what's the latest bandwagon?

November 18th, 2005

Well, it's not really the latest because it's been around for at least a decade. Recall the moment you first heard about "intelligent homes"? As you come home, there are sensors in the walls which identify you and maintain a physical atmosphere just the way you want it to be, by tuning the temperature of the room, the humidity, the level of daylight (and lighting as a whole), displaying your favorite painting on the digital canvas, playing your favorite music in the background and so on and so forth. Now, in order to not be too absolute, I can imagine there is a niche market for these solutions and there may be a small group of people who've already had this for 15 years. But for the rest of us, we're nowhere near there and it's not gonna come for at least a decade.

Meanwhile, whenever a new scientific idea is announced, journalists love to jump on the bandwagon to declare that our future holds a whole new world for us. Most recently, Teknisk Ukeblad broke the news saying that the future is not in IT, it's in "instruments". Indeed the translation is unfortunate, what they meant is that we expect all kinds of instruments around us imminently, in the form of signal processors and alike, which will rule our world. This also includes the much maligned Third Generation (3G) cell phones and other consumer electronics keeping us online and up-to-date at all times. To say nothing of 3G and the fiasco that it has been so far for lack of interest on the market (except in Japan where they are way ahead of us as usual), it hardly seems plausible that there is a monumental change coming anytime soon, given how consistent these voices have been over the years, while the "electronic evolution" has in comparison been quite modest.

The point is that one new technology, one new bright idea, does not change the world by itself. It takes years of development and refinement, not to mention a market prepared to include these new products, to actually make a change. And so it annoys me that whenever someone makes an exciting technological discovery, a lot of people are ready to prophetize that the Star Trek era is imminent.

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2 Responses to "what's the latest bandwagon?"

  1. Erik says:

    I remember the solar panel (or some crucial and significant improvement of it) a number of years back. By the year 2010; we would all have solar panel roofs on our houses.

    I like the idea but let's face it; not gonna happen

  2. numerodix says:

    Actually, the story there is that solar panels are just too expensive. People who have them will set aside some part of their roof for it but noone will actually cover the whole roof with them because it's a big enough investment as it is. Then there is the issue of storing the power for when you need it, which is not straightforward either.

    Good example!