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Posted: September 14, 2012

The futurist: More on creating builders of the future

Tapping into the digital nervous system

Thomas Frey

For people seeking a career change, the digital world is becoming very attractive. In a recent study by Wanted Analytics, the number of job postings for Ruby on Rails positions increased 35.8 percent between 2010 and 2011. At the same time, the number of job postings for JavaScript positions increased 17.7 percent

Dispelling the Myths

Contrary to what many believe, our new generation of coders are NOT:

  • Geeks in the basement. Today’s software engineers are highly paid professionals working out of highly desirable office spaces.
  • Just a bunch of math majors. Todays coding work is not about writing mathematical formulas. Instead, coders today have a wide array of toolsets at their disposal, and the work involves good problem-solving skills and an in-depth understanding of the available tools.
  • A guys-only club. While it’s true that the software and the coding world is very male-oriented, organizations such as RailsBridge are springing to life to change the gender imbalance. One of our DaVinci Coders, Elaine Marino, said it best when she recommended, “If you want more women to participate in these events, you need to switch from pizza and beer to wine and cupcakes.”

Enter Big Data

We’re entering an era where business and society are being run by something akin to a digital nervous system.Managing customer relationships, payments, and product fulfillment are part of our next generation digital ecosystem.

According to a recent study by Capgemini, big data is becoming as fundamental to business as land, labor, and capital has been in the past.

“It’s not only through harnessing the many new sources of data that organizations can obtain competitive advantage. It’s the ability to quickly and efficiently analyze that data to optimize processes and decision-making in real time, that adds the greatest value,” says Capgemini Global Sales Director Paul Nannetti. “In this way, genuinely data-driven companies are able to monitor customer behaviors and market conditions with greater certainty, and react with speed and effectiveness to differentiate themselves from their competition.”

As technology evolves, each next-step results in an exponential growth in data volume

Over the coming decade the vast majority of businesses will be transitioning 100 percent of their day-to-day operations online. As this happens, the digital nervous system will grow in complexity and capability in ways we can only begin to imagine.

Final Thoughts

The online world is still a mystery to most people.

As an example, a recent study by Wakefield Research showed 54 percent of people in the U.S. claim to never use cloud computing, but over 95 percent actually do. A full 65 percent bank online, 63 percent shop online, 58 percent use social networking sites, 45 percent have played online games, 29 percent store photos online, 22 percent store music or videos online, and 19 percent use online file-sharing. All of these services are cloud based. Even when people don’t think they’re using the cloud, they really are.

Yes, we do it unconsciously, but we are constantly comparing the online world to the physical world.

  • We compare the price of online products to in-store products.
  • We compare to cost of driving across town to meeting them virtually through Skype or related services.
  • We compare the cost of cable TV with web-based TV services such as Hulu and Netflix.
  • We compare downloadable games to physical games.

Even though we’ve come a long ways, we are only beginning to scratch the surface of what’s possible, and the “digital builders” of today are setting the stage for our global work and living cultures of the future.

The speed of electrons are 1,1160,000 times faster than the speed of a car. But speed is only one factor. We still need places to live, food to eat, and the comfort of living.

The bigger question in my mind is, after we rebuild our world digitally, what comes next?


Thomas Frey is the executive director and senior futurist at the DaVinci Institute and currently Google’s top-rated futurist speaker.  At the Institute, he has developed original research studies, enabling him to speak on unusual topics, translating trends into unique opportunities. Tom continually pushes the envelope of understanding, creating fascinating images of the world to come.  His talks on futurist topics have captivated people ranging from high level of government officials to executives in Fortune 500 companies including NASA, IBM, AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, Unilever, GE, Blackmont Capital, Lucent Technologies, First Data, Boeing, Ford Motor Company, Qwest, Allied Signal, Hunter Douglas, Direct TV, Capital One, National Association of Federal Credit Unions, STAMATS, Bell Canada, American Chemical Society, Times of India, Leaders in Dubai, and many more. Before launching the DaVinci Institute, Tom spent 15 years at IBM as an engineer and designer where he received over 270 awards, more than any other IBM engineer.

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