Monday, December 17, 2007

Star Trek is wrong

It's that time of year when we start thinking about predicting the future. I've just done a little work on that for the consumer media part of emap (the Bauer-bound bit for those who follow corporate affairs).

And before the week is out I'll publish a few thoughts of my own about what'll happen in 2008 (my guesses about 2007: 12 months ago ).

First, I wanted to pause and think about the impact of point of view on predictions. Fairly obviously, It is exceptionally difficult to see beyond that which you are experiencing.

For example. What does the future look like for Gene Roddenberry? Essentially - stick the military in space and give them warp drive. No shock then, that he served with distinction in the US Army Air Corps.

Captain Kirk. Captain? Isn't that a little command and control, hierarchical? Think of most popular science fiction and the visions are the same.

Sometimes they nightmarishly play out what happens when command and control, when the centre, gets too much power and influence over the minutiae of our lives (1984, anyone? Orwell started his working life as a policeman.)

I fell for it myself when I started on my great-unfinished-novel in 1987. If your context is a world of disconnectedness, of centre-out control, this will colour (and generally darken) your view of the future.

The internet (and the web that layered over it) began to emerge in the late 1980s (and became more easily public-facing in the early 90s with the arrival of html - and the joy of documents).

The internet has no hierarchy or central control. No one ordered it built. No one controls who links to who, no one says what can and can't be published, when, where or by whom. No one controls the horizontal, no one controls the vertical...

We haven't had long to digest this networked world, for its influence to seep into your collective consciousness and help us shape the stories of the future we want to tell.

It is a new and all-encompassing context. It changes everything - disrupts everywhere it touches - visions of the future included.

History is our story-telling about the past. Science Fiction is our collective story-telling about the future.

When we do tell new stories about the future, ones inspired by a networked world, it seems likely those stories will be created by the interaction of many people - crowd sourced, co-created if you like. A shared vision of a networked world.

Will they have the blockbuster appeal of a Star Wars? Some will. Some will resonate for many. But even the hits will be wiki-style stubs - a starting point for new stories to grow from.

So, when my predictions for 2008 get slung towards you later this week, expect them to be heavily influenced by the world I live in - and mine is the networked world... and all the brighter for it.

1 comment:

  1. While I'm a huge web 2.0 advocate, I'm fairly glad our military isn't formed by niche groups of interest.

    You'd get a bunch of people forming around killing, and none on potato scrubbing duty for a start...

    Most science fiction has a military bent, and I think in some spheres, hierachies are necessary.

    That's not to say the military couldn't open up research for open source, and I believe the US Dept of Defence uses open source software...


The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?