[A quick post just to clear out some of the cobwebs around here after a long holiday weekend....]
This morning I finished the Bill Bryson book, “At Home,” a warehouse of delights and fun facts, much of it about life in 19th century England, when Bryson’s home was built by a country clergyman. Bryson concludes that, superficially, the world hasn’t changed that much in all these years, that his clergyman would see a fairly familiar landscape, but for the odd car or helicopter. But culture, the reader surmises, changes so dramatically. Our sense of what is normal, healthy, appropriate, is radically different. We have witnessed cultural, political, scientific, medical revolutions. They had all these codes back then, all these compulsions and assumptions. And it makes me wonder what it is that we do today that will, a century from now, seem strange, antiquated, ridiculous.
Sleeping? Aging? Getting old and gray and pudgy rather than remaining youthful forever?
Living within our meat-bodies rather than in the comfortable digital confines of a server farm?
The other book getting a workout this weekend was Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs. It’s astonishing to think that the personal computer was invented in the mid-1970s, that it was coincident with the rise of disco and the bad hangovers of the 1960s. Jerry Ford was asking people to wear Whip Inflation Now (WIN) buttons. To younger readers, that may sound like ancient times, but for many of us here it was not so long ago.
Jobs and Steve Wozniak assembled their first circuit boards in the garage of Jobs’ parents’ house. They knew they were onto something, that this was revolutionary, that they were inventing the future. And they were a sublime pairing. Wozniak was the engineering genius. But Jobs -- overbearing, to the point of being truly awful to his friends and colleagues – had the vision and drive to create beautiful products and a company that changed the way people live their lives.
Think about how rapidly this digital era has evolved, and how things once considered new became obsolete within a few years. It was with the Apple II that Jobs and Wozniak realized the dream of a completely integrated, plug-in personal computer that ordinary people, and not just hobbyists, could use. Now, four decades later, the Apple II is not only a museum piece, but the very notion of a desktop computer is becoming antiquated, rendered obsolete by the Cloud.
My prediction about the future is that it will be different.
And if you forecast a future that is just a little bit different, you can’t possibly be correct. The genomes of myriad organisms are being sequenced, putting life itself into the realm of the engineered world. This could get interesting.