Note — Sep 23, 2018

25 Years of WIRED Predictions: Why the Future Never Arrives

Fun rewind of the history of predicting at Wired. Memory lane fodder if you’ve been (or are??) a fan of the mag, and some doozies in there. Dig that Kelly v Sale bet, and Sirius in 1994!!

In 2003, when phones with cameras were just a novelty in the US (but popular in Asia), Xeni Jardin was predicting a “phonecam revolution” that would one day capture images of police brutality on the fly. Just as interesting were the things WIRED saw coming that never did. […]

In their place, WIRED repeatedly proclaimed, the revolution would bring an era of transformative abundance and prosperity, its foothold in the future secured by the irresistible dynamics of bandwidth, processing power, and the free market. […]

Near the end of the Q&A, Sale predicted that industrial civilization would, in the next couple of decades, suffer economic collapse, class warfare, and widespread environmental disaster. In response, Kelly pulled out his checkbook. “I bet you US$1,000 that in the year 2020, we’re not even close to the kind of disaster you describe,” Kelly said. “I’ll bet on my optimism.” […]

Back in February 1994, the writer R.U. Sirius mused about the coarse dynamics that had already begun to present themselves in an online world where anyone can be a publisher. “As more and more people get a voice, a voice needs a special stridency to be heard above the din,” he wrote. “On the street, people tolerate diversity because they have to—you’ll get from here to there if you don’t get in anybody’s face. But the new media environment is always urging you to mock up an instant opinion about The Other … You can be part of the biggest mob in history. Atavistic fun, guys. Pile on!” […]

Yesterday’s imagined futures just keep accruing, providing sedimentary layers that today’s future can be built atop.