Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Should you listen to futurologists?

Educause just published their annual survey describing "six areas of emerging technology that will have significant impact on higher education and creative expression over the next one to five years".

This got circulated round the team at work and I rather cynically asked "so, what did they predict last year then?" My colleague Pete Mitton took that question and ran with it to produce the following analysis:
OK, as I have a full set of Horizon Reports on my hard disk, here's a summary of their predictions for the years 2004-11.

I've pushed some titles together where the wording is different but the intent is the same (for example they've used mobile computing/mobiles/mobile phones in the past with the same meaning).

The numbers in the table are the time-to-adoption horizon in years.
2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
User-created content 1 1 1
Social Networking 4-5 1 1
Mobiles 2-3 2-3 1 1 1
Virtual Worlds 2-3
New Scholarship and Emerging forms of publication 4-5
Massively Multiplayer Educational Gaming 4-5
Collaboration Webs 1
Mobile Broadband 2-3
Data Mashups 2-3
Collective Intelligence 4-5
Social Operating Systems 4-5
Cloud Computing 1
The Personal Web 2-3
Semantic-Aware Applications 4-5
Smart Objects 4-5
Open Content 1
Electronic Books 2-3 1
Simple Augmented Reality 4-5 4-5 2-3 2-3
Gesture-based computing 4-5 4-5
Visual Data Analysis 4-5
Game-based learning 2-3 2-3 2-3
Learning analytics 4-5
Learning Objects 1
Scaleable Vector Graphics 1
Rapid Prototyping 2-3
Multimodal Interfaces 2-3
Context Aware Computing aka Geostuff 4-5 4-5 2-3
Knowledge Webs 4-5
Extended Learning 1
Ubiquitous Wireless 1
Intelligent Searching 2-3

Of course, the purpose of a report like this is not to accurately predict the future. The aim is rather to stimulate informed debate about the technologies that are coming up. Within our team, at least, they seem to have succeeded.

I thought, however, that this analysis was interesting enough to share. It provides some context for year's predictions. More generally it shows how difficult it is predict future technology trends.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting Tim. I have often thought the same thing.
    Here are my predictions for [insert-year-here]

    [1] 90% of all predictions for [insert-year-here] will be wrong. This is because making predictions is hard. Especially about the future ;-)

    [2]The 9% of predictions that come true will be boringly trivial. Trend x will increase moderately while trend Y will die down yadda yadda yadda

    [3] Somebody somewhere (Mr or Ms 1%) will invent something new. However this person will not be one of those doing the predicting.

    - Eamon