So, what did the year 2000 look like to artists in France in the early 1900s?
Jean-Marc Côté and a few other artists created postcards representing their vision of how the year 2000 looked to them. These were originally showcased at the 1900 World Exhibition in Paris, and later published in a book by Issac Asimov called Future Days.
Apparently, the future of education involved a machine that transferred knowledge from books, transmitted over cables to the brain through a device mounted on the temples. Maybe this was a crude precursor to the audio book or podcast? In my version of the future, stretching and mobility would be a passive experience, not learning.
The next picture teases the prediction of automation in musical performance.
Today in Atlanta, Professor Gil Weinberg jams with robots.
“Shimon is an improvising robotic marimba player that is designed to create meaningful and inspiring musical interactions with humans, leading to novel musical experiences and outcomes. The robot combines computational modeling of music perception, interaction, and improvisation, with the capacity to produce melodic acoustic responses in physical and visual manners.” (GA Tech Center for Music Technology website)
Check out this amazing video where Shimon sits in with an improv jazz ensemble:
The future can be a crazy thing to think about. The professions that my four kids (all 11 and under) will end up choosing have likely not even been thought of yet. Think about it.
What did the plumber do before running water? What did the airplane mechanic do before the Wright Brothers? What did the writer do before the written alphabet? If you prepare for now, you may not be ready for later.
“The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed.” – William Gibson
Kevin Kelly is a writer, co-founder and Senior Maverick for Wired Magazine. I just finished his most recent book The Inevitable – Understanding the 12 technological forces that will shape our future. Kelly presents a framework for what we might expect from humans, technology and society in the coming years. Some things have been around a lot longer than we think.
He looks back almost as often as he looks ahead, and he reminds us that many amazing creations are simply rearrangements of found elements. Kelly also incorporates many non-technical and innately human resources, and describes how they will be affected by technology.
Here is a quick snapshot of three of the twelve technological forces.
#7 – FILTERING
It’s funny that one of the takeaways from this book that had the most impact on me is not really related to technology. Hang with me, and I will explain.
According to Kelly’s research, every year we create “8 million new songs, 2 million new books, 16,000 new films, 30 billion blog posts, 182 billion tweets and 400,000 new products.” (p.165)
That’s a metric shit-ton (credit to Tom Gilbertson) of content competing for our attention. Filtering gets us the right information at the right time. Filtering turns data into useable information.
Starting in the 1950s, if you had a question, you could call The FOY Line at Auburn University, and they would research the answer. Seriously, you could ask them anything. You could also go to the library or call 411. Now, “Google filters the content of 60 trillion pages about 2 million times every minute.” (p.172) to find the answer to your question.
“In an information rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients.” – Herbert Simon (1971)
How can we possibly determine the best use of our attention each day?
A few interesting quotes from Kelly relating to attention:
“Our attention is the only valuable resource we personally produce without training.” (p.176)
“Yet for being so precious, our attention is relatively inexpensive. It is cheap, in part, because we have to give it away each day. We can’t save it up or hoard it. We have to spend it second by second, in real-time.” (p.176)
“It would consume more than a year’s worth of our attention to merely preview all the new things that have been invented or created in the previous 24 hours.”(p.166)
PERSONAL PRODUCTIVITY SIDEBAR:
I want to slap myself every time I grab my iPhone and swipe down to refresh my email. Don’t judge. I know you’ve done it too. Why would we possibly want to rush the accumulation of additional tasks that we haven’t assigned ourselves on the road to accomplishing our goals?
1,440 minutes in each day.
-480 minutes sleeping (assuming 8 hours per night)
960 minutes remaining to use as you wish.
Cost per swipe to refresh email:
1 minute to swipe and eagerly review the results.
20 minutes to triage and respond to email messages.
10 minutes to think about the ones you didn’t respond.
20 minutes to re-focus on the interrupted task.
51 minutes per peek.
If you do this just twice a day, you lose almost two hours.
#5 – Accessing
This is the concept of access versus ownership.
Years ago, the only way to buy software was to purchase the disc and invest in the hardware and infrastructure to make it work. Now, companies like Salesforce.com are providing their products through a SAAS (software-as-a-service) model that is accessed through an internet link and hosted on their servers.
Gmail is another example of accessing something instead of owning it.
Maybe in a few years, I won’t have to buy a car. I will just pay to access someone else’s.
Wait, that sounds familiar …
“As more items are invented and manufactured – while the total hours in a day to enjoy them remains fixed – we spend less and less time per item.”(p.117)
Time is fixed. We can’t make any more of this precious resource.
According to Kelly, the rise in the idea of short-term use will feed the desire for access over ownership. We also want what we want when we want it. Kindle provides instant access to countless books, and Netflix allows us to quickly access movies, TV shows and other related content.
Why buy when you can borrow? Kelly mentions the single downside to access is the fact that it can’t be customized or changed. Maybe that’s the next step?
#12 – Questioning
“If knowledge is growing exponentially because of scientific tools, then we should be quickly running out of puzzles. But instead we keep discovering greater unknowns.” (p.284)
So, how valuable are the answers to your most difficult questions?
What if someone tapped you on the shoulder thirty years ago and said there was going to be a start-up that will grow to exceed $82 billion by answering questions for free?
What if the questions eventually become more valuable than the answers?
“Computers are useless. They only give you the answers.” Pablo Picasso (1964)
How does Kevin Kelly describe the qualities of a good question?
“A good question is not concerned with a correct answer.”
“A good question cannot be answered immediately.”
“A good question reframes its own answers.”
“A good question is one that generates many other good questions.”
“A good question is what humans are for” (p.288-289)
Keep your eyes open.
Always be curious.
Look for the connections between things.
Use existing things in new ways.
Even robots can’t replace your most valuable human resources … Time and Attention.
Use them wisely.