How the Few Impact the Many

Genius is seeing something that isn’t there—and then making its existence seem obvious.

Without the handful (OK, maybe several handfuls) of great minds scattered throughout time, I wonder where humans would be, what this world would look like, what adversities we would face—in addition to the ones we face in even the best of times.

In a riff off Ray Bradbury’s short story,  A Sound of Thunder, I wonder what our world would have become if Jonas Salk or Albert Einstein or Pythagoras vanished from history. What if Steve Jobs never existed?

Heavy questions, but they make me appreciate how the few impact the many.

The best tech minds of today have the potential to impact society in ways similar to how the best minds in medicine, science and industry have impacted human history. But with so much innovation taking place, it’s getting tough to determine what will have a lasting impact and what will eventually crash and burn.

Technology is becoming an extremely crowded (and competitive) space. It’s also fast becoming the most important industry on the planet. With so many technology-driven businesses innovating, creating, producing, reproducing an array of software, hardware and everything in between, I wonder how many will remain on their feet in a year, three years, 10 years.

Which companies will exert the most influence over humankind, the same way an incredibly small sampling of people helped shape our culture, our health, our survival?

What innovation is next, or currently underway, that will change us? Smartphones have the lead. If you doubt this—tell me how you’re reading this tangent or what the person walking/standing/sitting next to you is doing?

If you were on a lifeboat and had room for only three tech-related companies, which ones would you pick and why?

We recently ran a piece on CIO Insight about off-the-wall questions IT managers ask during the job interview process. So in a similar vein, I’m curious which tech companies (or tech in particular) you, our tech-devoted readers, consider essential to humans’ survival.

Or at least essential to finding your car in an airport parking lot.

Patrick K. Burke is senior editor of CIO Insight.

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