Envisioning the Future of Technology

Posted on Tuesday, January 24th, 02012 by Alex Mensing
link Categories: Futures, Long Term Science, Technology   chat 0 Comments

Long Now Research Fellow Stuart Candy brought to our attention this visualization, which shows projections of what sorts of technologies will be available in the future, how soon, and how important they will be. It was created by London-based designer Michell Zappa, who leads a ‘technological trend bureau’ called Envisioning Technology. Their website explains that they seek to describe “where society is inexorably heading in the near future.”

Our research facilitates understanding the field for those who work in technology by painting a bigger picture of where the landscape is heading. In this, we try guide both corporations and public institutions in making better decisions about their (and society’s) future.

  • patanjili’s yoga sutras, third chapter, on siddhis, the natural powers available within a developed awareness … 

    technology is the out-picturing in 3Dof what the developed mind can already do on subtler planes …

    the point is, understand consciousness, one can see where tech must go …

  • You offered very interesting ideas and thoughts, Technology is continue to evolve and progress.

  • Oh dear. No units, no scale, obviously no clue what the ± symbol is for, no explanation why existing and well-implemented technologies like nanowires, near-field comms and UAVs don’t appear until future dates.  No explanation why some technologies are clustered instead of putting them on separately – are we to assume that all  weather engineering technologies will arrive at once? No explanation what the placement on the chart means – is it when the technology will arrive? Is it when it will peak?  No indication of why impact exists as point data rather than a trend line – do technologies only impact on the year they arrive (if arrival is what is shown)?  No indication of what consumer impact means or what it is contrasted with.  
    I don’t mean to be scathing, but it’s hard to see this as anything beyond “I read about some cool stuff in Wired, let me list it in a colourful image”. What is the reader supposed to take away from this chart, other than a bunch of fancy-sounding technologies and an unexplained association with vague dates?

  • mz

    Hey Frank and thanks for the feedback!

    I’m not sure if you’ve read through the descriptions of our speculations on envisioningtech.com, but you’ll find answers to a few of your questions there.

    At any rate:

    – No units & scale: I’m assuming you’re referring to the actual circle sizes? Since this is pure forecasting (qualitative, not quantitative), they represent relative importance. This isn’t an extrapolation of market sizes, but rather an attempt to determine which technologies are likely to be larger than others.

    – ± symbol: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plus-minus_sign
    “to indicate the precision of an approximation…”
    Not sure what else you might be interpreting in my use of the symbol.

    – Existing techs: Feel free to read the explanations on the site, as the description of an emerging technology is rather clearly stated. The visualization attempts to forecast when the techs become mainstream, not when they start being researched, or when they find niche uses (such as the Military using UAVs, or NFC being used in a whopping half-dozen devices outside of Japan).

    – Explanation of placement on chart: Again, consider reading the explanations on the site for most of your further remarks. If you still find yourself with doubts or criticism about our process and the applicability of the research, please let me know!

  • a name

    I also agree that you havre used +- wrong it. 
    There are two ways to use it:

    Before a number to indicate it is either positive or negative aka +-2 billion (negative 2 billion people obviously makes no sense)


    To indicate an error bar for example 2 Billion +- 100 million (2 billion plus or minus 100 million)
    or 2 Billion +- %20

    You simply have 2 Billion +- this is meaningless lol, you have to indicate what the precision is.

  • a name

    Sorry for spelling/grammar errors :P

  • Hi mz, thanks for replying.  Yes, read your descriptions, but they still left me puzzled.

    – units and scale: firstly, there’s no description of what evidence supported the size of each dot. Even qualitative data requires methodology! Secondly, “relative importance” still needs you to describe relative to what exactly.  E.g. Did you divide the technologies into quartiles and place equal numbers in each band from least to most important?  Or are there simply four bands? Thirdly, is the axis of the measurement significant or is it iconographic? Is a circle twice as wide as another twice as important, four times as important, or simply different? Is the size of the consumer impact band relative to the technology it refers to, or are all the impacts also distributed equally into quartiles?

    – re: the ± symbol, previous commenter nailed it

    – On existing tech, I think “mainstream” needs to be defined here… if we look at NFC (“near field communication” for those reading not up on their acronyms), a million plus commuters use it on London’s transport system daily, several major banks offer contactless payment cards, countless security systems use keyfob entry, and that’s before we even mention WiFi and Bluetooth technologies!!! How is that not mainstream? (Perhaps you mean some other NFC – this is another reason to define the technologies you’re describing.)

    – Will refer to above with regard to placement on chart – “mainstream” needs to be clearly defined.

    Once again, I don’t mean to raze your effort, I think it could be interesting if it worked. But right now, the narrative in this chart is completely obscured by the lack of methodology.  

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