Predicting the future (based on the past)

John Naughton (2010) observed that living through today’s media revolution is

like being a resident of St Petersburg in 1917, in the months before Lenin and the Bolsheviks finally seized power. It’s clear that momentous events are afoot; there are all kinds of conflicting rumours and theories, but nobody knows how things will pan out. Only with the benefit of  hindsight will we get a clear idea of what was going on.

So in short, the future is up to you to discover. One of the best ways to approach this task is to talk to people. It is well worth discussing your ideas for new journalism websites and apps with friends who have a knowledge of computing. Take an experimental and entrepreneurial approach.

Futurist Ross Dawson Future of Media Report, 2008 says: ‘In uncertain times, don’t try to predict the future. Systematically explore possible futures.’

So instead of waiting for the big idea to come to you, launch new sites in beta format to test the market. You’ll get feedback from your users, you’ll then make improvements and then you’ll launch something better.

Questions to help you think about the future

We can assume that prices in computing come down over time as products gain mass appeal and manufac- turing costs fall. The famous Moore’s Law predicts that that computing power doubles every 18 months to two years. In short, computers get faster and cheaper very quickly. Battery power has often been a problem for mobile devices. But the development of power efficient, high-performance chips, hopes to solve this problem.

Devices no longer need large hard drives as cloud-based storage systems such as Dropbox, Google Drive and Apple’s iCloud become popular.

Accessing content on small-screen mobile devices can be a frustrating experience. So can you think about how the experience could be improved? Many manufacturers are experimenting with voice con-trol and allowing users to browse the web using blinks of the eye. Motion control is used on games consoles such as Microsoft’s xBox – how could this be used on other devices?

There is likely to be far more growth in on-demand streaming TV services. As we write this, by far the most popular tools are online video sites YouTube, NetFlix, BBC iPlayer and Hulu (in the USA). Accessing the internet on a TV from the sofa is still a frustrating experience though.

Wearable technology is likely to be important in the future. Manufacturers are working on watches and even glasses that allow us to make calls and interact with the online services.

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