Futurist: New Tech to Ditch Calendar, Clock Mentality
Speaker Describes Personalized, Instant, Intelligent Technology

Jeff Wacker of Hewlett-Packard

Jeff Wacker of Hewlett-Packard

From identifying airline passengers by their facial features to smart sensors that curb energy and track product temperatures – the future is nearly here. Some corporations, governments and professionals will embrace the technological shifts, and some will be left behind.

It is the scenario described by Jeff Wacker, a senior fellow in enterprise services and futurist at Hewlett-Packard.

Wacker spoke recently to about 150 students, faculty and guests about “Intelligent Technologies: Creating an Economic Revolution” as part of a speaker series sponsored by the Naveen Jindal School of Management Center for Information Technology and Management (CITM) and hosted by the center’s director, Michael Savoie.

The next generation of information technology is personalized, instantaneous and intelligent. It is driven by analytics and automation, said Wacker, considered a thought leader on tracking, understanding and reporting major shifts and trends in technology and its impacts on business and society.

According to Wacker, over the past half century, IT has undergone three transformative waves: mainframe technology, personal computing and networked computing.

“The next wave, information everywhere, is upon us and contains five things. It’s essentially the world of robotics, the world of biotech, the world of nanotech, the world of energy technology and the one that I call Infotech 2. The previous waves were centralized, but we’re now moving into the world of ubiquitous computing, which is the driving force of this wave,” Wacker said.

Fourth-wave information technology is a new information-rich environment characterized by pervasive intelligence in the form of sensors, embedded processing and mobile computing, Wacker said.

Wacker describes the previous technology wave as “systems of record” as opposed to the current wave of “systems of engagement.” Systems of record, he said, are  those that record the past and  understand the present, but are unable to predict the future. Systems of engagement are transforming traditional IT into intelligent networks that engage with other systems, allowing companies more flexibility, automation and cost savings.

“Systems of engagement I think of as essentially the death of cadence. We’ve lived in a cadence that’s been institutionalized for years. We report our earnings once a quarter. We take inventory once a period,” Wacker said.

“We don’t work in a world that’s calendar and clock-related anymore. We work around the clock.”

Wacker differentiates the “haves” from the “have nots” as those who recognize and take advantage of the new wave’s opportunities and those who are “stuck in a world of clocks, calendars and cadence.”

“That’s attitudinal. That’s definitely not age-related. Those who adopt will live in a world of instant communication and won’t look at it as a bother,” he said.

Fourth-wave technology will also impact the job landscape of the IT industry, says Wacker. High-demand jobs of the future include “high human touch” jobs in the biotech and energy technology sectors, he said.

“The other areas are going to be driving the economics, but they won’t create human jobs. They’ll be more mechanical jobs, institution jobs that are done by systems,” said Wacker.

 To balance the needs of technology and ethics, technology companies should employ technology ethicists, suggests Wacker.

“We need watchdogs. We need ethicists who are going to be watching over the technology because it’s going to be changing so rapidly, very little will be thought about what the downside is,” he said.


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