Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byer’s Mary Meeker recently released her annual “2016 Internet Trends Report.” As always, it was a wealth of information. That being said, all her data — 213 slides worth — blew my mind.
The seemingly endless facts and figures opened my eyes to both the good and the bad, to the disheartening and the hopeful. As a rising college senior and a proud member of the Millennial generation, I like to believe that I know everything — or at least all the important bits. But as I dove into Meeker’s collection of charts and graphs, I learned so much more than I thought I would.
Smartphones & GDP Go Hand in Hand?
Global smartphone user growth is slowing year over year at +21% compared to the previous year at +31%. This is understandable considering everyone I know has either an Apple or Android device, except one friend of mine (whose nickname is appropriately Flip-phone Frank).
The number of new smartphone users is not the only thing slowing, so is global GDP growth. The growth of the past 4 years has fallen below the 20-year average of 3.8%. This is not encouraging news for me and my peers. Ever since the crash in 2008, I’ve been told over and over again that the odds of me finding a good job straight out of college are ever dwindling. (Keeping my fingers crossed that things work out here at Cisco.). This off-putting news is further compounded by the fact that in 2015, North America, Europe, and Japan made up only 29% of the global GDP, whereas in 1985 they comprised 63%.
As a finance major, I especially loved the data on the essentially nonexistent yields of U.S. Treasury and other global bonds.
At this point, I am about 40 slides into the report, and honestly it’s ruining my morning. Thankfully, Meeker throws in a few positive statistics to uplift my mood. Global life expectancy is up 36% at an average of 72 years since 1960. Good job world!
Becoming a Techie
The majority of the report focuses on the future of our ever-expanding and fascinating technology. Even though I work for Cisco, I would have to describe myself as somewhat technologically oblivious. I don’t know what the latest trends or gadgets are and I stick with the basic apps. However, as I read about all the groundbreaking and innovative technology that was being tested and brought to life, my inner geek was aroused from its slumber.
Currently, most of our communication over technology is through manually entering text, but that will soon become a thing of the past. Voice interaction is the new leading trend, with the accuracy of voice-recognition technology presently at 95%. In 2010, it was only 70% accurate, and in just a few years it will reach 99%. That 99% percent is a game changer.
Google voice search queries have increased by over 35 times since 2008’s original introduction of voice- search software. It’s only fair to mention that the voice command to “Call Mom” is significantly higher than “Call Dad.”
According to Andrew Ng, Chief Scientist at Baidu, “at least 50% of all searches are going to be either through images or speech” by 2020.
As interesting as this is, it starts to pale as Meeker switches to the topic of “Car Automation” or self-driving cars.
I was completely unaware of how close we actually are to widely using this new technology. Tesla and Google are leading the pack and currently have self-driving cars on the road! Tesla customers have already driven 100 million miles with the Autopilot active. You can lock, monitor, and summon your Tesla through an app. This is crazy! The genius behind this technology is astounding, and its potential benefits are immeasurable.
2016 & Beyond
When I was first reading through Meeker’s report I wasn’t uplifted by her initial facts and figures. I had this sense of “Oh great, we’re all doomed.”
As I resisted the urge to switch my browser to Buzzfeed or Pinterest, I discovered that our technology, and therefore our world, is at a precipice. Some people might not find new apps, voice interaction, or self-driving cars as adding that much value to the world, but I do. I can only imagine the potential for this new technology; the problems of the world that can be fixed and eradicated through my generation.
I truly believe that us Millennials can turn things around. My peers and I share a passion for change and betterment — and the time is coming for us to rise to the forefront. It’s 2016 and it’s only the beginning.
I highly encourage you to take the time to read through Mary Meeker’s report, and hopefully it will inspire you as well.