Day Week Two of my effort to accept the assignment Marilyn thrust upon me in the form of the Three Quotes Three Days Challenge. I thank her from the bottom of my squirrely heart for thinking of me for this, as my blog could use a little wildcard post or two now and then to spice up the never-ending weekly routine of earworms, unicorn possum squishing comics, cute squirrels and my shameful attempt to play with my toys in front of the world….
The Rules that I am carefully ignoring for this challenge!
I don’t believe in visionaries. Every once in a while, someone gets lucky enough to happen to be in the right market at the right time to cash in on what becomes “the next big thing.” Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were Johnnies on the spot when the home computer revolution happened in the 1980’s. They didn’t know that was coming any more than you or I ever thought we’d see a reality TV star sitting in the Oval Office.
If someone from even just ten years in the future came here today to tell us what 2026 is like, we would probably have a hard time wrapping our heads around a lot of what this time traveling fool was telling us. And that leads us into this week’s likely apocryphal quote that I’ve used on this blog a few times…
“Everything that can be invented has been invented” -Charles H. Duell, Commissioner of the U.S. Patent Office, 1899
For those of you who prefer words regular Americans use, apocryphal is a synonym for bullshit. Duell probably never said that… you’d think someone who runs the patent office would realize that there’s always room for untapped innovation out there.
We can’t accurately envision the future because all our brains think of everything in terms of what currently constitutes reality. The Jetsons’ writers couldn’t fathom the coming of woman’s lib, the death of the nuclear family, or that nobody was going to give a rat’s ass about outer space in fifty years… which is why their futuristic family is based on what was normal in the early 60’s. The same concept applies to Back To The Future’s vision of 2015, which looks more like 1989 than the age when the Cubs would finally win the World Series.
Try to put yourself in the mindset you had ten years ago in 2006. Pull your 2006 phone out of your 2006 pocket. It probably looks like this, doesn’t it?
Could your 2006 mind wrap around the concept of modern smartphones and the way they’ve become so commonplace, that literally everyone except Luddites like me have one? Could it possibly grasp the oncoming social media craze when its most popular platforms were either in their infancy (Facebook, Twitter) or still some geek’s wet dream? (Instagram, Snapchat)
Now try going back another decade into the past…. to 1993. Forget today’s modern technological lifestyle, even your 2006 camera-enabled flip phone would have blown your 23 years younger head off its shoulders. No way you could have saw any of that coming. And you know what…. you shouldn’t feel bad. Because in 1993 the company that has long been the leader in telecommunications technology, AT&T, didn’t even foresee what would become its primary business just two decades later. The foremost experts at AT&T thought us 21 Century superhumans would be conducting all of our business from payphones and “cash machines” rather than smartphones and tablets…
Which just goes to show you how stupid it is not only to try and predict the future, but to attempt to comprehend the innovations and cultural norms that will dominate not just the distant future, but even just a few years down the road. Who knows, maybe even one day, I’ll post something truly profound and intellectual on this blog. But there’s one thing I guarantee you we’ll never have in 2026… 2069….. even 2525….