How Many Time Zones In This World Cup The One Predictable Thing About Technology

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The One Predictable Thing About Technology

… Is it unpredictable.

Making predictions about anything is a tricky business. It is often fraught with problems and compounded by two factors: too many variables and too many people.

Making predictions in the world of technology is about as rough as it gets. You see a trend, a fad or a new craze, jump on it, extrapolate and then go and get it all wrong.

As an example, at the turn of the 20th century, it was predicted that passenger hot air balloon travel—pioneered by the likes of Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin—would be commoditized and become the preeminent means of mass transportation. In fact, it would be so popular that by the 1980s people would have their own personal hot air balloon as their primary method of transportation.

Obviously, this look into the future did not take into account the airplane, which put an end to this gem of foresight.

The main problem with looking ahead is that people do it in such painfully straight lines as the previous example shows. The telephone is another useful example; who could have predicted mobile phones at the time Alexander Graham Bell was tinkering with the technological answer to paper cups and wet string?

No one could have. Besides, how could anyone have predicted that these cell phones would one day have cameras built into them? Or that you could send written messages to them? Go back only 10 years, and such ideas would be scoffed at as foolish banter.

The future is a curly thing, and in the wonderful world of information technology, the driving force behind much of the confusion is convergence.

Now there’s a buzzword if I ever heard one. And this is going to be the next big problem in predicting future trends in technology: let’s get two really cool gadgets and merge them together; people will love it!

Scar, no! What drives desire is anyone’s guess. What drives use is utility: two very different parts of the brain are exercised, here one more than the other!

If something does not fulfill a practical purpose, then it is neither use nor decoration.

This foretelling thing is even harder these days, but somehow even the most outlandish theory could have its time. Things are changing so fast that new technologies appear literally overnight. And given that people’s needs also change, evolve and emerge, who knows?

If you go back even further, there is desire, need – call it what you will – a common source. The very engine behind change is people, society, lifestyle and a requirement to manage, redirect and/or if necessary delegate all this data and information.

The Apple Newton was way ahead of its time. A bunch of smart guys and gals sat in a room and made a remarkable prediction about how people would “consume” data and information, and they were right on the money – the only problem was that they were over 10 years too early!

Now people are on their way. People work on the go, keep long-distance relationships down, work with colleagues across time zones, and manage bank accounts in a coffee shop while drinking a cup of chai.

The only certainty is the same one that has been pontificated since time immemorial: things change. Things are often connected in exciting, mysterious and extremely useful ways.

So here’s my prediction: things will never be small enough, big enough, fast enough, cool enough, or cheap enough! Am I wrong?

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