Tags: prediction



The long prep

The secret to a good war movie is not in the depiction of battle, but in the depiction of the preparation for battle. Whether the fight will be for Agincourt, Rourke’s Drift, Helm’s Deep or Hoth, it’s the build-up that draws you in and makes you care about the outcome of the upcoming struggle.

That’s what 2011 has felt like for me so far. I’m about to embark on a series of presentations and workshops in far-flung locations, and I’ve spent the first seven weeks of the year donning my armour and sharpening my rhetorical sword (so to speak). I’ll be talking about HTML5, responsive design, cultural preservation and one web; subjects that are firmly connected in my mind.

It all kicks off in Belgium. I’ll be taking a train that will go under the sea to get me to Ghent, location of the Phare conference. There I’ll be giving a talk called All Our Yesterdays.

This will be non-technical talk, and I’ve been given carte blanche to get as high-falutin’ and pretentious as I like …though I don’t think it’ll be on quite the same level as my magnum opus from dConstruct 2008, The System Of The World.

Having spent the past month researching and preparing this talk, I’m looking forward to delivering it to a captive audience. I submitted the talk for consideration to South by Southwest also, but it was rejected so the presentation in Ghent will be a one-off. The SXSW rejection may have been because I didn’t whore myself out on Twitter asking for votes, or it may have been because I didn’t title the talk All Our Yesterdays: Ten Ways to Market Your Social Media App Through Digital Preservation.

Talking about the digital memory hole and the fragility of URLs is a permanently-relevant topic, but it seems particularly pertinent given the recent moves by the BBC. But I don’t want to just focus on what’s happening right now—I want to offer a long-zoom perspective on the web’s potential as a long-term storage medium.

To that end, I’ve put my money where my mouth is—$50 worth so far—and placed the following prediction on the Long Bets website:

The original URL for this prediction (www.longbets.org/601) will no longer be available in eleven years.

If you have faith in the Long Now foundation’s commitment to its URLs, you can challenge my prediction. We shall then agree the terms of the bet. Then, on February 22nd 2022, the charity nominated by the winner will receive the winnings. The minimum bet is $200.

If I win, it will be a pyrrhic victory, confirming my pessimistic assessment.

If I lose, my faith in the potential longevity of URLs will be somewhat restored.

Depending on whether you see the glass as half full or half empty, this means I’m either entering a win/win or lose/lose situation.

Care to place a wager?

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow

Past visions of the future

This 1969 vision of a future household is remarkably prescient in some ways but unfortunately dated when it comes to gender roles:

What the wife selects on her console will be paid for by the husband on his counterpart console.

The Internet in 1969

By 1993, AT&T were showing a more equally balanced vision of the future.

AT&T 1993 “You Will” Ads

Given that those ads are a mere sixteen years old, it’s hardly surprising that they’re generally pretty accurate (although mobile phones are conspicuous by their absence).

Paul Saffo said we routinely overestimate short-term change and underestimate long-term change, but it’s those long-term predictions that are the most entertaining and fascinating.

Paleo Future is a blog by Matt Novak dedicated to A look into the future that never was. The archive is structured by decade, going back to the 1880s. The site is an orgasmofest of steampunk, retro-journalistic soothsaying and zeppelin-inspired musical theatre (calm down, Simon).

Meanwhile, looking in the other direction of the light cone, why has it taken me so long to discover Near Future Laboratory? Julian Bleecker and friends seek out design and cultural trends, often viewed through the lens of science fiction (see, for example, Design Fiction Chronicles: The Stability of Food Futures).

In some ways, science fiction is the safe route to future prediction. Paul Saffo again:

Wild cards sensitize us to surprise, and they push the edges of the cone out further. You can call weird imaginings a wild card and not be ridiculed. Science fiction is brilliant at this, and often predictive, because it plants idea bombs in teenagers which they make real 15 years later.

The expectations set by science fiction result in the hipster chic of wearing a T-shirt emblazoned in Helvetica with where’s my jetpack?

Ray Bradbury takes another tack:

People ask me to predict the future, when all I want to do is prevent it. Better yet, build it. Predicting the future is much too easy, anyway. You look at the people around you, the street you stand on, the visible air you breathe, and predict more of the same. To hell with more. I want better.

Science fiction doesn’t just show us the future we hope for further down the light cone; it also shows us the design and culture we want to prevent.

Brazil (Terry Gilliam, 1985) - Ministry of Information

The Audio of the System of the World

Four months after the curtain went down on dConstruct 2008, the final episode of the podcast of the conference has just been published. It’s the audio recording of my talk The System Of The World.

I’m very happy indeed with how the talk turned out: dense and pretentious …but in a good way, I hope. It’s certainly my favourite from the presentations I have hitherto delivered.

Feel free to:

The whole thing is licenced under a Creative Commons attribution licence. You are free—nay, encouraged—to share, copy, distribute, remix and mash up any of those files as long as you include a little attribution lovin’.

If you’ve got a Huffduffer account, feel free to huffduff it.