Friday, August 01, 2008

Looking back..and forward..

In the latest issue of the magazine The Atlantic there is a nice article on the "Road to the Information Age". The author discusses some of the accurate predictions made about a world with internet (as we all know there are numerous extremely bad and funny predictions too). It is always useful to read these older texts and to get some perspective on where we are and where we came from. And, of course, if you have not read Vannevar Bush's text from 1945 "As we may think" (pubished in the Atlantic) you should definitely do that.


UsableImage phd blog said...


Thank you for the recommendation of both articles they are both very useful and provide a very interesting perspective.

I am very curious on any thoughts related to the prediction of technology in the future and how the perspective has changed. I have also read an interesting article I read on a blog called Pasta&Vinegar, the article discussed in the blog appeared in the Washington Post.

The article from the Washington Post is about Disney’s Tomorrowland how Americans have little connection to the future anymore.

A small extract " Americans feel very little connection to the future anymore,” says Danny Hillis. (…) “It was very surprising to me, getting to the future, that nobody was all that interested. Things just started to happen so fast, we were overwhelmed. (…) “We are future overwhelmed. I don’t think people try to imagine the year 2050 the way we imagined 2001 in 1960. Because they can’t imagine it. Because technology is happening so fast, we can’t extrapolate. And if they do, it’s not a very positive thing to imagine. It’s about a lot of the unwanted side effects catching up to us — like global ecological disaster."

I am just very interested if this perspective would be agreed with?

Erik Stolterman said...


Thanks for a great comment. THe comment from Hillis is very itneresting and I suspect he is correct. I think that many people today are almost experiencing present reality as the future--it is too fast, it changes all the time, it is unpredictable (not the future, but their lived reality!).

Thinking about it, I believe this is dangerous. It means that very few are thinking about what is coming and what we want to see in the future, since most people are struggling with udnerstanding the ongoing reality. If that is the case, we are living in a society where people are looking backwards to get signs that can help them to understand their situation, like people looking backwards on a train, trying to get a picture of the landscape...then, who is at the front of the train, looking forward?


UsableImage phd blog said...

Hi Erik

Thank you for your response, I would certainly agree societies perspective has certainly changed, and is certainly struggling with what to make of reality with such rapid change.

This also made me think about your recent post on concept designs and real design, and how that real designers don't focus on concept designs. Is there an argument here for designers to take to the front of the train and look forward in the design research that they do?

However in someway I think this may contradict myself as this may lead design to focus on the concept design' approach, where in fact I do strongly agree with the 'concept design' approach and its philosophy.

Finally I had seen two quotes from the Pasta&Vingar blog which made me think further. I think I have a preference for the quote by Alan Kay.

“The best way to invent the future is to predict it“
John Perry Barlow - The Future of Prediction (2004), In Marita Sturken, Douglas Thomas, Sandra Ball-Rokeach (Eds). Technological Visions, p. 177.

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it“
Alan Kay - Early meeting in 1971 of PARC, Palo Alto Research Center, folks and the Xerox planners