Forecasting Technology: Easier Than You Think

By Shlomo Maital

     Many of us are bewildered, and somewhat anxious, about the speed of change in technology and the difficulty of predicting where technology is headed.   Let me share a small story, that suggests technology changes predictably and much slower than we think.

     At my university, Technion, at the main bus stop, there is a set of bookshelves. People bring books and magazines they want to discard; they are snapped up quickly. I’ve brought half my library there.   Yesterday, I found a very old copy of Scientific American: September 1991, almost 26 years old! It was a special issue on communications, computers and networks.  I read it on the bus ride home.

     Here is what I found in it – 26 years ago.

* A description of High definition Television.

* An assertion that TV is migrating to cable, while telephony is migrating to ‘broadcast’ (i.e. cellular).

* a discussion of the rise of networked computing

* the transformation of education through computing and communication technologies

* the transformation of management through computers and networks

* difficult dilemmas for public policy, related to rules of the road for data highways. 

   *  a description of tablets

     I really did not cherry-pick these topics. I simply listed them.

     Now, it is indeed true – there is a lot of writing out there that predicts technology that never happens. We still need to be critical, discerning readers. But the point is – if we read widely, constantly and carefully, and critically, there are enough clues to enable us to figure out the direction of future dominant technologies well in advance. So read widely, keep your eyes peeled, think critically – and you’ll have a jump on the masses of perplexed people who, perhaps, are a bit lazier.