Happy Birthday iPhone – or why we should not try to predict the future

We are extremely bad at predicting the future. We try and we fail. We observe trends, try again and fail again. The future just never quite turns out the way we expect it to. Why are we so bad at predicting what the future holds? Because we look at it from our current perspective and apply new technologies to our current way of living. But our current way won’t be our future way.

I just finished reading an article about new inventions at Intel and how they will change our lives in 2020. Although the inventions will surely improve our lives, we don’t know how we will live our lives then. The author is projecting our current lifestyle on these inventions and though he does an admirable job, we can be certain that won’t be what will happen. How do we know that?

Let’s look back 5 years – hardly anyone owned a smartphone, let alone a tablet. The iPhone was just released but it cost more than 500 dollars and no one – no one – was willing to shell out that kind of money for a phone and type on a glass keyboard. Or so most predicted. Fast forward 5 years and the iPhone is ubiquitous: just have a look at this Infographic to see how it captured the market. Not only that, it put Apple as a company back on the map, made its products cool and revived Apple to become the most valuable company ever.

The iPhone changed our lives because it allowed people to live a mobile life. Now I don’t know if it’s a good thing to be always on, but many people, including me, enjoy the benefits of traveling with iPhones and iPads while still being able to continue to work outside of the office (I’m actually posting this piece while sitting on the beach in Greece). And although I am not in favor of a closed, proprietary system like the App Store, the user experience is much better – especially for non-tech users – when using Apps that work right away and don’t crash.

Great inventions have a way of improving our lives where we did not know what we were missing in the first place. Did we need the iPhone (or Android or other smartphone for that matter)? Certainly not. Do we want one? You bet! Can we live without them? Seriously? Probably, but why would we?

So we need to be careful when we look at new technologies and predict how they will change our lives. You’ll never know what might happen.

  2 comments for “Happy Birthday iPhone – or why we should not try to predict the future

  1. Jay
    January 7, 2013 at 3:54 PM

    Great little read.

    Completely agree too – some companies invest so much money into designing things for the future and talk as though they know what could happen. The long term is now 3-5 years in the technology industry, companies need to innovate NOW in order to survive.

    Either that, or just copy your competitors.

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