We live in the future. The pace of change is astonishingly fast, and it’s accelerating. We’re living through not one but at least two huge technological advances – hardware in the form of computers and mobiles and tablets, and the network itself. We’re just starting to see the social changes that come as a result of those things: interlinked networks, technologically enabled, doing new stuff like Wikipedia and Wookiepedia and breaking the entire news industry by publishing stuff immediately and talking to each other directly.
Of course, children born today have no idea what a rotary telephone is, or a vinyl record. That’s not a hard thing to understand. What’s startling is realising that most 12-year-olds now have no idea what the save icon in Microsoft Word is meant to look like. Floppy disks are gone. We’ve gone through so much tech so fast.
But we’re not done with those changes. Not even the network changes are over, never mind the hardware and the social effects from those things. We have got so many more years of this to come – magical devices emerging from big conferences that change the way your whole life works; new ways of having conversations and sharing things and spreading information virally that come out of tiny startups with no cash. Things we can’t imagine yet, but that will seem inevitable as soon as they exist.
We don’t get to stop yet. In fact, we probably aren’t going to stop in my lifetime. I’ve made my peace with the idea that every solution I work on, every innovation I’m part of and every exciting development I eagerly enjoy is a step on the way somewhere else. Everything we are currently doing is temporary.
It’s pointless trying to adapt to survive the current conditions and then stopping. By the time you’ve adapted the current conditions will be old news. In three years’ time your nice, completed adaptation will be obsolete.
That doesn’t mean we get to stop doing it. It means that – in the news business especially – we need to get a move on doing it now. We need buckets of innovation now, in chunks that we can test and deploy and iterate on and learn from, so that in six months’ time we can be doing the next thing. And then the thing after that. And then the next thing. Because standing still would be monumentally, suicidally stupid.