There was nothing much really new about the iPhone and its technology. There had been phones before, there had been computers before, there had been phones combined into computers before.
There was also a lot that wasn’t good about the Iphone. It was slow, its internet connection barely functioned. And it would be two years before it could even take a video.
But as the foremost smartphone it heralded a revolution in the way people communicate, listen, watch and create.
Aspect of Life – Technology
There has been no aspect of life that hasn’t been changed by the technologies. Bundled up in the iPhone – an ever-present and always-on internet connection.
A camera that never leaves your side, a computer with mighty processing power. That can be plucked out of your pocket.
The 2000s have, so far, been the era of mobile computers. And social networking changing the shape of our cultural, political and social climate. All of those huge changes, for better or worse, are bound up in that tiny phone.
Social media Technology
Though few people noticed, online social networks actually began at the end of the last century.
The first was Six Degrees in 1997. Which was named after the theory that everyone on the planet is separated by only six other people.
It included features that became popular with subsequent iterations of the form. Including profiles and friend lists, but it never really took off.
Friends Reunited and MySpace
It wasn’t until Friend’s Reunited and MySpace in the early 2000s that social networks achieved mainstream success. Though even these seem insignificant when compared to Facebook.
Not only did Mark Zuckerberg’s creation muscle its way to a monopoly in terms of social networks.
It also swallowed up any nascent competitors in a space that came to be known as social media.
Instagram in 2012
First there was Instagram in 2012, for a modest $1 billion, and then came WhatsApp in 2014 for $19bn.
Between all of its apps, Facebook now reaches more than 2 billion people every day. It has come to define the way we communicate.
And heralded a new era of hyper-connectedness, while also profoundly shaping the internet as we know it.
Six Degrees Technology
In doing so, Facebook has not only consigned the site Six Degrees to the history books. It has also re-written the theory itself – cutting it down to just three-and-a-half degrees of separation.
Bitcoin and cryptocurrency
At the start of this century, the complete reinvention of the entire economic system wasn’t something many people were talking about.
But then the 2007-08 financial crisis happened. As mortgages defaulted, companies collapsed, and governments bailed out the banks to the tune of trillions of dollars.
People began to wonder if there might be a better way. One person – or group – believed they had the answer.
Satoshi Nakamoto’s true identity may still be a mystery. But their creation of a new “electronic cash system” called bitcoin in 2009 could have implications far beyond just currency.
The underlying blockchain technology – an immutable and unhackable online ledger – could potentially transform everything from healthcare to real estate.
Bitcoin is yet to take off as a mainstream form of payment. Or transform the global economy like it might have promised.
But we are barely a decade into the great cryptocurrency experiment. It has inspired thousands of imitators.
Including those currently being developed by Facebook and China. And it may be another 10 years before its true potential is finally realized.
“Alright, so here we are, in front of the elephants. And the cool thing about these guys is that they have really, really, really long trunks. And that’s cool.”
It may have been an inauspicious start. But these words would go on to fundamentally transform the way people consume media in the 21st century.
It was 23 April, 2005, and Jawed Karim had just uploaded the first ever video to YouTube. A video-sharing website he had helped create.
Just over a year later, Google bought the site for $1.65 billion. And the fortunes of Karim, his co-founders, and countless future content creators were changed forever.
There are now hundreds of hours of video published to YouTube every minute. And it all started with that 18-second clip at the zoo. AC
3G, 4G and 5G
Arthur C Clarke famously quipped that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”.
But there is surely nothing more like magic – and no magic more powerful. Than the fact that the 21st century has brought the ability to instantly connect to information and people at the other side of the world.
First, at the beginning of the century, came 3G, and then 10 years or so later came 4G. Every decade of this century has been marked by new advances in the speed and reliability of mobile data connections.
Mobile Data Connections
And those mobile data connections have helped re-write the world that relies on them. Just about every other major breakthrough in technology.
That came through the 2000s – social media, instant photo sharing, citizen journalism. And everything else – relied on having data connections everywhere.
5G – which has ostensibly already rolled out, but is yet to make its full impact. Is likely to be similarly transformative through the decade to come, if its evangelists are to be believed.
Debates have raged about whether this constant connectivity. And the distractions and dangers it has brought – has really driven us apart. But that too is surely testament to its power. AG
Many of technology’s biggest developments in the 2000s haven’t really been about technology at all: piracy and then streaming changed how we make.
And consume culture entirely, social media has turned politics on his head. Nowhere is that more clear than in the gig economy and the apps.
And websites like Uber, Deliveroo and Airbnb that power it, which claim to be tech businesses but are really new ways of buying and selling labor.
The real revolution of the gig economy was not the technology that powers these apps: there is little difference between calling for a cab and summoning an Uber, really.
Nor was it what the companies like to suggest, that they have opened up a new and inspiring way of working that allows anyone to clock on whenever they log on.
Instead, it was the beginning of a process of changing the way that people work and relate to those who fulfil services for them.
It is likely that we have not seen the end of the kinds of profound changes that these companies have made to working conditions – or the ways that those workers have fought back.
VR and AR
Virtual reality has been the future before: ever since the first stereoscopes, people have been excited about the possibility of disappearing into other worlds.
That appear before their eyes. But it has never quite arrived. But in the more recent years of the 2000s it started to look a bit more meaningful.
Virtual reality headsets have been pushed out by many of the world’s biggest companies, and consumer computers are finally powerful enough to generate believable worlds that people are happy to spend their time in.
In recent years, much of the focus has turned to augmented reality rather than virtual reality. That technology allows information to be overlaid on top of the real world.
Rather than putting people into an entirely virtual world. If it comes off – if it is not confined to failed experiments like Google Glass – then it could change the way we interact.
With the world, potentially giving us information all of the time and could even do away with things like smartphones as our primary way of connecting with technology. AG
Quantum computing has not really happened yet. A few months ago, researchers announced that they had achieved “quantum supremacy” .
By doing an operation that would not be possible on a traditional computer – but it was a largely useless, very specific, operation, which didn’t really change anything in itself.
Already, however, the promise – and the threat – of quantum computing is changing the world. It looks set to upend all of our assumptions about computers.
Allowing them to be unimaginably fast and do work never thought possible. It could unlock new kinds of health research and scientific understanding.
It could also literally unlock encryption, which currently relies on impossible calculations that could quickly become very possible with quantum computers.