Predictions and the nature of change
William Gibson’s quote “The Future is Already Here – It’s Just Not Evenly Distributed” is a powerful and practical idea for working out what is going to happen in the short term – extrapolate from current edge and current trends. These days new technology is announced & piloted very early – there are few surprises in the short term in terms of technology developments. The problem with short term predictions is that we often exaggerate the scale and impacts of predicted developments.
Bill Gates summed it up when he said “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten”. Like compound interest an exponential function is just a fixed percentage of growth that compounds – change is occurring around us all the time and like a slow boiling frog we only jump when we become aware of it. Another factor in ICT change in particular is the Network effect (the value and effectiveness of a communication technology increases with the number of users) – this acts a sort of natural selection – operating both negative and positive feedback on exponential growth.
The problem with long term developments are that they are subject to exponential and combinatorial factors – chaotic things that we are not good at understanding at the best of times. To compound things change cycles themselves are becoming faster.
In the short term nothing much appears to happen while longer term changes appear are often beyond our understanding.
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