Evolution Shift
A Future Look at Today
December 8th, 2006

Cell Phones are Transformative

It can be argued that the three most transformative technologies of the last twenty years are the personal computer, the Internet and the cell phone.  I have written often in Evolution Shift about the first two, but not of the third, until now. 

As is often the case, a look into the future first entails a look back to the past.  In 1984 there were 25,000 cell phones sold in the U.S.  In 1990 that number had grown to1,888,000 units sold, and in the year 2000 52,600,00 units were sold — a million phones a week!  That number has continued to go up.  Today, in a country of 300 million people — including infants, young children, and the aged — there are over 210 million active cell phone accounts.  We all have them.  A number of people, like me, have two. So, the cell phone is truly ubiquitous in the U.S. This of course means that the phones are a commodity; in fact a great number of people get them free with a service plan.

Twenty years ago, most of us had two phones, one at work, one at home, both connected to the wall.  Our phone conversations were therefore placed based, and if we were out and about, there was always the pay phone.  Remember using those? Back then, no one ever called you up and said “Where are you?” which is now one of the most frequently asked questions when the phone is answered. I don’t need to talk about all the aspects of cell phones that have been written about ad nauseam, but I do want to stress that we are all now operate with a level of connectedness that has never existed before in history.  This connectedness changes behavior, speeds up communications, and contributes to the accelerated speed of change in our society.

The explosive growth in the U.S. that the above numbers describe has, of course, been equaled if not exceeded in every developed country of the world.  What is really interesting is that this growth model is now occurring in developing and third world countries. The current growth curves in Africa and Asia are very similar to those of the 1990s in developed countries.  There are now 6 million new subscribers a month in India and 5.25 million new subscribers a month in China.  When these growth rates get projected out to 2010 and 2015 it is almost certain that the vast majority of nations in the world, including sub-Saharan countries will have a majority of their citizens using cell phones.  This is nothing less than transformative.  Some of the countries that will have a 50% plus penetration of cell phones to people are the same ones that a couple of decades ago have less than 10-20 regular phones per 100 people.  Think about how much our lives in the U.S. have changed with cell phones.  Now imagine it from a base where only 1 in 5 people had land line phones and you can begin to see transformation at work, and play.

When more than 50% of the world can call each other no matter where they are, a shift begins to occur.  Compare today’s reality of being able to reach a potential 1 billion people on their cell phones in a matter of seconds with the reality of 175 years ago when the speed of communication was the speed of the Pony Express, the fastest means of communication then available.  That was horse speed, point to point.  Now we have a billion plus points immediately connectable to each other.  This is why I believe that we are approaching a coming shift in our evolutionary journey in the next 20 to 30 years.

Several ancient societies, of which the Mayan civilization is most notable had very well articulated prophesies that the world as we know it would end in the year 2012.  These prophesies were not about death and destruction, the biblical proportion catastrophes from the Bible.  They were that the world ‘as we know it’ would end.  When these prophesies were made centuries ago, human communication was completely contained by time and distance and the fastest speed was that of a horse.  The aha moment for me came, when doing research for the book I am writing, I realized that the trend lines for cell phones, computers, Internet usage and live satellite television were such that the vast majority of humanity would, in the years between 2010 and 2015, have access to one, if not several of these technological innovations, thereby essentially eliminating time and distance from human communication. Would it actually be 2012?  It looks like it could be.

The world, as known by the Mayans, will have changed. Time and distance will have ceased to exist in the realm of human communication. They could not have conceived of the cell phone, but they did predict what the cell phone, in part was going to help usher into the world.

The cell phone, that gadget in your hand and ear that is so indispensable to you, is one of the agents of change that is moving us toward an evolution shift in the decades ahead.  Check back with me in the year 2013 so I can say “I told you so!”

 

 

 

 

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