Ten Years of Innovation Highlighted in One Night

On the morning of September 11, 2001 I walked into my living room, flipped on the TV and saw scenes playing out in NYC that I will never forget. Both local stations and cable outlets were a buzz with speculation, stories and facts as they became available. As I drove to my office that morning under an airplane free sky, I listened to the radio for additional commentary. Over the course of weeks and months the story behind the attacks on NYC and Washington DC began to unfold. Names were named, actions were taken and lives forever changed.

Last night, after having been offline all day, I pulled out my iPhone and fired up Twitter around 9 pm. As I worked my way through my stream I began to see tweets speculating that Osama Bin Laden had been found and killed. Speculation turned to confirmation as I clicked through to view the President’s news conference on YouTube. Further upstream Google Earth views and Google Maps traces of the Pakistani compound he’d used as a hideout surfaced. Further clicking saw details being added in realtime to Wikipedia as individual contributors synthesized the available information. Bloggers surfaced a Twitter user who, unbeknownst to him as the time, had documented the scene as it unfolded the night prior with descriptions and emotions of a night’s uncertain events. My stream roared with commentary, jokes, fake Osama Twitter accounts updating from hell, people chastising those celebrating creating a 360 degree view of ways people were processing all of this information. It filled with images from strangers and friends in front of the White House and at Ground Zero in NYC celebrating, mourning, remembering those people and events that this moment signified. And before climbing into bed, I’d already seen the cover of the NYT planned for this morning’s print edition. 

The TV and radio that solely fed my information flow less than 10 years ago were noticeably absent. In their place were services like Twitter, YouTube, Wikipedia, Foursquare, Instagram, Twitpic, Google Maps and more. All accessed on an untethered mobile device in real time. 

As I woke this morning I was struck by that fact. In less than 10 years the world and the technology we use to experience it has changed so completely. On September 11, 2001 there was no iPhone, there was no Twitter, there was no YouTube. But there was a basic human desire to connect, to share experiences and to have our experiences shared and understood by others. These shifts in technology happen over time in such a way that they seem to evolve naturally. Sometimes even imperceptibly. 

But, having these two events bookend 10 years of experience shines a light on just how much innovation we’ve been a part of in such a short amount of time. So this morning I’m grateful for the innovators pushing forward technologies that bring us together and enable us to share these human experiences. And, I can’t help but be hopeful for what the next 10 years will bring.