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Surprising Science

How to Predict Future Technology

New York Times technology columnist David Pogue says to predict future technologies, focus on what is possible rather than what isn't, and extrapolate from the behavior of young people.

What’s the Latest Development?

Look to the behavior of younger generations when predicting technology trends, says New York Times tech columnist David Pogue. Today’s college students no longer subscribe to newspapers, they don’t sign up for home phone service, they film memorable events (or any old event) using smartphones and they download their movies. “They expect to get everything on demand—songs, books, magazines, newspapers, TV shows, movies—and you’d be foolish to bet against that trend.”

What’s the Big Idea?

Today, nothing changes faster than the advance of consumer electronics but it is not a case of the blind leading the blind, says Pogue. Innovation is somewhat predictable and focusing on what will be possible is an important first step. Those who concentrate on the limitations of current technology often receive poor treatment from history, like IBM’s chairman who, in 1943, said, “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” While nobody can predict specific products, like the iPad, it is uncertainty itself that keeps us innovating.

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