A myopic vision of the future

By Robert Hickson 05/05/2014

The New York Times has a disappointing short article/graphic titled “A vision of the future from those likely to invent it“.

Disappointing because they interview only 7 people, all from/associated with Silicon Valley, who are supposedly “driving the technological transformation”. Sure the internet is likely to have a large role in our future lives, but they have taken a very limited view of the future – technologically and geographically. Energy, food, demographics, urban environment, health care, manufacturing and the social sciences hardly get a look in.

Granted we only get brief sound bites from the interviewees, but its all fairly unsurprising – drones, wearable computing, personalised medicine, implantable chips, virtual reality.

They do add a twist by asking what jobs technology will get rid of in the short term. But again, fairly trite. I think we’ll still have pilots on commercial flights 10 years from now (though probably with less actual flying to do).

They touch on “what’s next to undergo a sea change in social acceptance” as well. Marc Andreessen makes a good point, I think, about  “… a more generalised acceptance of widespread variations in human behaviour”. But Peter Thiel’s big issue seems out of left field –  (american) football becoming unacceptable. (Boxing seems to be under going a small revival despite the known dangers, and there is an awful lot of money, and university prestige tied up in football).

Ev Williams suggests factory farming will disappear. That seems optimistic – how will americans be able to rapidly shift to a new way of food production?

In a companion piece, the Times redeems itself, somewhat, by noting how the views of Silicon Valley greats vary from starry-eyed to pragmatic when talking about how “Tech” (aka information technology) can “save the world”.

Its often more useful not to talk to inventors about how they think their inventions will change the world. The BBC highlights some wonderful (and some not so) inventions, on display at Dublin’s Science Gallery that failed to succeed.