We humans like to think we know what’s going to happen before it happens don’t we? We like to say this is what’s next and how it’s going to happen. We like to prognosticate the reality of knowing. The real fact is, we can’t ever be certain about anything. In life there are no guarantees.
One thing being megaphoned about in every techie column online and seemingly now every street corner in Silicon Valley is the emergence of forthcoming Virtual Reality. It’s the next phase of entertainment! It’s going to change the movies, TV, and life as we know it! You’ve seen the goggles, the masks, the new iPhone apps, the super cool goggles, and various other furturistic tech and gear being sold and marketed as having a futuristic vibe.
I got news for everyone. There’s a significant chance Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Mixed Reality are not going to be what we think they will be. The fact of the matter is we need to stop searching under streetlights for this new brand of entertainment. The great Rosie Leizrowice writes about this streetlights metaphor in her recent column “Zeno’s Arrow Paradox — How to Choose Momentum”:
An old joke tells of a drunk man searching under a street light for his missing keys. A passerby asks why he doesn’t look elsewhere, as the keys are clearly not there. The drunk replies that it’s easier to search where the light is. It’s a joke, but we do this all the time.
History has a very long track record of us thinking we know what something will be before it’s time.
Bottom line: We sure do like to search under streetlights for what’s next.
Not only do we like to look in the same places and proudly claim we know THIS to be true, but we’re also often wrong. The irony is we often miss that very things emergence from a different angle while boasting about claiming we prognosticated it. The fact of the matter is our track record for predicting forthcoming inventions and innovative products is not just bad, it’s terrible. History is not on our side here.
Some historical examples:
“It’ll be gone by June.”
— Variety Magazine on Rock n’ Roll, 1955
“A rocket will never be able to leave the Earth’s atmosphere.”
— New York Times, 1936
“This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.”
— Western Union internal memo, 1876
“Rail travel at high speed is not possible because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia.”
— Dr. Dionysius Lardner, 1830
“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”
— Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943
“X-rays will prove to be a hoax.”
— Lord Kelvin, President of the Royal Society, 1883
“Everyone acquainted with the subject will recognize it as a conspicuous failure.”
— Henry Morton, president of the Stevens Institute of Technology, on Edison’s light bulb, 1880
“The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty — a fad.”
— The president of the Michigan Savings Bank advising Henry Ford’s lawyer not to invest in the Ford Motor Co., 1903
“Television won’t last because people will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.”
— Darryl Zanuck, movie producer, 20th Century Fox, 1946
“There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.”
— Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), in a talk given to a 1977 World Future Society meeting in Boston
“If excessive smoking actually plays a role in the production of lung cancer, it seems to be a minor one.”
— W.C. Heuper, National Cancer Institute, 1954
“There will never be a bigger plane built.”
—A Boeing engineer, after the first flight of the 247, a twin engine plane that holds ten people
“The world potential market for copying machines is 5000 at most.”
— IBM, to the eventual founders of Xerox, saying the photocopier had no market large enough to justify production, 1959
My belief is we need to stop looking under the the same rocks and under the same “Streetlights” for how Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Mixed Reality are going to change the game. The real 3D experience may be right under our noses and we aren’t seeing it. Often times things indeed are not what they seem..nor how they are forecasted to be.