Tag Archives: futurology

Mid-90s Quotes from Wired

Kevin Kelly, editor of Wired, found an old file containing a selection of quotes from the first five years of Wired. This is a nice wander down memory lane, with Wired‘s trademark embracing of technology in the face of huge change quite evident (as well as some mid-90s prophesying, positivism, and–dare I say it–fear-mongering).

Some of my favourites:

Roadkill on the information highway will be the billions who will forget there are offramps to destinations other than Hollywood, Las Vegas, the local bingo parlor, or shiny beads from a shopping network.
Alan Kay, Wired 2.05, May 1994, p. 77

The very distinction between original and copy becomes meaningless in a digital world — there the work exists only as a copy.
Daniel Pierehbech, Wired 2.12, Dec 1994, p. 158

For a long time now, America has seemed like a country where most people watch television most of the time. But only recently are we beginning to notice that it is also a country where television watches us.
Phil Petton, Wired 3.01, Jan 1995, p. 126

The future won’t be 500 channels — it will be one channel, your channel.
Scott Sassa, Wired 3.03, Mar 1995, p. 113

Isn’t it odd how parents grieve if their child spends six hours a day on the Net but delight if those same hours are spent reading books?
Nicholas Negroponte, Wired 3.09, Sep 1995, p. 206

The most successful innovators are the creative imitators, the Number Two.
Peter Drucker, Wired 4.08, Aug 1996, p. 118

It is the arrogance of every age to believe that yesterday was calm.
Tom Peters, Wired 5.12, Dec 1997

Douglas Coupland’s Thoughts on the Future

Throughout his most popular novels, Douglas Coupland defines terms that come to define generations and also manages to create stories that perfectly describe and connect with a certain culture at a certain time.

In a series of recent articles, Coupland has done this once more, but looks toward the future, instead.

One, an article covering Coupland’s prophecies for the coming ten years:

Try to live near a subway entrance: In a world of crazy-expensive oil, it’s the only real estate that will hold its value, if not increase.

In the same way you can never go backward to a slower computer, you can never go backward to a lessened state of connectedness.

It is going to become much easier to explain why you are the way you are: Much of what we now consider “personality” will be explained away as structural and chemical functions of the brain.

And two that together form an extensive glossary of terms for this coming period:

Ikeasis: The desire in daily life and consumer life to cling to “generically” designed objects. This need for clear, unconfusing forms is a means of simplifying life amid an onslaught of information.

Omniscience Fatigue: The burnout that comes with being able to find out the answer to almost anything online, usually on your phone.

Pseudoalienation: The inability of humans to create genuinely alienating situations. Anything made by humans is a de facto expression of humanity. Technology cannot be alienating because humans created it. Genuinely alien technologies can be created only by aliens. Technically, a situation one might describe as alienating is, in fact, “humanating”.

Situational Disinhibition: Social contrivances within which one is allowed to become disinhibited, that is, moments of culturally approved disinhibition.

via @vaughanbell and Kottke

Steve Jobs’ View on the Web and Creativity (1996)

In 1996, while he was still the CEO of NeXT, Steve Jobs was interviewed by Wired writer Gary Wolf. The result was a sometimes quaint, occasionally prophetic and often pessimistic exchange.

In this far-reaching (and somewhat lengthy) discussion with Steve Jobs, the two discuss the forthcoming ubiquity of “the web dial tone”, how technology doesn’t change the world and this on the true meaning of design and creativity:

Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it’s really how it works. The design of the Mac wasn’t what it looked like, although that was part of it. Primarily, it was how it worked. To design something really well, you have to get it. You have to really grok what it’s all about. It takes a passionate commitment to really thoroughly understand something, chew it up, not just quickly swallow it. Most people don’t take the time to do that.

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.

Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.

via @tcarmody

Innovation and the ‘Creation’ of Time

I make no secret of being a huge fan of Matt Ridley’s body of work, and his latest addition to this, The Rational Optimist, seems like a welcome addition.

A wonderful summary of the book’s main theme–that innovation and the spreading of theories and ideas is the key to a prosperous future and we should be optimistic for what lies ahead because of this–has been written by John Tierney, with a nice look at one reason why innovation and its companions are important for progress:

“Forget wars, religions, famines and poems for the moment,” Dr. Ridley writes. “This is history’s greatest theme: the metastasis of exchange, specialization and the invention it has called forth, the ‘creation’ of time.”

You can appreciate the timesaving benefits through a measure devised by the economist William D. Nordhaus: how long it takes the average worker to pay for an hour of reading light. In ancient Babylon, it took more than 50 hours to pay for that light from a sesame-oil lamp. In 1800, it took more than six hours of work to pay for it from a tallow candle. Today, thanks to the countless specialists producing electricity and compact fluorescent bulbs, it takes less than a second.

Long-Term Thinking and Climate Change

One of the reasons the general public are slow in acting on climate change in the manner the situation’s importance demands is our reluctance to think too far beyond our immediate time horizon. However this shouldn’t stop us.

That is the suggestion of Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal, who extols the virtues of long-term thinking more eloquently than I’ve heard before:

“As in politics,” he says, “the immediate trumps the important.” Our future-blindness may reflect a basic limitation of the brain. “In so far as brains evolved to cope with everyday life on the savannah, they evolved in a context where you didn’t plan 50 years ahead and you cared about your local community. Although…” A pause. A sip of tea. “Although, it’s odd—I gave a talk at Ely cathedral not long ago. The people who built the cathedral had a limited view of the world. Their world was the fens, and they thought it would end quite soon, but nevertheless built this wonderful structure which is part of our heritage 1,000 years later. And it’s shameful in a way that we, with our longer horizons and greater resources, are reluctant to think 50 years ahead.”

via The Browser

Note: The full article is behind a pay wall. The above quote and the context thereof is available.