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We modern humans have become a remarkably adaptable species. Show us a new innovation that will accomplish a task faster or make our lives easier and more efficient, and we have few qualms about abandoning the old to embrace the new. However, today’s eagerness to adapt and adopt wasn’t always so condensed. After the first television became commercially available in 1926, it took 26 years before the television would reach a maturation point and become affordable enough that a quarter of all Americans abandoned the radio for their evening entertainment and brought television technology into their homes. That adoption timeframe shortened by 10 years when we grasped the power and usefulness of the personal computer. After the first PC emerged on the market in 1975 and then merged with public availability of the Internet in 1991, it took only 16 years for us to send the typewriter, Dewey Decimal System, and heavy volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica into a death spiral.
Then there was the mobile phone, the size and weight of a 2-pound brick with limited functionality when first introduced in 1983. Few could imagine why they would give up their rotary or push-button landline phones to embrace such a useless technology. It would take only 13 years and the marriage of 2G cellular technologies before mobile phones were compact enough to be transported in a pocket or purse and functional enough that a quarter of all Americans would be using the technology. But it was the marriage of the Internet with the first touch control screen iPhone in 2007 that catapulted the adoption curve and condensed the timeline of cell phone adoptees from 7.5 million users in 1991 to 262.7 million in 2008. Today, 92% of Americans own wireless phone technology and more than 40% of households in the US are wireless only, bringing the landline ever closer to extinction.
The adoption timeline for integrating new technologies into our private and work lives is condensing and will continue its rapid acceleration. Certainly, we have witnessed this phenomenon in our own industry. It was only 16 years ago that the first desktop scanning and milling technology was made available to our industry and look where we are today. Within the first 8 years, more than half of the profession quickly adapted to digital production processes, converting a growing portion of their analog production steps to the new digitally-driven scan, design, and outsource business model. In the last 8 years, a majority of businesses have adopted the complete in-house automated production solution, integrating milling and 3D printing technology into their production line. However, the journey is not over. Today, we merely stand at the threshold of what is to come.
And as technology continues to evolve and become more complex, we should never lose sight of the fact that machines will never mitigate human intellect and technical skills. Quite the contrary. Our technological future belongs to those who can envision how best to employ the power of technology to enhance the technical skills we possess in order to better serve dentistry and the patient.