Network: We have the technology
It is people, not technology, who will shape the future
Monday 01 March 1999
It's faster than a speeding Pentium and bigger than an iMac shipment. It will easily outpace and outlive the Internet bubble. It puts all technology to shame. Every investor can take this one to the bank and retire on it.
So what is the subject of this particular fortnightly dispatch?
Why, people of course. And not just the geeky techno people either. People, not technology, will shape the future - on the Web and everywhere else.
The networked world means that advances in one area are quickly borrowed, developed and launched into other areas, where further development results in yet more advanced concepts, and so on. Technological pace seems locked into an ever-increasing rate of change. Moore's law has already had its doors blown off, and we've hardly begun.
This century has seen humanity go from horsedrawn cart to interplanetary space probe. Most schoolchildren have a greater grasp of science and culture than did whole kingdoms of nobility a millennium ago, even if their reading skills aren't much better.
It's true that technology threatens to widen the opportunity gap between the technologically literate and those less so. History teaches us that big gaps between the haves and have-nots lead to social disruptions and revolution.
Nevertheless, mere working-class stiffs can do things, such as fly to New York, that not even a king could have done a few generations ago. Global communications have made the world seem rife with human horror. Yet today we are far more likely to survive childhood and reach a mature old age than people 100 or 200 years ago.
No matter how fast technology moves, there are real limits in this world, and those are the limits of living, breathing human beings. There is a limit to our interest in anything, including technology.
We spent hundreds of thousands of years evolving and those hard-won Darwinian advantages don't quickly disappear. Stephen Hawking estimates that the human genome changes by only a few bits (in a trillion) every thousand years. Technology adds billions of bits to human knowledge probably hourly.
But in gauging which technology will be the next big winner we don't have to look much further than PT Barnum, or Shakespeare for that matter. They excelled at pressing their respective eras' technologies into profitable service by understanding the needs and wants of their audiences. Barnum's "sucker born every minute" philosophy was the basis for a three-ring empire.
And, in 1999, I'd be wise to back technology companies that focus on who people are and what they need. Just look at the 100 most-often- entered search terms - they're very, very human (sex, of course, is first).
Of course, people need a computer and an Internet connection before they can get to the search engines, so those sorts of companies are good investments. They need instruction manuals and websites that update with the ever- changing information needed to get around in cyberspace.
In short, all we have to do is draw a line between a human and his or her needs and tick off all the technological dots necessary to connect the points into a line. Call it linear human Net-trajectory plotting. Or common sense. There's a Web page born every minute.
There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turningTV
Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'music
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Rihanna 'nude photos' claims emerge on 4Chan as hacking scandal continues
- 2 Frank Lampard equalises for Manchester City against Chelsea: how Twitter reacted
- 3 Stamford Hill council removes 'unacceptable' posters telling women which side of the road to walk down
- 4 Kim Kardashian 'nude photos' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence scandal
- 5 Hitler’s former food taster reveals the horrors of the Wolf’s Lair
Downton Abbey series 5, episode 1, review: Revolution still seems far off
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written
Friends 20th anniversary: The highs and lows of the cast's careers since TV series ended in 2004
Downton Abbey series 5, episode 1, ITV, review: There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning
Friends 20th anniversary: Six things we wouldn't have without influential comedy series
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Scotland could still declare independence – even without referendum, says Alex Salmond
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
Plebgate MP Andrew Mitchell called officer a 'little s**t', claim court documents 'exposing ex-Chief Whip's 'record of abusing police'