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EDITORIAL | The Perils and Importance of Futurism and Science-Fictional Speculation Thumbnail

When you make predictions about the future, there is a good chance that you’ll be wrong. People have a tendency to grow attached to certain visions of the future and become so jaded by its failure to materialize that they are blind to the technological wonders that actually are materializing around them. Some even take this attitude to an extreme that resembles making the perfect the enemy of the good.”  They become so obsessed with their ideal vision of the future that they lose all other perspective; they look back and can evaluate what they already have only in light of this perfect vision, compared to which everything else is shit: worthless and unenjoyable. They can’t be happy with what they have now.

A recent xkcd comic illustrates these points well:

The flying car and the personal jetpack were popular dreamed-of products in the last century. I remember That 70’s Show episodes in which the father, Red Foreman, complained about lacking the flying cars that his generation had been promised and daydreamed about having a robot servant and a personal jetpack. There’s even a band called We Were Promised Jetpacks. Gizmodo has a list of 10 technologies we were promised and never got. As if to underscore my point and the xkcd comic, the title of the post is 100 Years of Failure.

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The Perils of Centralized Innovation Thumbnail

Gizmodo has an interesting post about How Ma Bell Shelved the Future for 60 Years. It is an excerpt from The Master Switch by Tim Wu.

Here is the money quote:

This is the essential weakness of a centralized approach to innovation: the notion that it can be a planned and systematic process, best directed by a kind of central intelligence; that it is simply of matter of assembling all the best minds and putting them to work in unison. Were it so, the future could be planned and executed in a scientific manner.

Yes, Bell Labs was great. But AT&T, as an innovator, bore a serious genetic flaw: it could not originate technologies that might, by the remotest possibility, threaten the Bell system. In the language of innovation theory, the output of the Bell Labs was practically restricted to sustaining inventions; disruptive technologies, those that might even cast a shadow of uncertainty over the business model, were simply out of the question.

~*~

Cross-posted at The Libertarian Standard.

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