Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Days of Future Past

So, uh, back in Bible times, the success rate for a prophet was 100%. Basically, you had to be right ALL THE TIME, or you would get stoned in a decidedly unpleasant sense. At that rate, I would be stoned ... and stoned again. That being said, it's fun to look back on a few predictions ...

1985: We'll start creating our publications with computers. Right.
Yeah, OK. I saw a primitive vid of 3D architectural modeling. I thought, shit, if computers could do that, they could sure as hell do paste-up.

1990: The World Wide Web means that anybody anywhere can be a reporter for the rest of the planet. Right.
I figured the Internet meant any self-proclaimed reporter could be, say, Our Man in Shanghai. This was absolutely true. But, chump that I was, I assumed there was a way you could actually get paid for it.

1990: You could make a living as an Internet reporter. Wrong.
Wrong, with the exception of, maybe, 100 people. Yeah, basically 100 people on the planet are actually getting paid to do their stuff on line. More or less the equivalent of, say, the staff of the Dayton Daily News in 1990. What NEVER FREAKING OCCURRED TO ME was that, yes, the Internet would empower a planetful of reporters, photographers, critics, etc. -- who would all happily work for free.

1992: The computer and TV set will merge into one. Right and wrong.
The birth of digital convergence has been greatly exaggerated. Yeah, I imagined there'd be a hybrid device resembling the unholy offspring of a TV clicker and a computer keyboard. Your flatscreen TV would be your computer; your computer would be your TV. This has happened, to a marginal extent, for rich folks who can afford to wire their homes on the same server. For the most part and for most folks, TV is one box, computer is another.

1994: The pressures of advertising will make "free speech" a thing of the past and turn all ideas into commodities. Sadly, this seems to be coming true.

1995: The desktop publishing revolution will be followed by the desktop video revolution. Right and wrong.
Yeah, cheap editing software has spawned the ephemeral effluvia of YouTube. Various auteurs with high-res vidcams are running around. Fine. But there's still a vast difference between that and Hollywood-style filmmaking. The digital revolution makes garage video cheap and easy. At the same time, it allows for a higher dimension of insanely great and insanely expensive special effects. The digital revolution giveth and taketh away.

1998: As TV and computer merge into one, all-purpose number cruncher, cheapjack game boxes will become a thing of the past. Dead wrong.
My kids wanted a Nintendo. I told them it was a waste of money. Why buy an instantly obsolete box to play your vidgames when you could play your bloody games on the computer? In five years, there'll be no more Nintendo, I said. Mark my words. Ha-ha, yeah. More like eat my words. Goddamnit, who knew?

1999: Speech recognition will change everything. Not right yet.
Yes, there's a quantum leap between computers that do string-matching and computers that actually understand what you're saying. (Computer. Scan for anomalous life-forms in the Beta Quadrant.) It ain't happened yet. They're still big, dumb machines with pretty graphics.

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