Writings on technology and society from Wellington, New Zealand

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Prediction is hard

…especially about the future. This week on Radio New Zealand National I’ll be talking about old technology predictions that didn’t turn out so well, and making a few of my own.

I’ll be on after the 11am news tomorrow, Thursday 23rd July. You can read on for some of my speaking notes, or download the audio as ogg or mp3.

There’s technology predictions and social predictions. Technology predictions in the near future are a matter of extrapolating the areas progress is being made in and figuring out what they could be useful for. That’s not easy, but it’s far easier than making social predictions – how new technology will change how we live. Who could have predicted, except in retrospect, that the steam engine would lead to large cities?

I have four technology predictions:

Battery life will get a lot better. That’s already beginning to happen. There have been dramatic improvements in batteries over the last year. Look for longer life, higher capacity and much shorter recharge times.

Much better mobile Internet devices, and web services designed for them. The current generation of smart phones is bringing desktop Internet services to handheld devices, but its also beginning to provide services that only make sense on a mobile (like turn-by-turn GPS). Many websites have produced mobile version of themselves so they look better on a small screen. THis is a much more effective route than WAP, which was tried a few years ago but never really caught on.

Your music library on your car stereo. This is possible now but it’s not been well-packaged. What I imagine is that you car contains all your music library and it syncs automatically to your home over wi-fi whenever its parked there. You can do this by carrying around your iPod, but I’m hoping for something a lot more automatic.

Software to be mostly, or all, open source again. I’ve blogged before about how I see closed-source software as an aberration. Open source prevents suppliers of one piece of software from restricting customer choice for other software. Customers get to choose software on its merits to the customer. Open source, including free software, has always been used a lot in infrastructural applications – the Internet more or less runs on it, for instance – but now it’s increasingly gaining a foothold in desktops. OpenOffice is very common in homes, Ubuntu is growing, and corporates are turning to open source as a cost saving measure. Which it is.

posted by colin at 12:06 am  


  1. I certainly hope that your fourth prediction is correct. I think it depends on people’s actions now, though.

    Putting this together with another of your predictions, people can choose to buy iPhones now, hoping that open source alternatives will somehow become more prevalent later. But if they do, how will alternatives survive?

    We can choose to buy iPhones and Kindles now, paying for others to establish control over our culture; or we can look for alternatives and choose to fund freedom.

    Comment by Tim McKenzie — 24 July 2009 @ 4:32 pm

  2. I agree. I root for your fourth prediction. Where customer’s have the option to choose.

    Comment by Computer Christchurch — 4 August 2009 @ 3:08 am

  3. I’m quite convinced that, in a decade or two, we will look aback and see closed-source software as an aberration. That view’s based on the strong advantages for customers of open source. Customers have a way of getting what they want in the long term. Ask anyone who was in IBM in the 1980s :)

    Comment by colin — 6 August 2009 @ 7:13 am

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