Have you ever watched a television show or a movie from your youth and just sat astounded at the way everything in the show doesn’t mesh with today’s world? I’m not just talking about the emotional or political aspects of it. Sure, when Ricky Ricardo gives Lucy a spanking, our eyes get wide and we shake our head about how different our world is now; but I mean the way technology has become such an integrated part of our life that things just seem off when it’s not part of the equation. There’s something about watching a police officer put a quarter in a pay phone or a detective open up a phone book that seems strange. I catch myself wondering why Starsky doesn’t just call Hutch on his cell phone!
Nobody in the 1980s could have predicted the way things have progressed. Sure, Alvin Toffler was pretty close when he wrote The Third Wave and announced the end of the industrial age and the beginning of the information age, but even Toffler’s genius didn’t anticipate the completely wired-in (or wireless for that matter) access to…well, to just about everything. In fact, while the beginnings of the information age focused on technology—Can we do it?—the new focus is on service based delivery of functionality and information. Content is king in ways never imagined before, and this means that opportunities have really shifted from pretty buttons to secure methods of storing, transferring, and accessing data.
With every major company trying to get in on the Cloud in one way or another, predictions explode from tech pundits like one of Lucy’s cooking experiments gone wrong. How many of these predictions will go the way of the flying car or the teleportation device? There’s no way to tell, really, because so much of what we get in the world of technology is driven by market forces that are fickle. One thing I believe is certain, though, is that we have to interpret technology based on trends we anticipate for the future. Twenty-five years ago, we couldn’t have anticipated (absent sheer genius) the social media explosion, the complete mobile revolution, or the trend toward instant access, but the one thing that we could have and should have anticipated is the reliance on data and its complete takeover of our daily lives.
Someday, our kids will watch television shows and movies from our time and wonder why the hero doesn’t hop in his flying car or simply order up a logical answer to the dilemma or something else that seems impossible now. Who knows what technology will be standard in thirty years. I’m willing to bet, though, that at its core it will deal with information and access to it.