And here’s an example from the opposite end of the spectrum. In 1959, on the 50th anniversary of the first flight across the English Channel, a hovercraft made the same crossing. The future looked bright for a craft that could travel much faster than an ordinary boat and even had limited amphibious capabilities. Yet they are only used in limited military and ferrying roles today.
Four Technology Success Categories
Let’s summarize these four categories of technology success:
We are left with the challenge of sifting future winners from losers. What is the future of robotics, genetic reengineering, quantum computing, nanotechnology, tourist space travel, virtual reality, or solar power? Is that new technology another computer graphics, to be blessed with steady progress, or is it another AI, with great appeal but maddeningly slow progress? Or will it simply fail?
Forbes magazine advised, “Whenever you get the urge to predict the future, better lie down until the feeling goes away.” Prediction is inherently difficult. Let’s applaud the effort to see the future more clearly. But let’s also be skeptical of those results.
Bob Seidensticker is an engineer who writes and speaks on the topic of technology change. A graduate of MIT, Bob has more than 25 years of experience in the computer industry. He is author of Future Hype: The Myths of Technology Change and holds 13 software patents.