Thursday, 11 September 2008

negroponte's predictions

Prediction is usually a dubious business: things are way too uncertain and we just don't know what we're going to know in the future ('unknown unknowns' in NNT's terms). That's why Being Digital by Nicholas Negroponte, which came out in 1995, is all the more freakish in its prescience.

Here's a smattering of things I liked, with the occasional few words after each from the perspective of now.

moving intelligence through media
The tidiest way I have seen the 'receive -> interact' paradigm change articulated.

computing <span class=
Basically, Apple's strategy and success.

pulling bits
RSS, Google Reader...

touch, the dark horse
Creeping in more and more. He also talked about "the tiny hole or two in plastic or metal, through which your voices access a small microphone" (p.159). This is still proving difficult.

digital demographics
Things like Google Reader's Top Recommendations, Amazon's recommend emails and iTunes' Genius represent this one quite nicely. Although still some way to go here.

digital on-demand
Hulu, BBC iPlayer and all the underground antecedents to these.

the global social fabric
This idea - communication as well as information - is rephrased a lot by pundits. What's impressive about this is that it saw the value of social online before it was made explicit with, sorry, nasty phrase coming up, Web 2.0.

the peeling boundary
Blogging seems the best example.

the process
Radiohead is my favorite example of this at the mo. (Also see here for what bitcasting - another of Negroponte's babies - is all about and how Radiohead's House of Cards 'video' is likely to have been the first example of this).

laws for atoms
Very broadly gets to the nub of all the legal issues bouncing around online.

And a few others that didn't make it into digital bites:
"Clipping bits is very different from clipping atoms" p.59
"On the net each person can be an unlicensed TV station" (p.176)
One word. YouTube
"...bits that describe other bits...will proliferate in digital broadcasting. These will be added by humans aided by machines, at the time of release...or later (by viewers and commentators). The result will be a stream with so much header information that your computer really can help you deal with the massive amount of content" (p.179)
tags, labels etc
"automobiles will enjoy another very particular benefit of being digital: they will know where they are" (p.216)
SatNav.
"The important point is to recognise that the future of digital devices can include some very different shapes and sizes from those that might naturally leap to mind from our current frames (sic) of reference. Computer retailing of equipment and supplies may not be limited to Radio Shack and Staples, but include the likes of Saks and stores that sell products from Nike, Levis and Banana Republic."
Basically, the web breaking out from behind screens, which I have thought about here. Nike+ is the golden example of this right now. A continuation of this idea:
"When this happens in a tiny format, all "things" can be digitally active. For example, every teacup, article of clothing, and (yes) book in your house can say where it is. In the future, the concept of being lost will be as unlikely as being "out of print"
I like the nod to long tail stuff at the end there with "as unlikely as being out of print"

(Skepticism: the book, being widely read, could have prompted people to work on the things Negroponte predicted ('invented'), giving the impression that the book is farsighted when it may have been prescriptive to future-makers)