baked byJohn Allsopp
It can take less than a decade for a prescient, profound, clever observation to become hackneyed (well worth considering in itself), as it must be said has William Gibson’s observation in just 2003, that “future is already here—it’s just not evenly distributed”.
I think we as early adopters, tinkerers, hackers, too often recite this with a kind of smugness—yes, the future has a arrived, and I’m living it—you plebs just haven’t grokked it yet.
But just because the future is not evenly distributed, indeed precisely because it is not evenly distributed, it’s not just ours to have and to hold.
Take the “future of money”. We geeks with our squares and stripes and NFCs might think we are living in the future of money. But these are just incremental improvements, making it easy to use government issued currency, backed by banks and credit card companies and the entire traditional economic edifice. It’s not the future, it’s just a slightly more convenient present.
But when we pull our head out of our developed backside, we’ll see systems like M-Pesa, a truly transformative payment system with profound, often unforseen consequences from sub-Saharan Africa to the subcontinent.
M-Pesa reminded me of the story of Keralan fisherman, and the profound and positive transformation in their lives wrought by the introduction of the mobile phone, first brought to my attention by the fantastic Mark Pesce some years ago, and covered at the Economist.
While we too often use the extraordinary capabilities of the technologies that are emerging around us all the time for trivial purposes, elsewhere, these are transforming lives, countries, whole regions.
So maybe instead of focussing on what is happening in the Valley, or the Bay Area, we should be focussing on what is happening in Kenya, Cambodia, and the other places where the future has also unevenly arrived?