Lessons from Sci-Fi predictions

CIO has a recent article about the lessons learned by science-fiction writer about predicting the future of technology. This journal asked authors such as Larry Niven, Robert Sawyer, Nancy Kress and Charles Stross to discuss technology-related predictions. The whole article is a good read but I point here some of the lessons:

  • "Look for the goals humankind will never give up. Instant travel, instant education, longevity. Then try to guess when it will appear and what it will look like.
  • Pay close attention to parasite control. There is always someone who wants the money for something else.
  • You're obliged to predict not just the automobile but the traffic jam and the stranglehold on gas prices
  • The trap we science and space buffs always fall into is thinking that everybody will want the things that we want, they don't; they have their own agendas, and ultimately, as in everything, it's the economy, stupid. Just because you personally want something doesn't mean there's a market for it. Just because we technically could do something doesn't mean that's how others want to see their tax dollars spent."
  • We can point to extrapolations of current technological and social trends, but we can't extrapolate on the basis of stuff that hasn't been discovered yet. For example: In 1962 it was possible, just about, to see the future of integrated circuitry (and even, if you were very far-sighted, to glimpse Moore's Law and its implications), but the CD player was right out of the picture— solid state lasers lay at least a decade in the future.
  • The standard advice is to be aggressive in your predictions; there's this notion that the future always comes faster than you think it will (...) But, actually, I think a lot of us underestimated social inertia, Most of us predicted a secular 21st century, and it's anything but that. The world is like a person: It doesn't change as it gets older. Rather, it simply becomes more obviously what it always was. People always liked having phones and portable music, but most people never wanted to lug a camera, or an ebook reader, or a PDA around. The future is adding functionality to those things we've already admitted into our lives, not trying to convince people they need new categories of things; the iPhone—the all-in-one device that is, first and foremost, something familiar—is the correct paradigm.
  • Study the cutting edge of the specific field. Create wild cards. And then don't worry about being wrong—it's science fiction."

Why do I blog this? some good tips here and ideas to be mentioned in upcoming work about failed futures and the importance of understanding failures. It echoes a lot with the talk I've given at Design Engaged, I will maybe reshuffle this for my introduction to Lift09.