Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

Its always fun to talk about what’s around the corner.  In large part, it’s what I like to do here, playing armchair quarterback, pretending that I get to make the decisions that shape my world.  The best part about writing it down is looking back on it and checking your track record.

Growing up in the 1980s, with the rapid evolution of personal computers in the home, was a lot of fun.  It was so neat to play games as they evolved on the Vic-20, Commodore 64, Amigas, PCs.  Where would it end?  If you had asked me then what my next computer would be like, I would have said it will have better sound, better graphics, and would capable of more elaborate games.  One of these days, I’ll post papers that I wrote (in WordPerfect!) for various classes to illustrate what I was thinking at the time.  Like most, I could only think of Harder/Better/Faster/Stronger versions of what I had already.

Of course, PCs got faster, but those changes were almost inconsequential compared to other changes that were taking place.  The Internet, for one, grew to be so much more than I ever thought it would be.  Even in the mid-90s, I’d never thought it would grow to be used much beyond my peer group.  I certainly never thought of:
– grandparents viewing and posting pictures of their grandchildren on social networking sites
– collaborative projects like Wikipedia or Open Street Maps
– its potential for media streaming and distribution – completely shaking up the music and print industries, and certainly making its presence felt in the world of TV/movies

Knowing how hard it is to forecast, its kind of neat to look at a real futurist that happened to get some things right.

I present to you a local Torontonian, Steve Mann, as one of these futurists.


In the early 1980s, he obviously looks out of place, but certainly by the late 1990s, a lot of ideas he espoused were gaining traction.  By 2010, every smartphone wielding person was essentially practicing his vision of wearable computing, personal vision/sousveillance, connectivity, social broadcasting/”tweeting”, etc…  Its almost hard to think back to a time when this was really weird – but it was.

So, while it might be fun to think of what Apple will stuff into their iPhone 5 (Thinner! 5 cameras! 30 megapixels each! 3D! HD! Super-Duper-Fast Data!), a real exercise in contemplating tech would be to take a stab at guessing what the next leap might be.

Who else took a really good guess at what 2010 would hold?  Who out there is making bold predictions for 2040?

Steve Mann’s body of work: