Monday, September 26, 2011

Predictions of the digital age

Book: Digerati: Encounters with the Cyber Elite

Author: John Brockman

Published: 1996 (HardWired)

Pages: 335

Irony is reading a physical book all about how the world is going digital and how we should adapt or risk getting left behind.

What Brockman did was gather up all his influential friends and acquaintances from the industry, sat them down one by one, and interviewed them about where they thought the Internet and the World Wide Web were headed and what they and the world at large needed to do about it.

And then he typed it and sent it off to get bound in paper and glue and cardboard and to sell on one of the platforms most of his interviewees predicted would be dead by now (to be fair, they’re getting sort of right).

Reading fifteen-year-old predictions about the Internet feels a little like reading Nostradamus; it’s a faddish way of retroactively proving that psychics really do exist. Although the people interviewed for this book were far more actively engaged in the innovations they talked about, their projections were still vague enough to apply correctly to what the Internet has become without knowing if 2011’s Internet is exactly what they were thinking in 1996.

A good bit of why I liked reading this was so I could nod my head and mentally mark off what we’ve innovated from these Suggestions of the Future.

  • Interaction and personalization will always be king in a medium that’s simultaneously broadcaster and audience.
  • As long as we have such a thing as technology, we will have people worrying about whether or not we’re spending too much time on it.
  • Ease of access, cheapening of speed, and building of communities are the steadiest foundations on which to build Internet interest.
  • Nobody will ever care about interactive TV.

I really, really wish Brockman had hosted round table talks/arguments and just recorded those verbatim, or at least left his questions in so on the page his interviews would get some of that interaction action they all yap on about. That way he would’ve caught some great arguments that would have taken all these sentiments, which were thought-provoking but difficult to get through in big chunks that said basically the same thing.

“You sly dog! You’ve got me monolouging!”  

Anyway, this was a sort of interesting book, but it’s by no means necessary.

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