The Future and Us and Kurzweil

Ray Kurzweil at Stanford Singularity Summit.

Ray Kurzweil at Stanford Singularity Summit. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ray Kurzweil is one of around a dozen figures who mark out the space between present and future – and us and technologies. He is an optimist as to speed of progress and its generally beneficent character, up to and including his “singularity.” Here he is noting, in general rather helpfully, that the future is easier to predict than some may think, in areas where exponential digital change is driving events (if you like, on Gordon Moore‘s moors.)

Of course the fun really starts when technologies bump into each other (convergence), when their disruptive impact is so great it’s just not clear what’s going to happen next, when people (yay, people!) decide to make decisions that shape what comes next, and so on.

I’ve written before about various aspects of all this (not least the rapid aging of companies that are out there on Moore’s moors – segue to Facebook‘s valuation, and so on). It’s handy to be reminded of the impact of the digital factor. Perhaps we can devise an impact factor that could be attached to companies, business models, and industries. Those close to pure digital will flourish rapidly and collapse/be superseded very fast. The search/social phalanx is slowly being followed by biotechnology as digitization and the management of huge data sets moves along (and, oh yes, typewriters and sliderules . . .). Random industries such as travel agency and cameras (sorry, Kodak) were hit hard and early. Publishing has taken longer and is going through an anguished process that will not soon be resolved. Education, especially higher education, has resisted with a fortitude and insouciance that would have been hard to resist.

So yes, some things are easier to predict. Some much less so. Some will always surprise. And then there’s the human factor.

Ray Kurzweil on Predicting the Future #WIFNY | Working Knowledge ®.