Science-fiction author David Brin explains his method of examining the future:
“The top method is simply to stay keenly attuned to trends in the laboratories and research centres around the world, taking note of even things that seem impractical or useless,” says Brin. “You then ask yourself: ‘What if they found a way to do that thing ten thousand times as quickly/powerfully/well? What if someone weaponised it? Monopolised it? Or commercialised it, enabling millions of people to do this new thing, routinely? What would society look like, if everybody took this new thing for granted?'”
Those are good questions, as far as they go. My methodology for examining new developments (especially technologies) is to ask additional questions, some with a decidedly negative slant:
- What if it runs into legal or political problems?
- What if it can be used by criminals?
- What if it raises ethical or religious objections?
- What if people prefer doing it the “old way”?
- What if a cheaper alternative overtakes it?
- What if it’s too expensive to make or distribute (in volume)?
- What if it lacks the necessary ecosystem or support infrastructure?
- What if it runs smack into a counter-trend?
- What if entrenched interests squelch it?
- What if it has unintended consequences?
- What if the roll-out is botched, glitchy, underfunded, embarrassing?
And, when will it emerge from the Hype Cycle‘s “peak of inflated expectations” and “trough of disillusionment”?