If you can’t imagine a different world, you won’t get there first (part 1 of 3)

Here is one of my favourite activities: think about the future in regards to technology, and then think about where we are going, and what people will want, and why, and what they will pay for that. You can’t do this aimlessly (not productively anyway); you must have a specific area in mind.

For example, let’s consider how Apple got to its decision about pushing AppleTV more aggressively. Did they wait to see if people wanted pay-as-you-go programming? Not really, because if you wait for something like that to show up you’re usually too late to the party. They probably looked around the world 10 years ago and started thinking about what the world look like 10 years forward. How would we watch TV? What would we watch? Why? What if p2p sharing goes bigger? In 2000, it clearly appeared that the genie was out of the bottle and would not get put back in. So, barring a p2p blocking technology, the future then was always going to be in finding and stealing entertainment online. Some people would continue to pay cable operators of course, but increasingly (and young folk especially) would be questioning why they would pay $50-100/month when they only watch a few shows a month and having all-you-can-eat cable means you end up watching more shows than you want to anyway. But maybe pay-as-you-go, a model we had been seeing with some cell phone users, might do the trick. You pay only for the stuff you want and none of the crap you don’t want. And the price had to be very low or otherwise you’d be tempted to steal. So, in the future you will pay for each show and it will be streamed live to your television for $0.99. That, my friends, is the future (which is here!)

So consider all that for a moment. Consider that all of these things were set in motion at least 10 years ago. You need to also remember that we as humans tend to overstate the short-term implications of a new technology and understate the long-term ramifications of said technology. It wasn’t long ago when p2p sharing started gaining traction and many pointed to the imminent demise of all commercial recordings. Did that happen? Of course not. But certainly p2p sharing has changed the commercial music landscape dramatically and altered the way we digest music digitally, how artists share it, how they promote their work, all (in my opinion) for the better. But let’s bring it back to today’s world. Yes, all these things were set in motion a long time ago. Yes, there are disruptive technologies being shaped and created every day. Which ones will greatly affect the world in 10 years? How will they change the world? And how can you ride the wave that gets you there?