May 9, 2013

The profound power of the Internet in your pocket

The Loop > Magazine > Issue 1

By Ben Bajarin

“Sent from my pocket computer.” That is my signature for any email sent from my iPhone. When most people think of their smartphone they don’t necessarily think of it as a pocket computer, yet that is exactly what this device is.

In 1949 Popular Mechanics famously stated: “Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons.” What once fit in a rather large room, now fits in everyone’s pocket.

Have we yet wrestled with the implications of this reality? I don’t think so.

1 out of 7

Today, approximately 1 out of 7 people on the planet own a smartphone. That comes out to just over a billion smartphones in use in the world. You may think 1 out of 7 sounds like a lot but in the big picture we still have a long way to go.

Bringing a computational device in the form of a smartphone to every person on the planet is a potential reality and the promise of the future. But even more profound and perhaps even more important to future of humanity is these device’s connection to the Internet. I would argue that the Internet is the most valuable feature of any smartphone. Bringing the Internet to every person, by way of a smartphone, will drive it to be the primary computational device for more people than any other piece of hardware. For the masses in the developing world a smartphone is not just a pocket computer, it may be their only computer.

Over the last decade, the Internet has already transformed the developed world in ways never imagined. It has transformed how we communicate, how we learn, how we play, how we work, and how we are entertained. All these things and more will continue to undergo radical transformation. But most of the innovations we can point to are all coming from first world perspectives and solving first world problems. Often, innovation from a first world perspective is generally more about convenience. From a third world perspective, innovation will play a key role in survival.

When the developing countries get their hands on the profound power of the Internet in their pocket, it will not transform how they work, play, and learn — it will revolutionize it.

Knowledge is Power

There is simply nothing like the Internet. The collection of knowledge and information on the world wide web is unparalleled. Of course the web contains its share of stupidity, but it also contains quite a bit of valuable knowledge which is more readily accessible today than at any point in history.

Read the rest of this article by subscribing to The Loop magazine on the App Store from your iPhone or iPad.