September 28, 2022

The human mind has a specific talent for extrapolation.  That is, it has the propensity to project current events and technologies along a straight timeline with a constant slope into the future, predicting what the future will look like, and when it will occur.

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Unfortunately, this talent is frequently vastly inaccurate.  History and human events rarely follow a straight line.  Some technological advancements occur on an exponential or geometric curve, while others flatline.

In the 1960’s, it was widely predicted that we would all be flying around in jetpacks and flying cars like the Jetsons by 1980. 

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The 1968 movie 2001: A Space Odyssey had us flying to Jupiter by 2001 in an advanced spacecraft controlled by an AI computer.

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On the other hand, the original Star Trek (1965 – 1969) , while taking place in the 23rd century had them using crude flip-phone communicators.  The transporter beams were pretty cool, though.  Who knows if we could ever get that technology to work?

The point is that humans continually overestimate the ability of technology to meet their inflated expectations.  This is especially true when politics is part of the mix.

I have personally experienced this phenomenon many times in my line of work.  I was involved with teams of businesspeople attempting to design advanced electronic business systems over the past forty years.

Over and over, the same scenarios emerged.  Each team member would throw up a fantasy wish-list of impossible system operations and objectives until my head spun.  No one could be dissuaded that their desires were not feasible with the current state of technology.  The consultants and business system development companies would inevitably take the money and run, leaving us with products that were substandard or nonexistent.

I was a member of senior management in a division of a global corporation in the early 1980’s.  Our division had a great reputation for designing and building complex electronic medical devices.  One day, we were visited by several senior scientists from corporate headquarters.  They wanted to know if a new product they desired was feasible.

They showed us a wooden model of a small wearable insulin pump with painted-on displays and buttons.  It had tiny removable wooden memory cards that plugged into it.  Today, these micro cards are common.  Back then, Atari game cartridges were the smallest data chips available.  They told us a development company said they could design the product and put it into production in six months.