Post Steve Jobs: ‘Hard to Imagine’ Game-Changing Technology

August 29, 2011
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“It’s hard to imagine that we’ll ever see another 15 years of blockbuster, culture-changing hits like the iMac, iPod, iPhone and iPad — from Apple or anyone else. And that’s really, really sad.” –David Pogue, in the New York Times.

Yes, the future is hard to imagine. But just because it’s hard to imagine a future full of blockbuster, culture-changing hits certainly does not mean that it’s not going to happen.

“It’s hard to imagine that we’ll ever see another 15 years of blockbuster, culture-changing hits like the iMac, iPod, iPhone and iPad — from Apple or anyone else. And that’s really, really sad.” –David Pogue, in the New York Times.

Yes, the future is hard to imagine. But just because it’s hard to imagine a future full of blockbuster, culture-changing hits certainly does not mean that it’s not going to happen.

A prediction: The next 15 years will bring more dramatic change than the last 15. Why so? First, a lot of the early change from the Internet came from doing what we always did, but doing it more efficiently online. We read newspapers. Then we read newspapers on our computers. We bought stuff. We shifted to e-commerce. It was disruptive to industries, but it left a lot of the culture surprisingly unchanged.

I would argue that most of the dramatic cultural change in the last 15 years has really just perked up in the last five. This has to do with the ubiquity of computing–smart phones–and the migration of our social networks onto electronic platforms. Those phenomena are just taking off.

More change is fueled by the exponential growth of computing. Despite technological challenges, computing will continue to grow smaller, cheaper, faster, and more energy efficient. This means that over the next 15 years, we are going to be surrounded by computing to a degree that’s hard to imagine today. Our world is going to be wired with sensors. We’re going to be interacting not just with our friends through our phones, but with parking lots and highways and repair shops through our cars.  We’ll be reporting our medical conditions, 24/7, though sensors, some of them perhaps implanted in our bodies.

Computing systems will continue to master language and knowledge, so that all of us will have next-generation Watsons always on call. This will lead to fundamental questions about what humans should learn, and what knowledge we should store in our heads.

Virtual worlds will place people in environments that feel so real an so engaging that we’ll face a challenge, as a society, to get ourselves to eat, work and have sex in the real world. There is going to be an explosion of information (and surveillance) that is going to make these early years look like a sleepy prologue.

So even though it may be hard to imagine, this information revolution is just getting off the ground.

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