Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tech Top 20 "In 2012" Lists

Now that 2011 is coming to a close, all the tech blogs and online magazines are predicting what to watch out for in the coming year. I wrote about how futurists predict tech trends in a blog I posted on 6 December 2011, so I thought it would be fun to list some of the technologies people say we can expect in the coming year.

I compiled a list of 20 "in 2012" lists, culled from Twitter, LinkedIn, and a variety of online publications. Interestingly, a number of themes are prevalent in these lists:
Curiously, HTML5, one of the biggest revolutions in the Internet world, was only mentioned once. Mobile payments was mentioned a few times, which I think is going to be the next big thing (maybe not in 2012, but in the coming years.)

Lists 11 and 13 are not strictly trend-related, but I thought they were still appropriate to include here as they do show where our tech focus should be during the coming year.

All lists include links to the original articles. If any of them interest you, I suggest you click the link and take a look. One of the lists contains links to electric cars to be released in 2012. I strongly suggest you take a look at that article for the ooh-ahh factor.

If you have more to contribute, let me know in the comments.

1) 5 Tech Trends to Watch in 2012
http://mashable.com/2011/12/27/5-tech-trends-to-watch-in-2012/
  1. Augmented reality
  2. The micro payment economy
  3. The rise of the ultrabook
  4. Social/digital exhaustion
  5. Mobile chip wars

2) Tech in 2012: Face-offs, failures and fairly big changes at the office
http://money.cnn.com/galleries/2011/technology/1112/gallery.tech-in-2012.fortune/
  1. More form factors
  2. Forget the specs (care more about the experience)
  3. More business models
  4. Google Apps and Office 365 will duke it out
  5. Better management for employee devices
  6. More enterprise acquisitions
  7. Context aware services
  8. Gamification goes mainstream
  9. Android tablets really take off
  10. Mobile commerce experiences get richer
  11. The rise of the "social business"
3) Microsoft: Five Things to Look for in 2012
  1. Windows 8 tablets
  2. Xbox moves farther into live TV
  3. Windows Phone: We're No. 3
  4. Patent litigation agressor
  5. Growing search through social
4) How Digital Business Will Evolve in 2012: 6 Big Ideas
  1. Thinking in terms of ecosystems
  2. Managing business as networks of people
  3. Shifting from static to dynamic notions of value
  4. Designing business for radical change
  5. Opening the culture of the organization
  6. Tapping into collective intelligence
5) Google: Five things to look for in 2012
  1. Anti-trust decisions in the US and EU
  2. Google steps up patent defences
  3. Making search more social
  4. Further Android fragmentation
  5. Chrome market share climbs
6) 10 Top Technology Trends for 2012
  1. TV Becomes the New Center of Gravity 
  2. 2012 Will See Tectonic Shifts in Phone Markets 
  3. Clouds Are for Consumers (and Startups) 
  4. Security Splits the Tech World in Two 
  5. SIRI Stuns the World 
  6. We Enter the Amazing World of Dave and HAL 
  7. E-Readers Prosper, but Pads Continue to Dominate the CarryAlong Market 
  8. The Consumption World Explodes 
  9. Governments and Corporations Focus on IP 
  10. Amazon Gets It All
7) 12 predictions for Africa Tech Scene in 2012
  1. Feature phone to Smartphone + a touch of Tablet
  2. Evolution & Maturity of Mobile Money
  3. Mobile Commerce & Payment Wars Intensify
  4. Mobile broadband Internet Access and the 3G Divide
  5. Mobile Health coming of Age but still not mature
  6. Media disruption takes root
  7. Rush and stumble to Invest in Africa Tech
  8. Rise of Angel & Seed investing “Sea Turtles vs Residents”
  9. Impact Investors figure out what “impact” actually means in Africa and add Tech to their portfolio
  10. New Africa Tech Hub Challengers emerge
  11. China lays down infrastructure, India and West builds services
  12. Africa Tech Talent and Skills shortage is real. Steps to strengthen continue
8) Upcoming Device (sic) In 2012 
  1. Kindle Fire 2
  2. iPhone 5
  3. Ultrabook
  4. MacBook Air of New Generation (sic)
9) What to Expect of Social Media in 2012
  1. Social-Mobile-Cloud
  2. Social media going mainstream
  3. Search
  4. Integration
  5. Facebook
10) Five predictions for the mobile industry in 2012
  1. Marketers finally accept fragmentation
  2. Tablets are recognised as a new type of media, unique from PCs and phones
  3. Coupon companies go mobile, add fulfillment, then soar
  4. Small businesses embrace mobile social media
  5. m-Commerce comes of age in emerging markets
11) 5 Ways to Boost Your Digital Media Career in 2012
  1. Get To Know Your Devices To Know the Trends
  2. Go Deep Into Content
  3. Recognize that Social Networks Transcend Facebook and Twitter
  4. Go Deep into Data and Learn How to Ask the Right Questions
  5. Behave Like a Media Entrepreneur, Innovator, Connector and Creator
12) 10 technologies to look forward to in 2012
  1. NFC… no, really 
  2. Speech recognition 
  3. 3D printing 
  4. Properly smart TV 
  5. 4k TV 
  6. Tablet gaming controls 
  7. Optical zoom camera phones 
  8. Super high-res tablets 
  9. Quad-core phones 
  10. Spotify movies
13) 20 Silicon Hills Technology Startups to Watch in 2012
  1. Appconomy
  2. BlackLocus
  3. Calxeda
  4. Famigo
  5. Fiserv
  6. Infochimps
  7. Hoot.me
  8. MapMyFitness
  9. Mass Relevance
  10. Other Inbox
  11. OwnLocal
  12. Portalarium
  13. Ricochet Labs
  14. Solspot
  15. SpareFoot
  16. Twilio
  17. 9WSearch
  18. Whale Shark Media
  19. WPEngine
  20. ZippyKid
14) What The Business Of Video Will Look Like In 2012
  1. 2012 is the year all video goes a la carte
  2. 2012 will be the year of the OverTheTop revolution
  3. YouTube and Google TV will merge (really this time)
  4. Yahoo will emerge as a big creator and distributor of video
  5. Business video will arrive as a real targetable business opportunity
15) Electric Cars in 2012, the ultimate directory
  1. Blowcar
  2. Doking XD
  3. Electric Ford Focus
  4. Honda Jazz EV (Fit EV)
  5. Kia Venga EV
  6. Lumeneo Neoma
  7. Renault Zoe
  8. Renault Twizy
  9. Smart ED
  10. Toyota iQ EV
  11. Tesla Model S
  12. Audi R8 E-tron
  13. Exagon Furtive e-GT
  14. Lightning GT
  15. ArcSpeed
  16. Varley EVR450
16) 12 Internet Predictions For 2012
  1. Google Will Release A $200 Tablet
  2. Facebook Will Grow Faster Than Anyone Thinks And Hit 1 Billion Users
  3. Twitter Will Build A Huge Business
  4. RIM Will Sell
  5. Apple Will Boringly Grow In Line With Analysts' Estimates
  6. Nokia Will Do OK
  7. Amazon Will Post Serious Losses And Outstanding Revenue Growth
  8. The New Breed Of Vertical, Entertaimnent-Focused Ecommerce Companies Will Get Huge
  9. 2012 Will Finally Be The Year Mobile Advertising Really Take Off, With At Least One AdNet Going Public
  10. Rovio Will Open At Least One Store In The US
  11. This Year, Enterprise-Focused Startups Will Blow Up
  12. You Will See A Ton Of Hype Around "The Internet Of Things"
17) 9 Social Media Trends to Keep Your Eye on in 2012
  1. Social CRM 
  2. Cross-Department Social Media 
  3. More integrated social media campaigns 
  4. Further segmentation of social platforms 
  5. Social ROI 
  6. Content, Content, Video 
  7. Game-ification 
  8. Social and mobile integration 
  9. Social online will merge into social online
18) Deloitte Predicts the Top 10 Technology Trends for 2012
  1. Geo-spatial Visualization
  2. Digital Identities 
  3. Data Goes to Work 
  4. Measured Innovation 
  5. Outside-in Architecture 
  6. Social Business 
  7. Hyper-hybrid Cloud 
  8. Enterprise Mobility Unleashed 
  9. Gamification 
  10. User Empowerment
19) Top Technology Trends for 2012
  1. Cloud Computing will be driven by low investment projects such as application development and testing 
  2. Usability now in enterprise applications from just end user applications 
  3. Content Management being monetised 
  4. M-Commerce 
  5. Social Media Applications 
  6. Zero Footprint Technology 
  7. The rise and rise of ‘Bring your own devices’ movement
20) The Top 10 tech trends for 2012
  1. Touch computing 
  2. Social gestures 
  3. NFC and mobile payments 
  4. Beyond the iPad 
  5. TV Everywhere 
  6. Voice control 
  7. Spatial gestures 
  8. Second-screen experiences 
  9. Flexible screens 
  10. HTML5
Remember, if you have more to contribute, let me know in the comments.


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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Two Software Developers Walk Into a Bar...

I love technology. I find it fascinating, engaging, and exciting. But while there is so much interesting stuff to read and learn about the latest hardware, software, and tech trends, much of it is not the slightest bit funny...or is it? If you look carefully enough, you will find plenty of humor in technology.

Silicon Art
Chip designers will often sign their names or include a drawing or message in a microscopic area on the chip.   The following is from inside a Samsung Galaxy Tab as reported in Wired magazine in March 2011. The image is magnified by about 200x:


See this other Wired magazine article for more. Who says chip designers don't have a sense of humor?

Easter Eggs
In the world of software, Easter Eggs are interesting or funny "additional extras" hidden inside the program by software developers, not necessarily sanctioned by the software house. Only if you know the correct command or sequence of clicks or keystrokes can you reveal the Easter Egg.

Easter Eggs appeared in many of the Microsoft Office products and included games, like flight simulators and car racing games. Citing security concerns, Microsoft banned Easter Eggs from their newer products, except for the extremely lame "so-called" Easter Egg in Outlook: The default picture for a contact is the silhouette of Bill Gates. In my book, that's not really an Easter Egg.

Examples of (real) software Easter Eggs:

Google:
  1. In your web browser (I believe this works in almost any browser, but definitely in Chrome), navigate to www.google.com.
  2. Enter the search term "tilt" and see what happens
    or
    Enter the search term "let it snow"
Skype:

A Few Hidden Emoticons in Skype: Enter a chat session and type words like “drunk” and “ninja” with the brackets to view amusing emoticons.


Funny Gadgets
Sure, you can go through life perfectly well with a boring, mundane, terrifically unexciting USB hub, or you could use one of these:

Of course, there's the thumb drive:
USBThumbDrive2_640

And the Barbie Doll USB drive:


Blog Comments
You've got to love comments on blogs (I wrote about this topic some time ago), especially the ones that make you laugh. Often, the best ones are comments to comments.

For example:
Commenter 1: You are so stupid! IDOITS!!!!!!!!
Commenter 2: haha misspelled idiots bro...oh, the irony
And this comment about comments on YouTube from Barry841:
It's sad to see people think this is all so funny. You do realise YouTube comments are leading to a worldwide shortage of exclamation marks. There are whole generations growing up in Africa who will never get to use an exclamation mark in their lives because they have all been squandered by teenagers telling each other what they think of a dancing parakeet.
Humorous Videos
There can often be a chasm as wide as the Grand Canyon between what one person thinks is funny and what another thinks is funny. So let me take a chance and share with you one of my all-time favorite funny tech clips. I think I saw it first way back in 2007 and it had me rolling on the floor. I still think it's pretty funny, even though it's as old as Heck (click to find out how old Heck actually is). Unfortunately, I could only locate a low-res copy of the video, but it is still worth a squiz.


Now check out My Tech Boss to learn the rules of technology - not the most hilarious clip ever, but very amusing. Here's an example, apropos the previous video: The Rule of Reboot.


So what are your favorite funny tech bits?

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

This is How It's Done

In my last post I mentioned that learning-games can have a positive impact on the educational experience.

Unfortunately, my son's English teacher doesn't believe in making learning fun. He gave the students a list of thirteen spelling words to learn over the coming week. No wonder my son doesn't like English - it's as boring as watching a banana take a nap.

Knowing that my son has no choice but to learn the words, I found a way to spice it up a bit - example sentences:
Put I put the dog in the washing machine.
Putting Dad said, “Why are you putting the dog in the washing machine?”
Big I put a big dog in the washing machine.
Bigger Racheli* put a bigger dog in the washing machine.
Biggest Tova^ put the biggest dog in the washing machine.
There There was a dog in the washing machine.
Their The kids put their dog in the washing machine.
It's The dog said, “It’s dark and wet in the washing machine.”
Its The dog did not wag its tail.
Dangerous The dog thought that being in the washing machine was dangerous.
Famous The dog became famous.
Because The dog became famous because he was in a washing machine.
Receive The dog’s prize was to receive a lifetime supply of washing powder!

* Racheli is our 11 year-old daughter
^ Tova is our 4-month-old baby daughter
Bonus: My son now knows how to spell "washing" and "machine", as well.

See, Teacher, that's how it's done.


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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Play Your Way to Wealth and Wisdom

Video Games are Good for Kids

I love a good video game. There is a certain satisfaction when you blast the aliens out of the sky, build a profitable transportation system from scratch, or clear three snooker tables in under two minutes. But all these games are just time-wasters - or are they?

Back in seventh grade, when we started using Apple II computers at school, we learned how to make the Logo turtle move around the screen by entering certain commands. What was the point of teaching us Logo? Was it simply a distraction from regular classwork? The answer lies within an article entitled, "LOGO, the Cry of the Turtle is Heard in the Land" by Ian Gronowski, reprinted from a 1984 edition of the Australian Apple Review, here. The reason, Gronowski says, for teaching Logo to kids is that:
"Logo provides the learning environment, the context with which the child learns how to reason."
In other words, devising the most efficient command to instruct the Logo turtle to move around the screen is an activity that teaches children valuable life-skills.

In a compelling TedxKids talk in June 2011, Gabe Zicherman, an expert in the field, discusses the effect of video games on children. His main point is that society today is very fast-paced and that the multitasking skills acquired in playing modern video games (both individual and multiplayer games) help children to acquire the skills they need to succeed in day-to-day life. Zicherman says that we should embrace gaming as a platform for education (with certain caveats, of course).

I must admit that the most fun I had at learning math was when playing Math Invaders. The purpose of the game was to solve the math problem and shoot the correct alien as it descended towards you. (Incidentally, a more updated version of the game is freely available on-line, here. In fact, Google the term "Math Invaders" and you will find a number of websites that provide math problems in game format.)

I'm not going to argue whether or not video games are good for our kids or not, but certain things are clear: Games make learning fun and kids like fun. This is not to say that games should completely replace traditional learning, nor does this mean that all video games are good influences on our children. But it does mean that there is, at the very least, a place for games in education. I encourage you to watch Gabe Zicherman's talk and make up your own mind.

Gamification

As of writing this article, Merriam-Webster does not recognize "Gamification" as a real word, although Wikipedia defines this relatively new buzzword as:
"The integration of game mechanics or game dynamics into a website, service, community, campaign, or application in order to drive participation and engagement."
Image from gamification company:
www.bigdoor.com

Gamification boils down to one main point: People are motivated by rewards, whether the rewards are virtual, tangible, or just a good feeling. So to get people to join in, turn participating into a fun and rewarding experience.

We have all taken part in a form of gamification, be it playing educational computer games, engaging in an online activity for a reward, or simply completing your LinkedIn profile for the good feeling you get when the progress bar reaches 100%.

Gamification in the workplace

Gamification does not only exist in the realm of education or participation in online activities. Believe it or not, there is a rising trend in the gamification in the workplace, too.

Rachel Silverman wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal, published in the online edition on 10 October 2011, where she talks about companies that use games to encourage productivity. The article is entitled "Latest Game Theory: Mixing Work and Play". Silverman describes how some companies (including IBM, Delloite Touche and SAP) are using virtual rewards, such as badges on the employee's company profile, to encourage things like employee training.

The Gamification Blog at www.gamification.co cites an interesting example of gamification, called Idea Street, successfully deployed in a workplace:
"Idea Street is an internal project of the United Kingdom’s Department of Work and Pensions, where employees interact and share ideas. The project includes a few basic game mechanics like badges and leaderboards, but the intrinsic driver of sharing ideas and collaborating on projects is the primary motivation behind the project. Idea Street facilitates the process. There is a case study available on Idea Street from Gartner, and the findings show that within the first 18 months, the project had around four thousand users, generated 1,400 ideas, 63 of which have been implemented within the Department."
Gamification also works to increase productivity. The following is from a May 11, 2011 blog post on www.gamification.co:
"Meanwhile at Target stores, cashiers are hard at work, getting reinforcement from their homegrown check out game. The custom-built app has proven to be a great way to relieve monotony and increase checkout speed by upwards of 10%. The basic premise was to provide feedback, progress mechanics and fun to improve user performance. This appears to be spectacularly true even in fairly unskilled jobs."
http://enterprise-gamification.com/index.php/examples lists a number of ways that different types of companies have introduced gamification into their processes.

How widespread is gamification in the workplace?

According to this marketwire.com article from May 2011:
  • The market for gamification will grow to $1.6 billion in 2015, from $100 million in 2011
  • The average growth rate for gamification for the next two years is 150%
  • More than a quarter of the online population now plays at least one game per month on a social network and the industry is expected to hit the $1B mark this year
  • A gamified service for consumer goods marketing and customer retention will become as important as Facebook, eBay or Amazon and more than 70% of Global 2000 organizations will have at least one gamified application, by 2014
  • By 2015, more than 50% of organizations that manage innovation processes will gamify those processes
In relation to the last point, a May 2011 Wall Street Journal article by Nicholas Lovell quotes Rick Gibson of Games Investor Consulting as saying:
“Some analysts estimate that 50% of companies will have ‘gamified’ by 2015. That’s 13.5 million businesses in the U.S. alone. That seems pretty ambitious to me.”
But even if it's not 50% but only 25% or 20%, it still signals a major shift away from traditional methods of motivating and incentivizing employees, to increase productivity, idea generation and innovation.

In his blog on the Fujitsu website, Chief Innovation and Technology Officer,  David Smith, says that gamification of the workplace is nothing new, it's just that now it has a name. One example he brings is that of Flexitime: An employee must work a minimum number of hours. Once that number of hours is exceeded, the employee can then cash-in the extra hours for time off. This, in a way, is a type of game.

In a blog post that contends that gamification is not a new concept, Richard Bingham breaks down the advantages of gamification to five points:
  • Better visibility into relative performance
  • More opportunities to compete
  • An engaging process and toolset for competing
  • Opportunity to make things a bit more fun
  • Opportunity to use more technology! 
Downsides and challenges of gamification

Gamification has its negative side. Here are a few:

A flawed game: Gamers will often find loopholes (cheats) in the rules that can be exploited. This is a real problem because if the game is designed by an inexperienced team, there are likely to be flaws that can be manipulated by users for personal benefit.

Game gone awry: In this video, Charlie Kim describes a workplace game designed to encourage employees to drink more water and less soda. Sounds like a healthy goal. However, in this real-world example, the competition became so fierce that people ended up drinking too much water.

Unfriendly competition: While competition in the workplace is often a good motivator, if not kept in check, the gamification of certain activities can lead to unfriendly rivalries. This reduces the standard of the work environment and is ultimately more destructive than helpful.

Coercive: In a strongly worded article on www.abc.net.au entitled, "Why Gamification is as Stupid as it Sounds", Sam Doust contends that the whole idea of gamification is to coerce users into participation. He says that:
"Cooperation is always better - and it leads to better economic models. Conversely, coercive approaches set limits on growth, innovation, experience and creativity - both in thought and practice."
In the interest of balance, it is important to read Doust's full article. Also see Dakota Reece Brown's article "Badges? Do we need stinking badges?"

Gamification gone too far?

CNN has taken gamification to a new level. In November 2011, CNN fired 50 employees, editors and photo-journalists because technological advancements made them redundant (see email to staff by CNN Senior VP, Jack Womack.) What are the technological advancements? There are millions of people walking around with good-enough-quality cameras built into their phones. All they have to do is take a picture and send it in to CNN. Their reward: an online badge.

Watch Stephen Colbert's wry take on this issue, here:

My opinion

I don't see gamification in the workplace as a long-term solution for increasing productivity or innovation. The rewards offered by companies to their employees may be fun for a while, but I think that adults are likely to view such things as a fun, passing fad, but not worth the effort in the long-term. In other words, I identify with Colbert's sardonic tone when he describes the reward system:
"iReporters don't get paid, they get something even better - badges, which I assume are redeemable for food and rent! Plus, you get...nothing else!"
On the other hand, I think that gamification in the education industry should definitely be taken far more seriously, even more so than in the workplace. Children are more predisposed to playing games and will play the same game repeatedly just because it's fun - for the reward of winning, achieving a higher score or unlocking new challenges. If it is possible to harness the enthusiasm and use it to create competitive, modern, exciting, multiplayer games to enhance the educational experience, I think we are on to a real winner.

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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Y. Karp? Why Not! Gets Smart

This blog is now available on your Android or iPhone smart-phone in a mobile-friendly format. Just go to www.ykarp.com and the blog will automatically render to the size of your smart-phone display.

Couldn't be simpler.

Enjoy!


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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

New Planet

Just two days ago NASA announced the discovery of a planet that could possibly host life. It's called Kepler 22-b. The planet is about 2.4 times the size of Earth and is just far enough away from its sun to possibly be habitable.


Kepler 22-b is situated 600 light years from Earth. This means that, with current technology, it will only take you about 7 million years to get there.

Assuming that there is sentient life on Kepler 22-b, and assuming that they have the same level of technology as us, we only have about 7 million years until the invasion force arrives.

Disclaimer: If there is a sudden run on supermarkets and if there is widespread looting and general mayhem in the streets, I had nothing to do with it...

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

How to Predict the Future

In my previous post I said that I love it when life imitates art. Science fiction gadgets, as we see them on the screen, often turn up in real life in one form or another. I think that the reason for this is that sci-fi writers are futurists at heart. They see the technology as it is now and extrapolate its development to the future.

Take a look at the following video, released by Sony in the last week of November 2011. Are we getting closer to inventing a real holodeck?



And, just for the fun of it, here is a satire on the whole Start Trek/futurist thing:




According to Bryan Alexander's article "Apprehending the Future: Emerging Technologies, from Science Fiction to Campus Reality", there are a number of different ways to predict future technologies:
  • The Environmental Scan: Repeatedly survey the technological horizon, looking for the leading edges of new projects and trends. One website that does just this is http://www.openthefuture.com/
  • The Delphi Method: Experts in a field are assembled, either physically or virtually, and consulted on emergent developments in that domain. 
  • Prediction Markets: Games structured like commodity futures markets but using pretend currencies and trading on ideas or events rather than goods. Based on the parameters of the game, the results can show what might be popular, what might fail and what people want. 
  • Scenarios: Individuals or teams represent actors in a situation. Scenario organizers portray events through various media and then facilitate as players react in accordance with the actors they are simulating. As defined pithily in The Forecasting Dictionary, a scenario is "a story about what happened in the future." 
  • Crowdsourcing: Packaging a problem in such a way as to invite non-expert contributions and then distributing that request for help to the world at large. This can easily be achieved today by posting a question on Twitter such as, "What are the most important emerging technologies for..." and then analyzing the responses.
Unfortunately, though, for all their studies, methods and philosophizing about the nature of the human beast, futurists often get it wrong.

Donald Rumsfeld famously said:
...there are known knowns; there are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns; that is to say there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns; the ones we don't know we don't know."
The media made fun of Rumsfeld for this last sentence, but the truth is that when it comes to predicting the future, there will be societal and technological developments that we never would have been able to predict would happen. For instance, in 1960, a futurist might have been able to predict that traveling across the Atlantic would be reduced to a few hours (it did, for a while, with the five-hour Concorde flight between London and New York). However, a 1960s futurist could not have predicted social media or online retail. Such concepts did not exist. So despite all of our efforts, the unknown unknowns can come along and change everything. And they do.

Another reason why futurists fail is something that Nassim Nicholas Taleb coined "the black swan theory". The "black swan" is an unpredictable event (unexpected in even the most detailed and carefully calculated of probability models), which is of high impact and that is rationalized away when viewed in hindsight. According to this article on davemanuel.com , the following are examples of black swan events:

  • The attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001
  • The collapse of Soviet Russia
  • The invention of the Internet
So if there are unknown uknowns and black swan events, what is the point of trying to predict future technologies? In a 2008 article entitled "What Science Fiction Writers have Learned About Predicting the Future of Technology", Frederick Pohl, whose work includes the classic The Space Merchants (written with Cyril M. Kornbluth), and most recently The Last Theorem, co-authored with the late Arthur C. Clarke, is quoted as saying:
No sensible science-fiction writer tries to predict anything...Neither do the smartest futurologists. What those people do is try to imagine every important thing that may happen (so as to do in the present things which may encourage the good ones and forestall the bad) and that's what SF writers do in their daily toil.
I undertook a quick (but non-definitive) experiment to find out if science fiction shapes our opinions of technological advancement. I found that there is a certain truth to Pohl's statement.

The plot of the series of "Terminator" movies is based around a future where the Skynet military system becomes self-aware, sees people as a threat to its existence and sets out to destroy the human race.

I did a Google search for the term "one step closer to Skynet" and found many examples of where bloggers, forum commenters and news articles ask whether the latest tech development is bringing them closer to a world dominated by evil robots. Examples of my findings include:
In a February 2011 ARS Technica article entitled "A Step Closer to Skynet? Pentagon Wants Fighting Robots to Talk to Eachother", the journalist, Matthew Lasar, describes new developments in autonomous fighting robots that can collaborate with each other in real-time. Then Lasar makes a salient point:
All very interesting, but like most civilians our main reference point for these developments is the movies, some of which have been anticipating "interchangeable payload" scenarios for years."
I think that science fiction movies and novels are simply entertaining alternatives to the "Scenarios" method of predicting the future (see above). The stories told are possible futures, which we can either strive for or seek to avoid.

In the end, que sera sera, but I love the idea of trying to predict how technology will shape our future, even if we do sometimes get it wrong. Let's just hope that the Terminator scenario remains in the world of fiction.



Comments are most welcome!
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