The Next Big Thing: Blind Faith In U.S. Innovation?

By Larry Dignan  |  Posted 2003-09-05 Print this article Print

Typically, worries about the United States' future in technology are brushed aside by uttering four words: "The next big thing."

Typically, worries about the United States future in technology are brushed aside by uttering four words: "The next big thing."

The next big thing will give displaced workers a new career and give them an opportunity to become wealthy if their jobs go abroad. Itll also keep the United States the most productive economy in the world. The next big thing, which can generate almost religious fervor in the U.S., will overcome the impact of whatever jobs are being sent abroad. Remaining executives, managers and staff will be putting their talents to new and better uses.

Sounds great, but if that next big thing is developed offshore will the U.S. benefit?

"The argument is something better will always come along, but thats blind faith to me. Its not clear to me whats next," says Ronil Hira, associate professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

By its definition, the next big thing isnt easy to spot. If you could see it coming it wouldnt be such a big deal. In information technology, its likely concepts such as utility computing, Web services and wireless sensors tracking everything imaginable are just parts of whatll combine to create the next big thing.

"What is a big thing? A big thing can be constructed of a lot of little things," says Richard Hunter, an analyst at Gartner. "For the Internet, was the browser the killer app, or all the protocols that enabled it years before?" Indeed, the next big thing may be sitting under our collective noses. Toss utility computing, the automation of technology, the Internet, offshore outsourcing and capitalism into a pot, mix well, and you can expect to see emerge a global supply network, where prices and services are compared worldwide from any executives screen anywhere.

Picture it as the eBay economy on steroids. Want a C++ programmer in Belgrade? Click. Bucharest? No problem. Some nanotechnology from India? How about some bandwidth from the grid? Sure. All this is possible from your world headquarters—or your home office. From either locale, you could build a company from a dashboard on your desktop. Some elements of this network exist today. Procuring technology globally is commonplace. The difference with the future network will be the human element.

Next page: Language, literacy and promoting global talent.

Business Editor
Larry formerly served as the East Coast news editor and Finance Editor at CNET Prior to that, he was editor of Ziff Davis Inter@ctive Investor, which was, according to Barron's, a Top-10 financial site in the late 1990s. Larry has covered the technology and financial services industry since 1995, publishing articles in, Inter@ctive Week, The New York Times, and Financial Planning magazine. He's a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism.

Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel