As I watched my 9-year-old niece grapple with a VCR tape the other day, it struck me that my own 14-month-old son might one day have the same quizzical look in the driver's seat of a car. Whether it's Uber or self-driving cars, he may well never learn to drive a car. It sounds implausible, but many of today's teenagers don't know cursive, and their millennial siblings don't know how to read a map. While some may lament these as lost skills, as a mom and entrepreneur, I think they are the early signs of a revolution that will redefine the way we work and live like no time since the industrial revolution.
The on-demand economy isn't just bringing everything to our fingertips, it is unshackling millions of workers -- across the socio-economic spectrum -- from the confines of a building and a desk. No longer must you be "at a place" to earn a living, but rather just have skill of some value: be it driving a car, cooking a meal, providing a massage or...healing the sick. Connecting directly with consumers unleashes the true economic potential of capitalism in a way that can be fair to provider and consumer alike.
The markets are currently fascinated with the arbiters of the on-demand economy given its novelty. And those innovators -- and their investors -- deserve enormous credit for seeing and creating entirely new ways to work and live. Ways that benefit both buyers and sellers by providing flexibility and freedom to both groups. Hidden underneath the business potential and economic opportunity is the humanity inherent to reconnecting purveyors and consumers more directly.
It may not sound like a double burger delivered to you on demand can change your life, but it may well save you the 20 minutes that enable you to make it home before your kids fall asleep. The massage you can get at home may be the only hour of quiet time you get that week. The doctor house call may well be the difference between peace of mind and a sleepless night. The on-demand economy brings the forces of technology, supply and demand together in a way that affords us just that much more time, those precious few minutes a day that make the difference between rushed and relaxed.
The truly engaging and stimulating discussion is what the future holds once we work out the pains of business adolescence in this economic revolution. As breathtaking as the pace of innovation has been since the late 1970s, I think it will pale in comparison to what we see over the next two decades.
Imagine the constructive confluence of the advances in micro and "nano" wearables, the intelligence in supercomputers like IBM's Watson, transportation that doesn't preoccupy the consumer, and the evolution of interfaces from browse to search to tap to "desire;" all with ubiquitously available connectivity and unlimited green energy. Coupled with truly effective privacy mechanisms that enable actionable and timely information to be at the precise point of interaction, you can genuinely change people's lives for the better.
Before putting on my doctor's coat or donning my entrepreneur's hat, I wake up each morning as a mom tending to her 14-month-old son. In that role, like all parents, I most value time. Seeing a future in which software, connectivity and humanity interact to give us back our time is exciting. Being a small part in creating that world for my son to grow up in is rewarding as an entrepreneur, doctor and most of all, as a mother.