Now, the list of problems
we face is well-known: A financial crisis; climate disruption; energy geopolitics; food supply hazards.
What they show is that
we're all connected, today like never before: economically, socially and technologically. Like the butterfly flapping its wings, when a crisis occurs on one part of the planet, it can bring problems to another part, within days or even hours.
For example, consider how gridlocked
our cities are: traffic congestion in the United States costs $78 billion a year. That’s 4.2 billion lost hours and 2.9 billion gallons of wasted gasoline – and that’s not even counting the impact on our air quality.
Consider how inefficient our supply
chains are: Consumer product and retail industries lose about $40 billion a year due to supply chain inefficiencies. That lost money could be put to better use.
Consider how our planet’s water
supply is drying up: water use has risen at twice the rate of population growth, or sixfold, since the 1900s, while half the world’s people lack adequate sanitation.
And consider how antiquated our
healthcare system is: In truth, it isn’t a “system” at all. It doesn’t link from diagnosis, to drug discovery, to healthcare deliverers, to insurers, to employers. Meanwhile, personal expenditures on health now push more than 100 million people worldwide below the poverty line each year.
So we're headed for a
wall at breakneck speed. And every day that we don't address the problems facing our society is another day closer to squandering the future instead of winning it.
We live in a time
of unprecedented advances in every sector of human endeavor. New advances bring new ideas, which can have a profound and positive impact on our planet.
In the IT industry alone,
we’re seeing the coming of age of a whole new generation of intelligent systems and technologies -- more powerful and accessible than ever before.
In the same way that
the Hubble telescope changed 400 years of thinking about the physical universe, today the infusion of intelligence into society’s systems will change the way the world literally works.
These systems and processes enable
physical goods to be developed, manufactured, bought and sold; services to be delivered; everything from people and money to oil, water and electrons to move; and billions of people to work and live.
Three things have brought this
about. First, the world is becoming instrumented. Imagine, if you can, a billion transistors for every human being. We're almost there. Sensors are being embedded everywhere: in cars, appliances, cameras, roads, pipelines…even in medicine and livestock.
Second, the world is becoming
interconnected – 1.2 billion people, millions of businesses and perhaps a trillion devices access the World Wide Web today. And by 2011, it is estimated that the Internet will reach 2 billion people, or nearly one-third of the population.
And with computational power now
being put into things we wouldn't recognize as computers, any person, any object, any process or service and any organization—large or small—can become digitally aware, connected and smart. Think of a trillion connected and intelligent things, and the oceans of data they will produce.
Third, all of those instrumented
and interconnected things are becoming intelligent. This means they can link to powerful new backend systems that can process all that data, and to advanced analytics capable of turning it into real insight, in real time.
These new ways to work
and think generate not just new products, but industries, not just new knowledge, but new ways of working together.
What wasn’t visible before is
becoming visible for the first time, and this will change the conventional wisdom about our planet’s infrastructure forever.
Picture a smarter global food
system that uses clever RFID tags to trace meat and poultry from the farm through the supply chain to the store shelf – eradicating spoilage and waste.
Picture a pharmaceutical company using
grid computing and data mining to analyze large amounts of information to help doctors make better diagnoses and treatment decisions, develop new drugs, and predict health issues before they happen – by crunching data in days and weeks instead of months and years.
<ul><li>Picture home appliances equipped with
automation software and advanced analytical tools that are smart enough to tell you how efficiently they are running, shut themselves off when energy use peaks, or perform diagnostic tests without you having to call a repair person. </li></ul>
Picture an innovative, high-tech computing
system that cured traffic gridlock in Stockholm Sweden by directly identifying and charging vehicles depending on the time of day – higher during peak times, lower during off peak hours.
<ul><li>We live in a complex
universe. Throughout human history we've attempted to illuminate those complexities – to explain them, predict where they will lead us, and search for ways to use them. </li></ul>