The ways we’re telling time, they really are a-changin’

In 2030, Mauro F. Guillén  suggests what will probably happen — as well as how and why it will probably happen — during the next decade. He carefully reviews historical precedents, including the wristwatch.

Briefly, a revolution followed World War II when American companies (e.g. Timex) began to mass-produce timepieces that almost anyone could afford. A second “wave of technological change hit the industry” when a Swiss engineer devised a way to make mass production simpler, less expensive. The “third gale of innovation” occurred when the Japanese simplified the design with a new technology based on quartz.  Then came the cellphone. Thanks to Apple, Samsung, and Xiaomi, we now have smartphones that correctly tell time and make calls.

According to Guillén , “A key lesson from this history is that each time a new technology replaced an old one, new jobs were created and destroyed, different national watch industries rose and fell, and new modes of consumption emerged. And the watch is but one of many examples.

“Refrigerators replaced ice as a coolant, the telephone proved superior to the telegraph, incandescent lamps replaced gas lamps, the transistor did away with the vacuum tube, the jet engine outdid the propeller, the CD turned vinyl into a collector’s item, the word processor rendered the typewriter obsolete, digital imaging supplanted chemical photography, and video games proved more entertaining than transitional toys. We use the tern ‘disruption’ to refer to such dramatic transformations, with the wristwatch being just one illustration of this pervasive pattern.” (Pages 155-156)

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2030: How Today’s Biggest Trends Will Collide and Reshape the Future of Everything was published by St. Martin’s Press (August 2020).

Mauro F. Guillén is one of the most original thinkers at the Wharton School, where he holds the Zandman Professorship in International Management and teaches in its flagship Advanced Management Program and many other courses for executives, MBAs, and undergraduates. Please click here to learn more. about him and his important work.

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