From the past, imagining a connected future

Twenty-nine years ago, a National Science Foundation report imagined a connected future in 1998. In doing so, researchers accurately predicted the Internet, telecommuting, e-commerce and social media.

On this date 29 years ago, the National Science Foundation released a report predicting that the home of the future -- one at the turn of the century -- will have one- and two-way information systems called "teletext" and "videotex" that will "penetrate deeply into daily life" and have a "profound effect" on society, according to a New York Times article published at the time.

They didn't know the half of it.

Or did they? The NSF report went on to describe a phenomenon that eerily mimics the world today:

Family life is not limited to meals, weekend outings, and once-a-year vacations. Instead of being the glue that holds things together so that family members can do all those other things they're expected to do - like work, school, and community gatherings -the family is the unit that does those other things, and the home is the place where they get done. Like the term 'cottage industry,' this view might seem to reflect a previous era when family trades were passed down from generation to generation, and children apprenticed to their parents. In the 'electronic cottage,' however, one electronic 'tool kit' can support many information production trades.'

With more than a quarter-century ahead of them, the researchers still were able to predict:

  • An emerging online platform ("the marriage of two older technologies, communications and computing")
  • Telecommuting ("The home will double as a place of employment, with men and women conducting much of their work at the computer terminal")
  • E-commerce ("Home-based shopping will permit consumers to control manufacturing directly, ordering exactly what they need for ‘production on demand’'")
  • Social media ("Friends, peer groups and alliances will be determined electronically, creating classes of people based on interests and skills rather than age and social class")

...not to mention the privacy and cultural issues that result from this burgeoning invention.

It's an incredible look forward, looking back. And it's worth looking into.

Study Says Technology Could Transform Society [NYT]

[via Poynter]

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com