The Problems with Social Predictions

In the future, there is no “web 3.0” or “semantic web”. Whenever we start naming the next big thing before it even exists, later on that thing is called something completely different or it never comes to pass. Think of all the predictions made in the 1950’s that are laughably ludicrous today.

Bill Gates of Microsoft once stated, “Why would anyone need more than 640KB?”.

Its “internet” or “web” not “information superhighway”. When the mass media tries to predict the next big thing, they tend to fail dramatically and, more importantly, predictably.

“Virtual worlds” are not “virtual reality”. The key difference is that virtual reality has become culturally associated with completely immersive 3D environments. Whether talking about helmets or goggles, virtual reality as a concept is something else. Virtual worlds now imply community in virtual spaces. The original popularized concepts of virtual reality talked about the technology, not its social implications as much. What the rise of MMO games like World of Warcraft and environments like Second Life have shown is that human beings develop important relationships inside virtual environments. We are capable of becoming immersed in places that don’t require us to wear hardware.

The children that have been born in the last 5 years are growing up in a world where they will have relationships with people their own age anywhere in the world. We can extrapoloate and predict trends for the next 15 to 25 years with reasonable accuracy when those predictions are related largely to technology advances. However, trying to forsee the social actions and conventions of people growing up with completely new ways of interacting is chaotic and highly inaccurate.

The future unseen social mechanisms of the virtually connected populace will affect business to a greater degree than the adoption of the web and the internet have since the mid 1990’s.

The next time you witness a concept being pushed as the “Next Big Thing”, stop to think about the long littered history of the “Last Big Things”. Twist it, bend it, throw it in a blender with a twist of lemon, and then see if it still sounds like a world changer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *