#future

David Brooks shares his favorite part of TED:

Most TED talks are about the future, but Sting’s was about going into the past. The difference between the two modes of thinking stood in stark contrast. In the first place, it was clear how much richer historical consciousness is than future vision. When we think about the future, we don’t think about the texture and the tensions, the particular smells, shapes, conflicts — the dents in the floorboards. But Sting’s songs were about unique and unlikely individuals and life as it really is, as a constant process of bending hard iron.

Historical consciousness has a fullness of paradox that future imagination cannot match. When we think of the past, we think about the things that seemed bad at the time but turned out to be good in the long run. We think about the little things that seemed inconsequential in the moment but made all the difference.

Described any other way, Sting’s talk would probably sound extremely corny — especially since it was given by, well, a man named Sting. Instead, it sounds actually quite profound.

It is something interesting to think about: how different tales of the past are from visions of the future. Not just in content, but in composition.

Although technology will still keep up with population through 2014, it will be only through a supreme effort and with but partial success. Not all the world’s population will enjoy the gadgety world of the future to the full. A larger portion than today will be deprived and although they may be better off, materially, than today, they will be further behind when compared with the advanced portions of the world. They will have moved backward, relatively.
Isaac Asimov …in 1964.

Kwin Kramer:

Think back just a few years ago to the Time Before The iPhone. We’d seen a number of touch-screen cell phones and PDAs. (Remember that acronym?) But the conventional wisdom among tech pundits was that touchscreens weren’t really workable for mobile devices. Certainly, it was thought, touch screens couldn’t replace keyboards and hardware buttons. It took two things, together, to prove the conventional wisdom wrong. First, touch screens got better slowly and steadily. They became more accurate, more responsive, more durable, prettier, and able to track two or more touches simultaneously. Second, interface design got better all at once when Apple released the first version of iOS.

This is the consistent pattern. Early products pioneer some elements of the future. Those products influence engineering and design thinking before they fade away, victims of timing and market dynamics. Finally a tipping point arrives, enabled by technological progress and usually catalyzed by an excellent new product design. Conventional wisdom adjusts and it becomes hard to remember we didn’t all know all along that, for example, phones would one day be little slabs of glass. William Gibson expresses it best: the future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed.

In our business, things are often obvious in hindsight, but rarely when they’re right in front of you.

Eric Schmidt, speaking with Alan Rusbridger of The Guardian:

"There’s a lot of discussion in the world about the two billion that are connected," he says. "We spend all day talking about the issues of e-commerce and start-ups and globalisation and so forth, and we forget that the majority of people are not online and that they will come online, the majority of them in the next five years.

It’s going to happen very fast. It’s going to happen in countries which don’t have the same principles that we in America have from the British legal system – around law and privacy and those sorts of things. All sorts of crazy stuff is going to happen. Human societies can’t change that fast without both good and negative implications.”