Previous Blogs

July 18, 2017
Tech in the Heartland

June 27, 2017
Business Realities vs. Tech Dreams

June 20, 2017
The Power of Hidden Tech

June 13, 2017
Computing Evolves from Outside In to Inside Out

June 6, 2017
The Overlooked Surprises of Apple’s WWDC Keynote

May 30, 2017
Are AR and VR Only for Special Occasions?

May 23, 2017
The Digital Car

May 16, 2017
Digital Assistants Drive New Meta-Platform Battle

May 9, 2017
Getting Smart on Smart Speakers

May 5, 2017
Intel Opens High-Tech "Garage"

May 2, 2017
The Hidden Value of Analog

April 28, 2017
Google’s Waymo Starts Driving Passengers

April 25, 2017
The Robotic Future

April 21, 2017
Sony Debuts New Pro Camera

April 18, 2017
Should Apple Build a Car?

April 14, 2017
PC Market Outlook Improving

April 11, 2017
Little Data Analytics

April 7, 2017
Facebook Debuts Free Version of Workplace Collaboration Tool

April 4, 2017
Samsung Building a Platform Without an OS

March 31, 2017
Microsoft Announces Windows 10 Creators Update Release Date

March 28, 2017
Augmented Reality Finally Delivers on 3D Promise

March 24, 2017
Intel Creates AI Organization

March 21, 2017
Chip Magic

March 17, 2017
Microsoft Unveils Teams Chat App

March 14, 2017
Computing on the Edge

March 7, 2017
Cars Need Digital Safety Standards Too

February 28, 2017
The Messy Path to 5G

February 24, 2017
AMD Launches Ryzen CPU

February 21, 2017
Rethinking Wearable Computing

February 17, 2017
Samsung Heir Arrest Unlikely to Impact Sales

February 14, 2017
Modern Workplaces Still More Vision Than Reality

February 10, 2017
Lenovo Develops Energy-Efficient Soldering Technology

February 7, 2017
The Missing Map from Silicon Valley to Main Street

January 31, 2017
The Network vs. The Computer

January 27, 2017
Facebook Adds Support For FIDO Security Keys

January 24, 2017
Voice Drives New Software Paradigm

January 20, 2017
Tesla Cleared of Fault in NHTSA Crash Probe

January 17, 2017
Inside the Mind of a Hacker

January 13, 2017
PC Shipments Stumble but Turnaround is Closer

January 10, 2017
Takeaways from CES 2017

January 3, 2017
Top 10 Tech Predictions for 2017

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TECHnalysis Research Blog

July 25, 2017
The Value of Limits

By Bob O'Donnell

No one likes to think about limits, especially in the tech industry, where the idea of putting constraints on almost anything is perceived as anathema.

In fact, arguably, the entire tech industry is built on the concept of bursting through limitations and enabling things that weren’t possible before. New technology developments have clearly created incredible new capabilities and opportunities, and have generally helped improve the world around us.

But there does come a point—and I think we’ve arrived there—where it’s worth stepping back to both think about and talk about the potential value of, yes, technology limits…on several different levels.

On a technical level, we’ve reached a point where advances in computing applications like AI, or medical applications like gene splicing, are raising even more ethical questions than practical ones on issues such as how they work and for what applications they might be used. Not surprisingly, there aren’t any clear or easy answers to these questions, and it’s going to take a lot more time and thought to create frameworks or guidelines for both the appropriate and inappropriate uses of these potentially life-changing technologies.

Does this mean these kinds of technological advances should be stopped? Of course not. But having more discourse on the types of technologies that get created and released certainly needs to happen.

Even on a practical level, the need for limiting people’s expectations about what a technology can or cannot do is becoming increasingly important. With science-fiction-like advances becoming daily occurrences, it’s easy to fall into the trap that there are no limits to what a given technology can do. As a result, people are increasingly willing to believe and accept almost any kind of statements or predictions about the future of many increasingly well-known technologies, from autonomous driving to VR to AI and machine learning. I hate to say it, but it’s the fake news of tech.

Just as we’ve seen the fallout from fake news on all sides of the political perspective, so too are we starting to see that unbridled and unlimited expectations for certain new technologies are starting to have negative implications of their own. Essentially, we’re starting to build unrealistic expectations for a tech-driven nirvana that doesn’t clearly jibe with the realities of the modern world, particularly in the timeframes that are often discussed.

In fact, I’d argue that a lot of the current perspectives on where the technology industry is and where it’s headed are based on a variety of false pretenses, some positively biased and some negatively biased. On the positive side, there’s a sense that technologies like AI or autonomous driving are going to solve enormous societal issues in a matter of a few years. On the negative side, there are some who see the tech industry as being in a stagnant period, still hunting for the next big thing beyond the smartphone.

Neither perspective is accurate, but ironically, both stem from the same myth of limitlessness that seems to pervade much of the thinking in the tech industry. For those with the positive spin, I think it’s critical to be willing to admit to a technology’s limitations, in addition to touting its capabilities.

So, for example, it’s OK to talk about the benefits that something like autonomous driving can bring to certain people in certain environments, but it’s equally important to acknowledge that it isn’t going to be a great fit for everyone, everywhere. Realistically and practically speaking, we are still a very long way from having a physical, legal, economic and political environment for autonomous cars to dramatically impact the transportation needs of most consumers. On the other hand, the ability for these autonomous transportation technologies to start having a dramatic impact on public transportation systems or shipping fleets over the next several years seems much more realistic (even if it is a lot less sexy).

For those with a more negative bias, it’s important to recognize that not all technologies have to be universally applicable to make them useful or successful. The new relaunched Google Glass, for example, is no longer trying to be the next generation computing device and industry disruptor that it was initially thought to be. Instead, it’s being focused on (or limited to) work-based applications where it’s a great fit. As a result, it won’t see the kind of sales figures that something like an iPhone will, but that’s OK, because it’s actually doing what it is best designed to do.

Accepting and publicly acknowledging that certain technologies can’t do some things isn’t a form of weakness—it’s a form of strength. In fact, it creates a more realistic scenario for them to succeed. Similarly, recognizing that while some technologies are great, they may not be great for everything, doesn’t mean they’re a failure. Some technologies and products can be great for certain sub-segments of the market and still be both a technical and financial success.

If, however, we keep thinking that every new technology or tech industry concept can be endlessly extended without limits—everything in my life as service, really?—we’re bound to be greatly disappointed on many different levels. Instead, if we view them within a more limited and, in some cases more specialized, scope, then we’re much more likely to accurately judge what they can (or cannot) do and set expectations accordingly. That’s not a limit, it’s a value.

Here's a link to the column: https://techpinions.com/the-value-of-limits/50631

Bob O’Donnell is the president and chief analyst of TECHnalysis Research, LLC a market research firm that provides strategic consulting and market research services to the technology industry and professional financial community. You can follow him on Twitter @bobodtech.

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