July 1, 2021

The Next Big Thing

by Matt Cheng

Recently, I was given the honor as a guest speaker at the UBS 2021 Mid-Year Outlook event to share some of my thoughts on the most important trends in the future. Preparing for this speech, I starkly recalled the words of a16z co-founder Marc Andreessen, “Software is eating the world.” 10 years later, as we emerge from the depths of a pandemic, Marc comes back to how the world has changed yet again, with his most recent article titled: “Technology Saves the World.” I couldn’t agree more. 

Since the rise of today’s tech giants (Google, Amazon, Facebook, etc.), the creative destruction embedded in their software has drastically changed the world and the way we operate. However, 10 years have already passed since their ascent, and their technologies have largely settled into our daily lives. In a hypothetical world, say the pandemic occurred 10 years earlier before their technology entered the world, we can only imagine how drastically inconvenient life would be. How would we have worked or studied remotely with ease? Or even get food delivered to our homes with only a press of an app? Our technological capabilities certainly would not be as well-equipped to provide us the convenience that we demand.

Now, what about the next 10 years? Some people believe that the world will resemble the movie Ready Player One where virtual realities are created by software. On the contrary, I believe software should be used to make our reality more beautiful and convenient than it is, rather than further digitizing reality. 

While online technologies and various software services have allowed us to maintain our quality of life, the pandemic has also revealed weaknesses within our current system, notably with the global freight logistics. When you purchase an item from overseas, your package is likely handled by up to 20 different servicers along the way. Information about location and progress of your shipment is also extremely difficult to obtain and inaccurate since so many hands are involved in the process. On top of all this, the pandemic has presented global freight logistics a major challenge as it caused sea traffic jams. The current inadequacies surfaced by the pandemic reveals that there is much room for optimization, and the power of software can certainly make tangible differences in this space. 

I believe that software can level-up industry standards and expectations, with freight logistics as one example. There are plenty of other industries that can benefit from software-driven optimization including healthcare, transportation, finance, and service-based sectors that are in need of digital transformation. Going forward, I look forward to closely following how software will carry the direction of innovation. 

With software already embedded deeply into our daily lives, I believe that the most important trend in the future is to continue utilizing software technology to create a more beautiful reality for all of us. I also believe that this is the engine that will drive global progress onto another level.

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