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Never Saw It Coming

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Joined: 20 Mar 2006
Posts: 1273
Location: Kent (East Hill), WA

PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2013 7:27 pm    Post subject: Never Saw It Coming Reply with quote

For futurism, we often hear about inventions that were forecast way in advance of their practical arrival, either in literature, or other media (Jules Verne and submarines). We also hear, humorously, about inventions that were forecast which never appeared ( Dude Where's My Jetpack ).

But what about inventions that nobody predicted? I can think of two in computing. Visual computing and GUIs. In all sci-fi movies and stories, the computer is addressed either by voice, or by standard text input devices like terminals. Alternatively, in very futuristic computers, they may have solid objects that represent memory modules as electronics or crystals that are "fed" to the computer. Yet, prior to 1980, I cannot think any films where someone sits down, grabs a mouse and selects icons to run applications. Even though that is by far the primary way we run computers today, by selecting objects on a screen!

The second is social media. And here even McLuhan seemed to get it tremendously wrong! Almost all predictions were based on a read only model of computing. I enter some query or question and the computer answers. Or else if the computer is evil it goes off by itself and thinks and plots. In no instance do we see an adumbration of millions of people communicating to other people using computer mediated technology like forums, threads, and so on, even though these concepts were available via Usenet as early as the 1980s. I can think of but few works that predicted the rise of social media or created a world where computers were not read only, lookup machines, but tools for enhanced and widespread communication between people! I won't even go into the computer as a creative media using Photoshop or making YouTube videos.

What do you think?

Am I correct about these two technologies?

Are there others where the majority of forecasters and soothsayers were blindsided?
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