Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Crystal Ball - in Need of Fixing!
Our ability to foresee emerging technologies is amiss. Can we do something about it?

We've all heard of Cassandra, Pollyanna and Rip van Winkle, right*? And we thought they were mythical characters, or at the very least, existed in dark, unenlightened times. Well, we may just need to do a rethink on that.

It's not very edifying to know this, but we in modern science, technology and business, make mistakes in foreseeing emerging developments - particularly of the technological kind - that fit into patterns that uncannily resemble these hoary old mythical characters! And with all the latest knowledge at our disposal!

Read how in my Computerworld column, Re-engineering the Crystal Ball . The piece also proffers simple, easy-to-use pointers on overcoming our deficiences in foreseeing emerging technologies.
Some technologies currently in the exuberance phase that appear less alluring when subjected to this scrutiny include eXtreme Programming, Utility Computing or Software-as-a-service, Open Source, the Tablet PC, Agent technologies and the Semantic web. A few technologies which, based on these pointers, are shown to merit strong consideration for widespread corporate adoption: Wikis, Micropayment technology, Grid computing, Podcasting, the iPod, VoIP-based collaboration technologies, Human speech recognition, Electronic auctions and Prediction markets.

Foreseeing - technologies or any other developments for that matter - has always been an exercise of the hit and miss kind - see a couple of pieces that agree, here , here and here. I'd like to think that I've done my mite in bringing some badly-needed horse sense to this crucial activity!
* In case you haven't, or have forgotten: Cassandra was the one known for making baleful predictions. Pollyanna was the opposite - always cheerful. And Mr. van Winkle - well, he was just oblivious to what was happening in the world around him.