Another intriguing notion in Abundance (http://www.amazon.com/Abundance-Future-Better-Than-Think) is what Bill Joy, cofounder of Sun Microsystems, calls “dematerialization.” This is a radical decrease in the amount of physical items needed in our daily lives. Think about how the smartphone technology dematerializes a camera – and the personal camera largely just disappears. Like so many other “aha” moments in the book, this is so obvious yet I never considered it. Consider the functionality of items available with an average smartphone today: cameras, radios, televisions, web browsers, recording studios, editing suites, movie theaters. GPS navigators, word processors, spreadsheets, flashlights, board games, card games, video games, various medical devices, maps, dictionaries, translators, textbooks and even world class educations. Just 10 years ago, most of these were only available in the physical form and in the developed world. Today, almost anyone can have them.
These dematerialized goods and services used to require significant resources to produce and distribute them – all going away. Stunning disruptive impact. The list of items no longer necessary in our lives keeps growing. In summer of 2011, there was an estimated 20 billion APP downloads. I can only imagine what it is today – tomorrow.
The authors of Abundance offer up that in the near future when robotics and AI start replacing standard automobiles, we will be have time-shared, on-demand access to a robo car of choice. Imagine that.
For now, recognizing the changes resulting from APP technology and smartphones is enormous in itself. I find that the biggest changes are often invisible as we experience them, and this is one that each of us can see right before our eyes.