Some thoughts about technology forecast

Q. Some technologies, like the Internet, seem to have changed almost everything.A. We were told in the 1960s that space travel changes everything. In the 1970s, we were told that nuclear power changes everything. Now, we are told that the Internet changes everything. If you look at the most important things that the Internet has given us—E-mail, E-commerce, easy research tools—they are amazing tools. But before E- mail, we had the phone. Before E-commerce, we had mail-order catalogs, which were very revolutionary. If you want a real innovation, the development of catalogs in the 1870s was a big deal. The most important inventions are not always new, and the new ones are not always that important.

Q. Any tips on dealing with new technologies?

  • Anticipate the hype, and keep things in perspective by knowing why you are buying.
  • Remember that most predictions are wrong and most new products fail.
  • Relax, especially older people who hear they need to have new things to keep up. They don't.
  • Take charge by getting involved in the debate. I'd like to see people speaking about new government technology policy. If your school decides to spend $1 million on new computers, what are they not spending $1 million on? Music or art classes?

Drawn from an interview of Bob Seidensticker about his new book "Future Hype", a history of technological advancements and how they change the way we live.

"Future Hype : The Myths of Technology Change" (Bob Seidensticker)