A peek at some tech predictions from January 2000
"The trajectory of any emerging technology bends towards money" — I wish I had had that insight so clearly much earlier.
"[*cough* NicholasNegropontewasconstantlywrong *cough*]" — LOL. So true. I liked Steven P. Schnaars' book "MEGAMISTAKES: Forecasting and the Myth of Rapid Technological Change" where he gives the telling example that in the 50's and 60' the new technologies on everybody's mind were 'the jet engine' and 'TV'. And of course, the solutions/predictions heavily featured these. For instance, people proposed to improve education by putting TV transmitters in jet engines so that every child could be taught by the best teachers. That solution wasn't proposed because it worked (it wouldn't have) but because these dominant new technologies were part of the Zeitgeist and coloured everything. So, when the internet was on the rise in the 1990s, we got the internet proposed as (simple) solution for everything, from democracy to education. And we got people arguing that 'the internet' had become intelligent/sentient. Etc. And now AI. Sutskever: "AI will solve all the problems we have today. It will solve employment. It will solve disease. It will solve poverty".
Humans and their intelligence/convictions, are a far more fascinating subject than the content of those convictions.
A couple of years ago, during the height of the streaming bonanza, I kept saying that the economics made no sense except as a stock market bubble, and that the minute that receded, the status quo would return to the mean of ad-supported broadcasting. It has been something to watch everyone who once argued with me over this slowly come to grips with it (when Netflix announced ads last year - something which appears to have more or less saved their business singlehanded - every thinkpiece treated it like a novel plague instead of just how commercial television invariably works)
One aphorism I would also add: you can't solve social or cultural problems with technical fixes. Something like Netflix was perfectly happy to let creative and consumer alike believe that they had a genuine interest in improving our media infrastructure for the better and more adventurous, right up until the buck stopped. Commercial mediums don't change their stripes no matter how novel the distribution strategy is - instead of trusting a for-profit corporation to invariably do the right thing, you would've been better off dramatically overhauling public broadcasting so that it's finally something more than the perpetually starved, pledge-dependent appendage it's been since Nixon.
We baby boomers are obnoxious old people because we have watched a society that treats old people as disposable for our entire lives and most of us have had to deal with the chaos of taking care of our parents in that system. We have been protesting injustice since the 60s and will continue to do so until we fade away. And since there are still a hell of a lot of us, we will continue to matter, and perhaps matter more than earlier (and future) elderly cohorts.
This is not intended as a criticism of your work, which continues to be dead on. I am glad to get pieces of it along the way and looking forward to the book version.
I love the topics you write about but your writing drives me absolutely insane.
You have your conclusions and your bogeymen sorted out decades ago and then you write to justify them.
As an example, you are faced with a quote that absolutely nails the future prediction and you can only say, yea but capitalism sucks and people will sell ads essentially. You ignore that people watch phones more than tv, that everyone is a creator, that there is no national narrative because there are too many narratives, that any weirdo can find a watercooler to talk with other weirdos about their obscure hobbies, that my friend found a heart transplant for his friend by making youtube videos. That there are generations of "YouTube Certified" plumbers, pianists, marketers, model plan builders etc. I can't take your seriously but I also can't stop clicking on it to see what you might say next. That itself is a is a form of enshittification when a topic I find so interesting is so lopsidedly analyzed. Is there more to the Myrvhold quote where he misses the rest of the prediction as wildly as he nailed the technology prediction? If there is, I'd love to read it.
"There won’t be TV per se in three decades. There will be video service over the Internet, but it will be as different from TV today as, say, MTV from the Milton Berle show of the 1950s or from radio plays of the 1940s.”
This is awesome as always. Might I also suggest “the trajectory of any emerging research bends towards money” as a corollary?
I don’t get what’s so comically wrong about the Myrvhold prediction? You already singled out YouTube, which for young people equals TV and, setting aside YouTube’s myriad downsides, is clearly very different from lineair TV in terms of production, form, etc. And streamers have likewise changed the economics of lineair television, though ads are making a return there. So yes, there is still TV as we know it, but it’s a slowly dying medium and new forms (YouTube) and players (Netflix etc) have emerged.