I began working in software engineering in the early 2000s. In 2001, when I was in 9th grade, I completed my first paid project – a website for a local company. Back then, web development was something that is now referred to as a «webmaster» type of work. We had to create HTML pages and upload them to shared hosting manually. We used scripting languages like PHP or Perl for dynamic elements on the websites. This was commonly seen in features like the feedback form.
The 2000s were a big deal for the internet. It went from a niche to being everywhere – in businesses, daily life, everywhere. Along with the progress in mobile technology, the Internet has greatly changed the world. Almost everything shifted to the web. For younger folks, it might be hard to see the big difference, but for those who remember the times before the internet and mobile phones, it’s clear how massive the change has been.
The 20th century was indeed the age of computers and telecommunications. All the major advancements in these fields happened during that time, laying the groundwork for further human development. The global digital infrastructure was constructed, taking us from having zero digitalization to a completely digital world.
The first digital computer emerged in the 1940s, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that it became widely adopted – that’s about 30 years. The internet prototype was crafted around 1970, but it took roughly 20 years for widespread adoption in the 1990s. Global scaling followed in the next 10 years, and our modern digital infrastructure took another 15 years of development. The journey from the first digital computer to our current ubiquitous digital landscape spanned many decades, each phase building upon the progress of the previous one.
In the 20th century, two distinct waves of progress unfolded: the invention and integration of computers, and the development of the internet. However, these waves collectively appear as a singular «Digital Revolution » when viewed through a historical lens.» According to Wikipedia, the First Industrial Revolution spanned from 1760 to 1840, taking 80 years to reshape the world. The Second Industrial Revolution, occurring from 1870 to 1914, had a transformative impact in just 44 years. Similarly, both revolutions significantly and fundamentally changed the world.
I view the «Digital Revolution» as the third Industrial Revolution in human history. It seems to have taken approximately 70 years to progress from zero digitalization to nearly 100%. The revolution commenced around 1940 and reached its culmination around 2010. This period witnessed a profound transformation in how we live, work, and communicate, marking a significant shift towards an interconnected, digital world.
The next era appears to be dominated by Artificial Intelligence (AI). Unlike the progression of AI being a direct continuation of internet or computer development, it’s more like a distinct evolution. Computers became the building blocks for the internet, and the internet, in turn, evolved into the infrastructure that AI relies on. However, AI stands as a separate entity, not directly tethered to the internet. It’s like a passenger or cargo, distinct from the train but relying on transportation for delivery.
The initial attempts to develop AI date back to the 1950s, but significant progress occurred in the 2010s, coinciding with the rise of deep learning. Deep learning relies heavily on computational power and robust data infrastructure, both of which became available around the same time. While acknowledging the importance of prior AI research, the emergence of deep learning can be likened to pivotal events like the invention of the first digital computer or the creation of ARPANET (the predecessor of the internet). It marks a transformative moment in AI, akin to discovering a solution after years of searching and experimentation.
AI technology took about a decade to become mainstream and undergo global adoption. We currently find ourselves in the initial stages of a new wave of technological advancement—the AI era. This upcoming era will bring significant changes to both the economy and people’s lives, much like the transformative impact of computers and the internet combined. The trajectory of AI suggests it will play a pivotal role in shaping the future landscape of technology and society.
How long will it take for AI to revolutionize the world? What’s the timeline for its adoption and technological progress? I anticipate a minimum of 10 years for substantial change, similar to the internet’s trajectory from 1990 to 2000. Given AI’s potentially more profound impact, comparable to the combined influence of computers and the internet, it’s likely to take even longer. The transformation is expected to be more radical than that brought about by the internet alone, becoming a significant force in reshaping our world.
AI’s growth will drive demand for new hardware, potentially paving the way for a new generation of technology, with quantum computing being a notable candidate. This surge will also push for greener, more efficient energy sources, as traditional options like coal will struggle to meet the increasing energy needs of the AI era.
The «AI Revolution» might unfold over the next 50 to 100 years, but the world will be vastly different when it’s complete. It’s a remarkable time to be alive, with the opportunity to witness and be part of this transformative era.