Simultaneous invention is inevitable; Technology is inevitable - so why isn't it more obvious what to build?
- A lot of things in technology and progress are just inevitable
- But the details (i.e. how we get there) aren't and that's what our work tends to determine
The recurring forms of simultaneous inventions in human history are dots on a long connected line that stretches from the big bang to the deep future. The parallel tracks of independent technological development on different continents trace, and re-trace, and re-trace again a similar trajectory — of a semi-autonomous system headed somewhere. The technium is not a random meandering. It is not an accident of human preferences, foibles, and once-in-a-millennial genius. The technium has a direction. At a macro scale, it is leaning towards increasing complexity, sentience, consilience, specialization, possibilities and choices. As it flows in that direction it unfolds its inevitable progression. Yet at the micro scale, volition rules. Our choice is to align ourselves with this direction, to expand choice and possibilities for everyone and everything, and to play out the details with grace and beauty.
- Ever since Star Trek, we've known that talking to your handheld device and making it do your bidding is inevitable - but Voice Actions for Android and Siri are ways for us to get there. This is a positive example of how the inventors pushed us towards a trend we all considered inevitable.
- Now a bad example. About four years ago, I wrote a plan for what I can best describe (cringing now) as a collaborative, shared, curated system for people to build and publish "Internet experiences." My thesis was that (even back then!) there was too much noise on the Internet, collaborative filtering and social recommendation weren't enough by themselves and so.... I'd imagined a pretty ugly way (think Web CMS on steroids) to get this to work, but didn't do anything beyond submitting a business plan (ugh!) Yesterday, I stumbled on paper.li which was closest visually to what I'd imagined and thought of how Flipboard and this site were actually executing and taking us in direction that I (and likely a bunch of people much smarter than me) had considered obvious for a while.