This was the unknowable future once

Looking for something else, I have just stumbled across some notes I took from a book I was reading almost exactly ten years ago (and which had been published that year). Normally I try hard to give proper attribution to quotations, but this time it might be kinder not to:

It seems clear that, unlike mainframes, PCs and the internet, mobile systems are not going to become the dominant platform anytime soon, and are unlikely to fundamentally alter the way that businesses and other organisations are run.  In other words, despite all that can and will be done with mobile systems, the wired internet will remain the more important economic force.

If forced to make a choice, how many of us would give up our PCs and keep our Palm Pilot, Pocket PC or screen phone?  Not many I think.  And it is this inherent subordination that makes it hard for wireless systems to become the IT industry’s overall centre of gravity.

It’s easy to point and laugh. But I don’t think I wrote those lines down because I thought them self-evidently stupid – though I can’t actually remember, so I may be underestimating my own prescience. More importantly, it prompts a nagging question: which of the assumptions we make today will look like folly by 2023?

The same set of notes also has a line from Clay Shirky (the source of which has survived, rather to my surprise):

Whenever people see a numerical measurement, they will change their behavior to increase the numbers, no matter what they are, or whether they have any intrinsic value.

That one feels rather more timeless. That’s not altogether surprising. Human nature is rather more constant than the tools through which we express it.