For those of us who spend (too much of) our time at the digital coalface occasionally we need to come up to the surface and take a look at the horizon. With this in mind we look at some tech/internet predictions that people have got horribly wrong in the past - as well as looking at some recent predictions for the coming decade.
Firstly, here are five things that people have got terribly wrong:
- Let’s start with this. "There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home." Who claimed such a thing? Non-other than Ken Olsen, founder of Digital Equipment Corp. A tremendous entrepreneur and executive, but he was off by a couple of billion units with this call.
- Renowned astronomer and author Clifford Stoll once ridiculed the idea that we would one day be able to buy books and newspapers straight over the internet. In his book “Silicon Snake Oil” he essentially dismissed the web as a passing fad, calling online shopping “baloney”. Ironically, for those that are interested, you can purchase Stoll’s book at Amazon.com.
- “Apple is already dead", declared Nathan Myhrvold, former CTO of Microsoft. Although perhaps to his credit he did also say that “smart moves might save the brand name”. One could say that iPod, iTunes, iPhone, iPad, etc. can be considered ‘smart moves’.
- YouTube’s co-founder, Steve Chen, should have had more faith in his creation when in 2005 he voiced concerns about YouTube’s hopes of longevity by stating "there's just not that many videos I want to watch." Luckily for him Google had more confidence in the site and paid $1.65 billion for it the following year.
- Bill Gates apparently once said, "no one will need more than 637KB of memory for a personal computer. 640KB ought to be enough for anybody." When you consider that most of us carry around 16-32 GB on our mobile phones alone we think it’s safe to say he got this wrong.
Now let’s look at some predictions for the future of the internet.
The internet we'll have a decade from now will probably bear little resemblance to the one we have today, from the devices we use to connect to the information we access on them. We can’t predict exactly what it's going to look like, but based on the direction things are currently going we can at least take a well-educated guess.
The world is moving rapidly towards ubiquitous connectivity that will further change how and where people associate, share information, and consume media.
The majority of experts believe that the Internet will become like ‘electricity’ during the next decade, flowing through our lives almost invisibly. They call it an “ambient information environment” where accessing the Internet will be effortless. Mobile, wearable, and embedded devices will be linked together in the Internet of Things (a proposed development of the Internet in which everyday objects have network connectivity, allowing them to send and receive data), allowing people to tap into artificial intelligence-enhanced cloud-based information wherever they are.
This idea was eloquently summed up by Joe Touch, director at the University of Southern California’s Information Sciences Institute, “The Internet will shift from the place we find cat videos to a background capability that will be a seamless part of how we live our everyday lives. We won’t think about ‘going online’ or ‘looking on the Internet’ for something — we’ll just be online, and just look.”
So, what is the future of the Internet? Here are just some of the very interesting predictions in circulation:
- Information sharing over the Internet will be so effortlessly interwoven into daily life that it will become invisible, flowing like electricity, often through machine intermediaries.
- The spread of the Internet will enhance global connectivity, fostering more positive relationships among societies.
- The Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and Big Data will make people more aware of their world and their own behaviour.
- Augmented Reality and wearable devices will be implemented to monitor and give quick feedback on daily life, especially in regard to personal health.
- Political awareness and action will be facilitated and more peaceful change, and more public uprisings like the Arab Spring will emerge.
- The spread of the “Ubernet” will diminish the meaning of borders, and new “nations” of those with shared interests may emerge online and exist beyond the capacity of current nation-states to control.
- The Internet will become “the Internets” as access, systems and principles are renegotiated.
- An Internet-enabled revolution in education will spread more opportunities with less money spent on buildings and teachers.
- Dangerous divides between haves and have-nots may expand, resulting in resentment and possible violence.
- Abuses and abusers will ‘evolve and scale.’ Human nature isn’t changing; there’s laziness, bullying, stalking, stupidity, pornography, dirty tricks, crime, and the offenders unfortunately will have new capacity to make life miserable for others.
- Pressured by these changes, governments and corporations will try to assert power – and at times succeed – as they invoke security and cultural norms.
- People will continue – sometimes grudgingly – to make trade-offs favouring convenience and perceived immediate gains over privacy; and privacy will be something only the upscale will enjoy.
- Humans and their current organisations may not respond quickly enough to challenges presented by complex networks.
Time will tell which, if any, of these predictions come true and inevitably we’ll look back on some and wonder what on earth were they thinking. But it’s never a waste of time coming up to the surface any wondering what lies over the horizon.