If ideas were dollars, there’s little doubt that Bill Gates wouldn’t still be the world’s richest man.

Bill Gates has always been at least one step ahead of the competition. Whether it’s ushering in the age of the home computer or launching the Windows operating system — which once powered 90 percent of the world’s computers — few would disagree that Gates is one of the most successful individuals in the modern era.

The Microsoft founder was, however, more than a tech-savvy entrepreneur, he was also blessed with prophetic insight on a scale few can comprehend. Back in 1999, Gates wrote a book titled “Business @ the Speed of Thought”, a book many had no doubt forgotten about until business student Markus Kirjonen wrote a blog examining how “eerily prescient” Gates’ predictions were.

Bearing in mind that these predictions were envisioned at the tail end of the nineties — it really is amazing what was and wasn’t possible back then — it’s remarkable just how accurate Gates was with his future vision of technology and the role it would play in our daily lives. Here are five of his many predictions that now are a hot topic thanks to Kirjonen’s widely circulated blog.

Price-comparison websites

“Automated price comparison services will be developed, allowing people to see prices across multiple websites, making it effortless to find the cheapest product for all industries.”

Most of us take price-comparison websites like Trivago (accommodation), Compare the Market (insurance) and GetPrice (everything else) for granted, but back in ‘99, the idea of comparing product prices online, or even using the internet to search for things, was almost unheard of.


“People will carry around small devices that allow them to constantly stay in touch and do electronic business from wherever they are. They will be able to check the news, see flights they have booked, get information from financial markets, and do just about anything else on these devices.”

Few people can imagine life without a smartphone — most of us now spend an average of 4 hours per day on the phone — but when Gates wrote his book, the idea of a portable device that allowed people to access the internet and conduct most of their transactions online was incomprehensible.

Social media

“Private websites for your friends and family will be common, allowing you to chat and plan for events.”

That’s right kids, back in Bill’s day there was no Facebook, no Instagram and no Twitter — what in the world did people do with their lives in those dark ages? It really is difficult to imagine a day and age without social media and the age of interconnectivity that we now take for granted.

Smart advertising

“Devices will have smart advertising. They will know your purchasing trends, and will display advertisements that are tailored toward your preferences.”

The personalisation of digital experiences has become a cornerstone of digital marketing — something else that was unheard of back in ‘99 — and much of the most effective marketing today involves marketers targeting users based on trends such as purchasing trends, click history and personal interests.

Online home-monitoring

“Constant video feeds of your house will become common, which inform you when somebody visits while you are not home.”

Granted, most of us still don’t have digital home-monitoring but it seems that it won’t be long until “smart homes” are like smartphones, something that everyone has and can’t imagine where they would be without one.

Bill Gates has since retired but he’s still a visionary. That means when he has something to say, like warning of the future threat that AI (Artificial Intelligence) poses, we would do well to listen.

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