Lewis Smithingham is the SVP of Innovation at Media.Monks. A problem-solver who identifies innovative digital opportunities, he helps usher brands and partners into the future with creative and technical expertise and the forefront of digital transformation and virtualization. With a background in film and fine arts and passion for gaming, he levels up Media.Monks’ work at the intersection of creativity and technology. Most recently, he was named to Business Insider’s list of the top ‘24 agency executives leading advertisers’ charge into the metaverse and Web3.’ He sits on the World Economic Forum working group on Value Creation in the Metaverse. He is a sought-after speaker, taking the stage at the NVIDIA GPU Technology Conference, Sports Video Group Summit, Siggraph, CES, NAB, IBC and IAB –– to name a few.
At a time when the possibilities of technology seem limitless, it’s hard to imagine we could be on the verge of hitting any sort of ceiling. But the truth is, we are. For a while now, experts have been warning that we’re approaching the computational limit of devices—which means we can’t pack more transistors onto a microchip nor make the existing devices smaller than they are.
However, the imminent limits of current hardware are meeting a ferocious hunger for new technological innovations, which are mainly driven by software. This poses the question of how we’re going to be able to advance in areas like AI and VR when computing performance can’t keep up—at least not while maintaining the same stability and efficiency.
After years of exploring different tools, services, and technologies to exploit their opportunities, I’m convinced that the answer to this conundrum can be found in cloud computing.
The Key Enabler of Technological and Cultural Change
As previously mentioned, the biggest drivers of technological and cultural change are now in software, not devices (although, if you try Half-Life: Alyx in a VR headset, you may beg to differ). Years ago, smartphones wildly evolved from one generation to the next, whereas now they introduce almost no new features. Yet as hardware suffers from the computational plateau, software and GPU are taking off. The improvements in Unreal Engine and Unity, the development of ICVFX, the virtualization of broadcast production and the sudden and rapid onslaught of generative AI are some of the most prominent examples.
At the core of this change lies the fact that people want a type of internet that’s experiential, meaningful and useful. ChatGPT reaching one million users in five days is not only a reflection of how good the technology is, but also how much value people are finding in it.
If we want to continue to ride that wave, we have to invest in cloud computing. Considering where Moore’s Law—coined by the late Gordon Moore, who recently passed away—is at today (flat and potentially inapplicable), computing has to shift off-device. Unless computers and phones get substantially bigger (thank you, but no) cloud computing will grow as the most valuable infrastructural tool in society.
While digital businesses will still face some profitability challenges, much of this new wave is, quite simply, very useful to the vast majority. And when technology meets cultural needs, commerce waterfalls naturally off their back—even in a recession. People are willing to pay for tools that they find value in, and investors are gazing longingly at the biggest AI startups. It’s the reason OpenAI has become profitable, increasing its intake and revenue at a speed that many other technology startups have never seemed able to reach.
The Solution to the Content Distribution Bottleneck
For those of us in the business, it’s sad to see Moore’s law coming to an end, even though it will leave a lasting impact. The number of transistors in integrated circuits has become a mainstream metaphor for technological change in general, and interestingly enough, it reached the world of marketing. In fact, Moore’s law has probably been overshot in the content department.
Soon, we’ll find ourselves with more content than we know what to do with. While we have moved from one-directional, one-stop-shop content (cable TV) to ecosystems encompassing the entire customer journey, supply will still loom over demand, and content distribution will face a bottleneck issue.
I’m interested in seeing what we come up with to increase distribution in a way that’s cost-efficient and sustainable, and cloud computing will rise as the obvious solution in that regard too.
As Matthew Ball said years ago, “The tens of billions that will be spent on cloud gaming over the next decade, too, is based on the belief that such technologies will underpin our online-offline virtual future.” Cloud computing will be the key to solving the immediate problems we face in the age of AI enablement, new hardware formats and the distribution of content through new and existing channels.
Ultimately, the internet has developed through punctuated equilibrium. It hasn’t been a linear evolution; rather, a series of sudden jumps that pushed the technology forward. AI represents the most recent jump, but we’ve hit an “uncanny valley” where it’s almost but not quite exact. In order to get over that feeling, the technology needs to become more sophisticated, and the cloud will play a key role in enabling it—as well as allowing us to effectively navigate whatever advancements and new technologies lie ahead.