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.