Thursday, August 10, 2017

Ben Evans: Asking the wrong questions →

Fascinating article from Ben Evans on his grandfather’s predictions, along with our tendency to make predictions about the wrong things. Here’s a few excerpts:

In 1946, by which time he’d become a notable writer of science fiction, he published a story called ‘A Logic named Joe’, which described a global computer network with servers and terminals, that starts giving people the information that it thinks they ought to know as opposed to waiting for them to search for it – the Singularity, if you like, or maybe just Alexa. He also, as I recall, predicted reality TV somewhere.

Tim Berners-Lee, who?

You can see this tendency to ask the wrong questions, or questions based on the wrong framework, in this TeleGeography report from 1990. It was clear that the world was changing, and that the telephone network would see new uses. But if you’re asking about new uses for the ‘telephone network’, that of itself probably gets you to the wrong place (again, click to zoom).

The report he references illustrates how we can make the wrong predictions.

So, a pretty common theme of discussion in tech now is to ask what comes ‘after’ mobile, now that it is moving from the creation to deployment phase and the smartphone platform wars etc are over. There are a bunch of exciting things going on, certainly, from machine learning to AR and VR to electric and autonomous cars. What content will work in VR? Who will be best placed to make AR glasses? Will EV batteries be a competitive advantage, or end up, like LCD screens, as a low-margin commodity? Who will have enough of the right kind of driving data for autonomy? But every time I think about these, I try to think what questions I’m not asking. I still want a glider though.

Very astute points, especially about the questions we’re not asking ourselves (emphasis mine). I think we’re starting to see some of the post-mobile world come to fruition with a focus on the home, AR, and everything else Ben mentions, but we’re just barely on the precipice.