The old chestnut of overestimating short term change and underestimating long term change is useful to keep in one’s top pocket. Look back twenty years for example. Newspaper circulations had topped out, radio and TV stations had begun to proliferate and their audiences fragment. Music had been transformed by the arrival of the CD; console gaming had arrived as had the cell phone and portable music. Pay TV was in its infancy and online services like Compuserve, Prestel (UK) and Minitel (France) had started delivering significant functionality for some.
Twenty years later where are we? In short – more of all that but still no Moon Base Alpha, no rocket cars, no mass market in Virtual Reality or 3D entertainment, no TV shows where the audience votes for altenate endings. Even the wonder that is the I Phone is the product of base technologies that existed back then. Yet real societal change has been effected by the proving of More’s Law and the availability of bandwidth to connect the devices that it enables. The one surprise I suppose is that content has finally been let of the leash by its owners and allows to flow into any of the cracks that bandwidth and devices allow.
So what of the next twenty? More of the same, more exploitation of the same underlying technologies that will slowly pervade devices that are currently dumb but will become intelligent or at least connected. Pervasive computing and connectivity of individuals and individual devices will be the platforms that allow and define change. All this will happen in a way that, by the time it happens, will be wholly expected. The refrigerator that records its contents and re-orders them will be seen in the same way as the I Pod in relation to the Walkman and the DVR to the VHS recorder. Electric cars will be part of the progression from leaded to unleaded to hybrid.
In twenty years we will look back at 2008 and really only wonder that we talked about gigabytes and a few megabytes per second in the old days but we still won’t have jet cars although we might have voice recognition software that really works.