Here I am in San Jose, getting ready for an exciting two days of discussion on the Future that technology can make possibile.
I will report part of the discussion in the following posts. Here I am sharing a few ideas I'll use to open the Symposium.
Does it make any sense looking into the Future? Of course it does if you are a company planning your market strategy for next year, or an individual planning a winter vacation (where would I be confident to get sunshine?).
However, when we are talking about a long term future, 20 years ahead, what kind of probability we might have to hit the bulls' eye?
Additionally, I remember reading somewhere that
"Our greatest motivations in life come from NOT knowing the Future"
Indeed, it is its uncertainty that makes the Future interesting since it gives us the possibility of shaping it, or at least shaping our actions, according to our desires and goals.
What we are planning to do at the Symposium is to explore possibilities, an exploration that is rooted in today's understanding of what exists and what is cooking in thousands of research labs and in the experience of the past: how technology has evolved and how the market, culture, societies have evolved over these last 20 years.
And, quite an evolution we have seen! "20 years ago it was 1994.
!994 was the year the "chunnel" opened setting the stage for a decrease market for the airline link between Paris and London, if you want a technology that disrupted a market... It was also the year when the Sony Playstation was launched opening the door to a new generation of games, of biz models (you pay for the cartridge, the device is subsidised). It was also a time when in UK (one of the most advanced Countries in radio communications at that time) there where 67 cell phone every 1,000 people. Internet was for a few geeks, and Netscape launched Mosaic version 0.9 that year.
Of course at that time there was no Facebook, no Google and Apple, guess what? Tried to launch Newton, a tablet. The iPod with its iTunes and its game changing of the music market was nowhere to be seen, nor the iPad nor the smart phones...
Yet, in the labs work was going on, on 3G and there was a clear timeline for its deployment in the following decade (radio interface standardisation in 1999, approval by ITU and first bids for licences in 2000 in Europe and Asia, terminals availability in 2002,....). That was the system to support multimedia and some work was going on to create a good interface (you may not remember the work on WAP....). So you can say that a good planning was in place, technology was within reach and the Future could be outlined. It took the iPhone, that no-one in the 1994 probably foresaw, to make the portable multimedia access and internet access a reality.
I remember in the nineties talking about the future and describing a computer that was just a screen (I did not know its name would be "tablet") and I was betting for its appearance and dominance but then when the Newton came up I was disillusioned.
I am mentioning this to reinforce the idea that we can predict a general outline of the Future but what we are missing is the details of its implementation, and this is clearly the most important part. But it is also the part we can work on, once the vision is in place.
So, I expect these days to set such a vision and to stimulate, in the following months through the IEEE leadership of it 450,000+ members, its implementation fulfilling the IEEE mission of Advancing Technology for Humanity.