|Posted by Cobaltsoul on July 20, 2009 at 4:30 AM|
In the news today was a report on some expert opinion about a proposed high speed broadband network to be created in Australia at astronomical cost. The particular experts commented on have suggested that the intended speed of the network would only be needed by a fraction of the proposed customers. Their opinion was that only businesses and universities would need or use the full potential of the network, people at home would need only 10-20% of the full speeds available.
Seems like a reasonable enough opinion but it isn't.
Bill Gates infamous statement that "640K RAM ought to be enough for anybody." is apocryphal but Ken Olsen, founder of DEC did say, in 1977, "There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home." Such are only the most recent versions of a common occurrence, lack of imagination on the part of experts looking into the future. Despite this dynamic being historically verifiable experts continue to be asked to give opinions about the future, which opinions usually turn out to be totally useless. Then governments make decisions based on those opinions and down the road the decisions have to be un made and remade.
Maybe I can illustrate the faulty thinking in this most recent Australian example.
Yesterday I had a video conversation, sight and sound, with some friends in Thailand. My room to their room, none of us are high tech geeks, just normal computer users using the same equipment and software half the world now owns as a matter of course. Such a possibility was not considered 15 years ago, anywhere but in SF or comics. The new idea came after the technical possibilities where there to be manipulated with imagination. Now there are mobile phones that provide the same ability and at some point I suspect we will find a way to carry this kind of technology (Probably a mostly organic version of the hardware though.) inside our bodies, no appliance needed.
The point is that once the hard core technical capacity is generally available this opens up a whole new field for imagination to create new realities.
Once every home in Australia can receive and transmit the same level of information as that used by a business or a university new uses for that ability will be imagined and created that ARE relevant to *homes and families*.
The experts in this case made the fatal error of assuming that because this massive level of information transmission has only been used in the past by narrow fields ofendeavour, that such a reality must persist into the future. The opposite is true.
The past is the foundation for the future but NOT the predictor of it.
I don't need to be able to imagine the exact details to imagine a general direction, eg, if your home and my home can receive, process and transmit university grade levels of information it makes a radical de-centralization of such (University) information storage and processing possible, it also implies the possibility of a radical re-structuring of tertiary education system and possibly the entire education system.
Alternatively I can imagine using all this transmission capacity for freakishly advanced *tele-presence* applications which enable people to interact as visually present bodies without actually leaving their own homes. Given how large a role social networking already plays in the lives of younger generations do you really think there will be no demand for making that networking online more and more detailed, in depth, nuanced and information rich?
I can't blame the experts for being historians when they needed to be imagineers.
We all do it.
We project our past into our future and mistake that for actual knowledge of what to expect.
The future is open, it is not merely the continuation of the past, it constantly throws up newness, originality, innovation, change, revolution.
Here's a prediction, just for the hell of it, within my lifetime (I'm 47) it will be possible and common for us to enjoy holographic projections of the Mars landscape in our own homes, live transmissions of that landscape.
This is not an innovative idea, it merely imagines an increase in the magnitudes of distance, detail and quality levels from the current *live cam showing London 24/7* that anyone can access right now online.
It also assumes we will actually go to Mars, and I do assume that, unless we fall apart as a global civilization, we will expand. Aside from our naturally inquisitive nature we are also subject to the pressures for more space that flow from the fact of our pro-creative instincts.
Human population will never attain a steady state, it will always be growing, the only dynamic that could force a steady state would be a total planetary dictatorship, the scale and severity of which would ultimately usher in a new dark ages as it crumpled under the burden of it's own inevitable social, intellectual and moral entropy.
Anyway, my main point is this - The future is open, new realities await us, as societies and as individuals.
OH, did you notice my self contradiction? "Human population will never attain a steady state." Ha! To me. That statement is based on me merely projecting the past and assuming some new ideas, new dynamics, new cultural memes are not possible that will transform even such fundamental realities as the intinct to produce children even when that process threatens survival possibilities.
It's a hard habit to break - not pro-creation - lack of imagination, it's hard to break.