Network: We have the technology

It is people, not technology, who will shape the future

IT'S THE next big thing, the killer app, the Internet wonder to end all wonders. It's bigger than's market capitalisation, and Yahoo!'s investors' expectations.

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.

Arts and Entertainment
Shades of glory: Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend

Glastonbury Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend will perform with Paul Weller as their warm-up act

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power