Monday, July 7, 2008

On predicting futures

You read it right. Its 'futures' and not 'future'. As historians and futurists would likewise agree, there is only one history but many futures. To put the remaining post in perspective, the post was prompted by an article on wired called 5 Things Wired Pronounced Dead Prematurely. From the article,
Web browsers (March 1997) Push media was about to supersede browsers. Or not. If we could push this claim from the archives, we would. (Original Article)
Its not so important that they got this wrong but the larger point being that, as humans we are very bad at predicting future events. As Nassim Taleb (author of The Black Swan) puts it, the future is non-linear and thus any attempts to predict it with the available knowledge and available trends is futile. This point chimes in with the earlier point of there being one history and many futures. The main idea behind these arguments is that, there are some unpredictable events that can completely change the course of progress.

I believe the browsers could not be obsoleted by push media for the following reasons:
  1. Emergence of Firefox and its wonderful plugin framework
  2. Emergence of blogging
  3. Syndication of content via protocols like RSS
  4. Emergence of Web 2.0 (stuff like Ajax, Web Services etc)
  5. Google's efforts to turn the browser into a "operating system" by providing critical business software from within the browser.
What we see more often today is that push has merged itself into the browser instead of obsoleting it.