Tech II

The wreck in tech stocks back in 2000 was the market’s way of telling investors that their expectations were running away from them. But change doesn’t stop and while the market megawobbled real progress trundled on. A couple recent items showing how the grind continues: Microsoft is planning to buy Skype, and Google wants to develop a driverless car.

Both of these technologies seem to be gaining traction. Video telephony has been around as a concept seemingly forever, but is now turning into reality. The driverless car is a more audacious concept, but the Goog seems to believe it is actually doable.

Both of these developments would have major implications, but especially the latter. Google’s chief of driverlessness asserts that switching to a system of robo-cabs could cut the US car fleet in half (just think of how many driver-owned cars are sitting idle for most of the day). That would be an astonishing kick in the ****s for an auto industry already staggering under the weight of global overcapacity. And it would hammer employment in the driving industry (trucks and taxis), one of the biggest employment categories in the economy, and an even bigger part of the non-specialist economy.

The effect on the corporations would also be huge: Microsoft would become a major telco, Google a transportation giant. Both have outsized corporate-imperial ambitions; Google’s seem to be verging on the insane – but maybe what is really crazy is the technology.

More generally this suggests a bizarre future landscape of uncertain but potentially enormous opportunities, with Transformer-like corporations reconstituting themselves on short notice to acquire massive new capabilities. Interesting times.