject tiny computers into our bodies like medicine or add them to our brains to make us smarter.
In the meantime, tech is always getting faster, cheaper, and spreading to more markets and industries. And this creates a lot of opportunity for startups, until the day when we all turn into cyborgs.
“Because of this totally changing nature of society and the community business world, any company designed to succeed in the 20th century almost by definition has to fail in the 21st century,” David S. Rose, Associate Founder of Singularity U and founder at Gust, tells Business Insider.
So what does that mean for startups today?
In order to prepare for the singularity, Rose says, entrepreneurs need to figure out what technology will change and over how long, determine what effect that technology will have on a particular market, figure out what holes there will be to fill, and then actually build a business that will intercept that market hole when it comes around.
Amazon, Rose says, is the perfect example of a company that built a business with the singularity in mind.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos foresaw a world where there was no longer a need for physical bookstores, so he decided to build one online. Once Bezos nailed down the distribution side of books, he had to start thinking about ways that competitors could kill his business. Given that the cost of storage, networks, and other digital technologies were dropping, Bezos realised the potential in digital books.
Enter the Kindle.
Instead of waiting for a company like Apple to take him out, Bezos took himself out.
“He deliberately shot himself in the foot because he knew that if he didn’t do it, someone else would,” Rose says.
And someone eventually did. Apple announced in 2009 that it would be coming out with an iPad, and shortly after that, the tech industry proclaimed that the Kindle would die, but it didn’t.
Even though Amazon doesn’t release its exact number of Kindle sales, the company has continued to expand its Kindle lineup and announced in November that worldwide Kindle device sales over the holiday shopping weekend doubled.
Obviously, Amazon continues to face competition from the likes of Apple and Google. But Amazon is the perfect example of what a Singularity-focused business looks like, Rose says.
In short, here’s how startups should prepare for the Singularity moving forward:
- Figure out where the ball will be a few years down the road.
- Determine how to hit that ball when it arrives.
- Figure out what could potentially take you out, and then take yourself out.