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The RoBlog
Sunday, September 05, 2004
 
Battelle - Technology Forecasts
Battelle sounds vaguely familliar, but I can't say as it's a name that regularly comes to mind. Nonetheless, they have a set of short-term predictions, some of which expire soon, and others which are 10 or more years out. Some are obvious, and some are wrong, but they get enough of the non-obvious ones correct to warrant a look.

Here's a link to their forecasts page:
Battelle - Technology Forecasts
Comments:
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So, it seems to me that one of the major fallacies of predicting the future is the assumption that technology will emerge intact as part of an envisioned, or pre-engineered, complex system. For example, who would predict that several different, non interoperable mobile phone transmission systems would emerge concurrently without any agreed upon single standard, thereby hampering the ability to pass data around and do all of those neat future things like send people the videos that you have taken with your phone? Maybe we can call it the "top down" or "big brother" fallacy -i.e. the assumption that someone will 1. Make an all encompassing set of interoperable standards and 2. Have the power and/or will to make others adopt and innovate within these standards.
 
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Hello Anonymous Person.

You said:
So, it seems to me that one of the major fallacies of predicting the future is the assumption that technology will emerge intact as part of an envisioned, or pre-engineered, complex system.I definitely agree with this. One of the mistakes often made, is in the timing of the emergence of several enabling technologies for a particular new system.

The question to ask oneself is: What happens if things don't emerge simultaneously?

It seems to me the options are broadly as follows:
- The system, as envisioned, is obsolete by the time a vital component is available. Obsolescence being caused by any number of factors such as social trends, or superseding technologies.

- The system, as envisioned, dies due to the fact that a vital component cannot be created in a way that allows for the existence of the system. Examples of this might be that the component just can't be built (a la the Flux Capacitor as seen in the Back to the Future movies), or its construction must be done in a way that is economically disincentivizing (e.g if it must be made up of a pound of gold, and its purpose is to store people's voices in greeting cards).

- All of the pieces come together in some future time and enable, more or less, the system as envisioned.

- All of the pieces come together in some future where in addition to, or instead of, the original vision, the system now performs some other, perhaps unforeseen, task.

The key here is just that given enough time, either the pieces will arrive, or development of them will be abandoned, and as long as the value of the system hasn't been obliterated, it really doesn't matter when it all comes together (except that more time means more opportunity for competing ideas).

This is the argument I might level on your point about cell phone standards. Certainly it is not ideal that several different standards exist for carrying mobile voice traffic, but the benefit of an integrated system still outweights the cost of making them talk. Currently I can call anyone on any cell phone, and send them text messages. It doesn't matter to me what system they use, so the system works in some respects. It's darned inconvenient when I can't find a signal and other people can because my network provider didn't put a tower in the area I want to make a call from, but there are plenty of economic incentives for cell providers to expand their coverage to at least those places its competitors are in, so these kinds of cases will be increasingly rare (unless someone can find a good niche that makes sense out of limiting access; probably for lower cost).

Sure, this is an inefficient model in some respects, but our current brand of economic Darwinism allows for more than one big fish in the ecosystem, and that allows for choice, and choice is good.

So, I can't send you a picture or video from my camera right now if you're on an incompatible network, but this is just a short term bump in road. If sending pictures and video proves to be a killer app for phones in the US, then it won't be long before consumers demand the ability (if they aren't already; I certainly am) to be able to send their media directly to another phone. I can certainly see where this would be a profitable enterprise for the phone companies, so I expect it will all get figured out in the not-so-distant future.

And if it doesn't, there is the granddaddy of all levelers coming to the market in the near future anyway: the Internet. Already most camera phones allow you to email your photos anywhere, and with the continued convergence between phones and computers, you can bet that if you can't MMS your video to a friend in the next few years, you will definitely be able to stream it over the Internet. All hail progress!

Whew! You'd think no one has ever commented here before!

Anyway, to your final two comments.

You said:
Maybe we can call it the "top down" or "big brother" fallacy -i.e. the assumption that someone will 1. Make an all encompassing set of interoperable standards and 2. Have the power and/or will to make others adopt and innovate within these standards.
When you're making predictions about the future, it is definitely advisable to consider as many things as possible. If it appears one person or body will be largely in control of certain required elements for some future prediction, you need to take that into account. People and organizations (and not just the Government) can definitely put the breaks on what we might call "progress". By the same token, however, you cannot discount people's desire to bring things to life and their ability to end run the system. Any sufficiently interesting future technology is likely to get built, though the timeframe may be hampered a bit.

Ok, I realize that there are a number of holes in my argument above, and that I took a while to get where I was going, and wandered a bit as I went, so feel free to call me out on the gaps and I'll do my best to fill them...or concede.
 
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This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
 
--------
Hello Anonymous Person.

You said:
So, it seems to me that one of the major fallacies of predicting
the future is the assumption that technology will emerge intact as
part of an envisioned, or pre-engineered, complex system.
I definitely agree with this. One of the mistakes often made, is in
the timing of the emergence of several enabling technologies for a
particular new system.

The question to ask oneself is: What happens if things don't emerge
simultaneously?

It seems to me the options are broadly as follows:
- The system, as envisioned, is obsolete by the time a vital component
is available. Obsolescence being caused by any number of factors such
as social trends, or superseding technologies.

- The system, as envisioned, dies due to the fact that a vital
component cannot be created in a way that allows for the existence of
the system. Examples of this might be that the component just can't
be built (a la the Flux Capacitor as seen in the Back to the Future
movies), or its construction must be done in a way that is
economically disincentivizing (e.g if it must be made up of a pound of
gold, and its purpose is to store people's voices in greeting cards).

- All of the pieces come together in some future time and enable, more
or less, the system as envisioned.

- All of the pieces come together in some future where in addition to,
or instead of, the original vision, the system now performs some
other, perhaps unforeseen, task.

The key here is just that given enough time, either the pieces will
arrive, or development of them will be abandoned, and as long as the
value of the system hasn't been obliterated, it really doesn't matter
when it all comes together (except that more time means more
opportunity for competing ideas).

This is the argument I might level on your point about cell phone
standards. Certainly it is not ideal that several different standards
exist for carrying mobile voice traffic, but the benefit of an
integrated system still outweights the cost of making them talk.
Currently I can call anyone on any cell phone, and send them text
messages. It doesn't matter to me what system they use, so the system
works in some respects. It's darned inconvenient when I can't find a
signal and other people can because my network provider didn't put a
tower in the area I want to make a call from, but there are plenty of
economic incentives for cell providers to expand their coverage to at
least those places its competitors are in, so these kinds of cases
will be increasingly rare (unless someone can find a good niche that
makes sense out of limiting access; probably for lower cost).

Sure, this is an inefficient model in some respects, but our current
brand of economic Darwinism allows for more than one big fish in the
ecosystem, and that allows for choice, and choice is good.

So, I can't send you a picture or video from my camera right now if
you're on an incompatible network, but this is just a short term bump
in road. If sending pictures and video proves to be a killer app for
phones in the US, then it won't be long before consumers demand the
ability (if they aren't already; I certainly am) to be able to send
their media directly to another phone. I can certainly see where this
would be a profitable enterprise for the phone companies, so I expect
it will all get figured out in the not-so-distant future.

And if it doesn't, there is the granddaddy of all levelers coming to
the market in the near future anyway: the Internet. Already most
camera phones allow you to email your photos anywhere, and with the
continued convergence between phones and computers, you can bet that
if you can't MMS your video to a friend in the next few years, you
will definitely be able to stream it over the Internet. All hail
progress!

Whew! You'd think no one has ever commented here before!

Anyway, to your final two comments.

You said:
Maybe we can call it the "top down" or "big brother" fallacy -i.e.
the assumption that someone will 1. Make an all encompassing set of
interoperable standards and 2. Have the power and/or will to make
others adopt and innovate within these standards.
When you're making predictions about the future, it is definitely
advisable to consider as many things as possible. If it appears one
person or body will be largely in control of certain required elements
for some future prediction, you need to take that into account.
People and organizations (and not just the Government) can definitely
put the breaks on what we might call "progress". By the same token,
however, you cannot discount people's desire to bring things to life
and their ability to end run the system. Any sufficiently interesting
future technology is likely to get built, though the timeframe may be
hampered a bit.

Ok, I realize that there are a number of holes in my argument above,
and that I took a while to get where I was going, and wandered a bit
as I went, so feel free to call me out on the gaps and I'll do my best
to fill them...or concede.
 
--------
Hello Anonymous Person.

You said:
So, it seems to me that one of the major fallacies of predicting
the future is the assumption that technology will emerge intact as
part of an envisioned, or pre-engineered, complex system.
I definitely agree with this. One of the mistakes often made, is in
the timing of the emergence of several enabling technologies for a
particular new system.

The question to ask oneself is: What happens if things don't emerge
simultaneously?

It seems to me the options are broadly as follows:
- The system, as envisioned, is obsolete by the time a vital component
is available. Obsolescence being caused by any number of factors such
as social trends, or superseding technologies.

- The system, as envisioned, dies due to the fact that a vital
component cannot be created in a way that allows for the existence of
the system. Examples of this might be that the component just can't
be built (a la the Flux Capacitor as seen in the Back to the Future
movies), or its construction must be done in a way that is
economically disincentivizing (e.g. if it must be made up of a pound of
gold, and its purpose is to store people's voices in greeting cards).

- All of the pieces come together in some future time and enable, more
or less, the system as envisioned.

- All of the pieces come together in some future where in addition to,
or instead of, the original vision, the system now performs some
other, perhaps unforeseen, task.

The key here is just that given enough time, either the pieces will
arrive, or development of them will be abandoned, and as long as the
value of the system hasn't been obliterated, it really doesn't matter
when it all comes together (except that more time means more
opportunity for competing ideas).

This is the argument I might level on your point about cell phone
standards. Certainly it is not ideal that several different standards
exist for carrying mobile voice traffic, but the benefit of an
integrated system still outweighs the cost of making them talk.
Currently I can call anyone on any cell phone, and send them text
messages. It doesn't matter to me what system they use, so the system
works in some respects. It's darned inconvenient when I can't find a
signal and other people can because my network provider didn't put a
tower in the area I want to make a call from, but there are plenty of
economic incentives for cell providers to expand their coverage to at
least those places its competitors are in, so these kinds of cases
will be increasingly rare (unless someone can find a good niche that
makes sense out of limiting access; probably for lower cost).

Sure, this is an inefficient model in some respects, but our current
brand of economic Darwinism allows for more than one big fish in the
ecosystem, and that allows for choice, and choice is good.

So, I can't send you a picture or video from my camera right now if
you're on an incompatible network, but this is just a short term bump
in road. If sending pictures and video proves to be a killer app for
phones in the US, then it won't be long before consumers demand the
ability (if they aren't already; I certainly am) to be able to send
their media directly to another phone. I can certainly see where this
would be a profitable enterprise for the phone companies, so I expect
it will all get figured out in the not-so-distant future.

And if it doesn't, there is the granddaddy of all levelers coming to
the market in the near future anyway: the Internet. Already most
camera phones allow you to email your photos anywhere, and with the
continued convergence between phones and computers, you can bet that
if you can't MMS your video to a friend in the next few years, you
will definitely be able to stream it over the Internet. All hail
progress!

Whew! You'd think no one has ever commented here before!

Anyway, to your final two comments.

You said:
Maybe we can call it the "top down" or "big brother" fallacy -i.e.
the assumption that someone will 1. Make an all encompassing set of
interoperable standards and 2. Have the power and/or will to make
others adopt and innovate within these standards.
When you're making predictions about the future, it is definitely
advisable to consider as many things as possible. If it appears one
person or body will be largely in control of certain required elements
for some future prediction, you need to take that into account.
People and organizations (and not just the Government) can definitely
put the breaks on what we might call "progress". By the same token,
however, you cannot discount people's desire to bring things to life
and their ability to end run the system. Any sufficiently interesting
future technology is likely to get built, though the timeframe may be
hampered a bit.

Ok, I realize that there are a number of holes in my argument above,
and that I took a while to get where I was going, and wandered a bit
as I went, so feel free to call me out on the gaps and I'll do my best
to fill them...or concede.
 
--------
Blogger had some technical difficulties right around the time I was attempting to post my response, and so now it's in there 5 times.

I can't find a way to delete the extra ones, so I appologize for the excess, but it looks like we'll have to live with it.
 
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