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What is a Disruptive Futurist?

Ross O. Storey | Jan. 16, 2009
MIS Asia editor Ross O. Storey asked Ian Neild to explain his job.

So, in the future, I think they will look back at our desktop PCs, our mobile phones with their fixed small screens, the DVD, plasma and LCD displays and wonder how we were able to live with them. The games experience in the future will be much more immersive; think about how the original computer games like Pong look today compared to the life-like games that children nowadays take for granted and then think how will that difference be in 10 years. Some museums already show technology from just 30 years ago and it can look ancient today, so Id expect to see even the modern technology from today appear in museums in around 10 years.

What dangers are there in people perceiving technology as magic?

Being perceived as magic is probably good as a lot of new technology suffers from stigma and has to prove it does not harm us, which can be very hard to do if there is nothing tangible to show. Most people arent interested in technology, they simply want a service, for example, they dont care if the call is over GSM or 3G or WiFi or over a pair of copper wires or a fibre. They care about where they can make that call, the quality and the cost, which is rapidly approaching zero and therefore not so important.  Ideally, the service provided should be under the customers terms in that it does what they want, when they want it and at a price they consider fair.

There is a greater danger with over-hyped technology; customers may suffer expectation shock when the technology fails to deliver or the service offering fails.  People forget how poor mobile communications used to be in terms of coverage and capacity.  It took time for networks to roll out sufficient infrastructure to cater for the explosive demand, but now most built-up areas have mobile coverage.  It would be inconceivable to bring out a new mobile device tomorrow using some new technology that was not able to use the existing network, as it would not have the same coverage as the system it was replacing; hence 3G phones can use GSM networks. A big problem for the modern company is that many services rolled out can reach a lot of customers very fast and so scalability issues can become a problem very quickly, service quality can suffer and the service offering then fail due to demand.

How do you think future technology will change politics and society overall?

The last American election has shown the world the power of current technology and it will drive every election from now on, as, increasingly, generation NET becomes a larger part of society and the new technology becomes the old.  Shopping and informatisation online is becoming the normal but online is moving from a computer at work or in the home to being something we carry with us. Imagine that the technology we carry is going to mix the real and virtual worlds; we will have ubiquitous access to information on products and services, reviews from others at our fingertips or whispered in our ears.  What did the last 10 customers to leave that restaurant think of the food and the service? Where can I find a product that does what I want that I can collect today, will work with what I already have, is made by a company that matches my ethical beliefs?


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