Next week at Intel’s Developer Forum, the company will be again showcasing its Tomorrow Project, which is arguably the most innovative and advanced effort to craft a better future that currently exists. Unlike most future-focused projects, this isn’t based on the more typical efforts to shotgun out a massive number of potential products in the hope a few will stick; rather, it’s one based on a set of human-based studies that focus more on thinking about what the future should be and then designing around that.
The difference is that the result is more likely to be one that helps us and is far less likely to wipe us out. Driven by one of the few resident futurists in the market, Brian David Johnson, and backed by Intel’s only anthropologist fellow, the impressive Dr. Genevieve Bell, this project may make the difference between whether our future technology owns us or us it.
In short, the Tomorrow Project asks the question, “What future do you want to live in?” and then attempts to answer that question. If you look back at what the 1920s imagined this century to be like versus what it actually is (it’s worth watching the video), I think you could argue we’ve needed a major project like this for at least a century.
Science Fiction Prototyping
At the core of this project is a concept called Science Fiction Prototyping and this is a process where authors create imaginary future worlds that make use of coming technologies. This allows them to craft out not only the benefits, but problems inherent in them so that these problems can be better anticipated. Also, by creating complete stories surrounding known coming products, you can better anticipate the other offerings, hardware, software and services that will be needed.
From an investor standpoint, it also gives you a potential road map to the kinds of companies that might wax or wane during these future times and suggests the kinds of firms that could become the next Apple, Microsoft or Google.
From a political standpoint, these stories, because they tend to showcase both the proper and improper use of future technology, can anticipate what will be needed in laws and regulations and help regulators be less reactive and more proactive.
And, finally, from a parent and child’s perspective, these can highlight future careers that may emerge and help determine what kind of skills will be needed in the anticipated future, as well as what skills may no longer be relevant.
In concert with the showcase at IDF in September of 2012, I’ll be personally participating in the latest story anthology (you can download the last anthology here — ours isn’t up yet) and talking about my stories on stage on Monday and Thursday at IDF along with the other authors. I understand free copies of the anthology will be given out during IDF as well.
My two stories focus on very different subjects; the first the likely coming of real-time animation and how it might be used as a way to get people to see past events differently. It’s a bit of a romance and an easy read.
The second story is a bit more ambitious and looks at several things. I expand forward and explore how the Lifeboat Foundation’s AI Shield project might evolve and what a world would be like where sensors could recreate what the expected massive coverage by cameras didn’t cover. I also explore an extension of an existing DoD project that has the ability to change people into something far more capable and likely a bit less human.
Both were a ball to write and I likely will be doing more of this (assuming they let me) in the future.
“If you want to predict the future, invent it” is variation of a quote from technology luminary Alan Kay and it is from 1971 at Xerox PARC where the PC was first born. Given Intel is the dominant technology player in the PC market today and faces, as do all technology vendors, an uncertain future, it is important the company helps guide it to assure its continued success and even survival. The Tomorrow Project and its forward-thinking founders, Genevieve Bell and David Johnson, with the full support and encouragement of Intel’s forward-thinking CTO, Justin Rattner, are assuring that future.
I’m just pleased I could be a small part of the effort. If you are at IDF on Monday or Thursday, be sure to stop by the Tomorrow Project sessions or Justin’s keynote. You won’t be disappointed and you may get a view of a rather interesting and, I hope, compelling future.