Digging In The Big Pile Of Predictions

Bonnie brought something to my attention recently, a lovely blog post (http://www.kickerstudio.com/blog/2009/02/atts-you-will-ads-15-years-later/) on how an AT&T add over 15 years old predicted a lot of our current technologies.  It’s well worth a read because it will make you think.

As soon as I heard about the article I thought about other predictions that I’ve seen made over the years and indeed decades, and the predictions I’d made.  For instance I recall some two decades ago when I first saw electronic publishing for professional journals, predicted how that would be the future, and pretty much promptly forgot about it (and had one of my co-workers point it out).

It probably doesn’t take much for us to dig up all sorts of old attempts to predict the future, from fiction to sober analysis, from wild theories to drunken wisdom.  Looking at this AT&T add, looking at my own attempts, I’d like to propose something.

As we know predicting the future is helpful, as we know looking at trends is important.  For professional geeks like us it’s part of our careers as well.

So let me humbly suggest that we may want to look back on the huge heap of predictions in our past to see what we can learn.  If an AT&T ad relegated to obscurity can predict so much, what are we missing?

I don’t suggest this sarcastically or casually.  I myself learn a lot about the effect of internet technology by examining the effect of print and literacy on cultures centuries old.  I find at times that distance helps us predict easier, gives us clearer perspective, and gives us some separation from current events that may cloud our vision.

So what’s your favorite predictions of the past that surprised you?  Old ideas forgotten or not thought of for awhile?  What old lessons are new?

For me:

  1. I recall from reading a book on printing in China centuries ago that noted how language changed to fit printing – which reminds me a lot about how language change in the internet age. (the same reading also was insightful on how specialist skillets affect technology).
  2. Star Trek’s PADDs.  They were just iPads basically.  The resemblance is creepy, amusing, and insightful.  It also told us something about what we wanted, but it took the iPad to remind us we wanted it.

Now, when you look at these predictions, what do they tell you about the economy and your career . . .

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at http://www.fantopro.com/, nerd and geek culture at http://www.nerdcaliber.com/, and does a site of creative tools at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/. He can be reached at https://www.stevensavage.com/.