It is fun looking back at predictions to see how accurate (or otherwise) they they turned out to be. We know that Arthur C. Clarke was almost spookily close with his predictions about technology, but a real visionary turned out to be from Pasadena.
In 1953 (over 65 years ago), Mark. R. Sullivan, President and Director of the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company said “In its final development, the telephone will be carried about by the individual, perhaps as we carry a watch today. It probably will require no dial or equivalent and I think users will be able to see each other, if they want, as they talk. Who knows, but it may actually translate from one language to another”.
What is extraordinary is not how accurate he was but his predictions were without knowledge of the impact of the biggest game changer of them all – the computer (plus he thought of the future as “the final development”).
At the time, computers were the size of buildings and would only be used by massive government departments aiming to automate the bottomless pit of paperwork that employed millions of people. It was not long after the president of AT&T predicted that “one day every city in America will have a computer.”
Given that a technology such as computing was not even considered, you have to ask yourself about current predictions.
Now we recognize phones as computers and hardly use the term ‘phone’ anymore. We simply refer to ‘devices’, assuming the majority of them are mobile.
So, is there a technology out there that is destined to be as much of a game changer as computers and computing?
Is it virtual reality or something even more ‘out there’ like Elon Musk’s Neuralink technology? Maybe all technology in another 50 or 60 years’ time will be 100% wearable, or embedded in our bodies, or even so invisibly part of our world (half virtual, half real) that the future of the ‘phone’ is not even something that we will consider.
One thing is for sure.
In 50 or 60 years’ time we (well, our grandchildren) will look back on our predictions and it will almost certainly be noted that a similar ‘big thing’ was missing. And they will certainly look back on our technology as weird and possibly quaint. “You won’t believe they actually had to ring a number to call a friend and use an app thing to explore stuff. Weird.”
Let’s find some futurists and bury their predictions in a time capsule and get our grandchildren to dig them and see how good they turned out.