Before anyone gets out a pitchfork I have actively contributed and worked on products in the past that are part of the behemoth of services/apps/sites etc that have become mundane to me so I deserve my own criticism as well.
But the majority of launches especially for the past couple years in the media seems like the same deck chairs (mobile/social/photos/ads/etc) rearranged in a different order. Overtime Ive just lost interest in tech blogs in that I rarely see something that I'd consider genuinely interesting tech from a product or engineering or consumer perspective. Maybe I'm just getting old?
On the other hand if I'm not out of touch it seems like it could be a great time to step out of 'traditional' consumer tech and push on some of the 'new' things like 3D printing, robotics, computer vision, etc as well as seek out applications towards other industries (education, health, food, etc.)
I guess I realized Pebble was exciting because it was a new platform with new opportunities and possibilities. I think that explains a lot of the excitement around the upcoming "SmartTV" frontier too. Even mobile is still young enough that new, exciting applications are still pushing boundaries and blowing minds - though it's maturing rapidly.
But as far as classic web products - the web is a much, much more mature canvas with much more solidified players. Of course it'll lose some of that excitement, naturally...
Totally agree. We have reached screen saturation. All the text and pictures we want. (We've had audio saturation for a long time.) The future is going to be all about machines that interact with us in the real, physical world, whether for war, state oppression, work or entertainment. Calling them robots is soon going to seem quaint.
What will our future be like if we all focus our lives around little boxes in our hands rather than the vast open spaces around us?
Perhaps we should invent a future where the technology are the tools we use to enhance our life, not control our life. In Star Trek, people weren't addicted to PADDs or spend every living moment in the Holo Deck. In fact the episodes where technology controlled people, we recognized the technology as evil.
Invent something to enhance our lives, not control them.
1. Perhaps Star Trek is an unrealistic prediction of how man will interact with technology in the future.
2. Perhaps your (and the author's) view of things is skewed by selection bias. I.e. you're around people that are more 'addicted' to technology than others.
3. You're forgetting that in Star Trek the human race has had a sort of epiphany centered around first contact with an alien species.
It was a show defined by the 80's/90's, with several plotlines that could have been resolved by someone having an iPhone in their pocket, or by the Enterprise having smart drones.
There were only a couple of episodes that dealt with holodeck addiction, and just one or two in which the holodeck was used to its full potential: as a reconfigurable-on-the-fly work space that can tie into ship-systems, and either show or replicate any hardware or display you describe verbally.
If the holodeck were a real thing, I would rarely come out of there. I'd just make real friends inside other holodecks, and we'd spend our lives learning and creating stuff. It would be an enormous social problem.
60's StarTrek tech doesn't count. Although Kirk's stylus/pad for signatures is not unlike the UPS guy's… and I'll bet Uhura's metallic ear slab was bluetooth.
Its anyone's guess how much innovation the next decade will bring in energy and biotech. But as for IT, my money is on the opportunities that will come from bridging the digital divide (emerging markets).
The Wired article "Want to become an Internet billionaire? Move to Africa" didn't get much interest from HN though it was also covered in Forbes. The informal economy (as written about in Stealth of Nations: The Global Rise of the Informal Economy by Robert Neuwirth) is an oft-overlooked angle which should be particularly interesting, as it intersects more and more with an expanding global internet.
- Google launched in 1998, people realized how revolutionary it was by around 2000.
- Facebook launched in 2004, it took till about 2007 for people to realize how game-changing its going to be.
- IPhone launched in 2007, and within a year (after 3G + AppStore was launched) it was clear that this is game-changing.
My point is: It could very well be that the next game-changer is already out there and we just don't know it yet. What could it be? Well I don't know... Google self-driving car? Khan Academy? Square? Your guess is as good as mine.
I'm looking at new hardware like watches (Pebble), SmartTVs, and maybe Google Glasses if can be accepted culturally (more so than bluetooth headsets have been) as all potentially amazing new canvasses for creation.
Highly recommend this TED talk. It's amazingly optimistic and paints a beautiful future for technology innovation: http://www.ted.com/talks/jeff_bezos_on_the_next_web_innovati...
So, all things being equal, we should expect more people to be creating web apps (compared to other kinds of technology) than their profitability or social value would warrant.
Framing makes a big difference. If there were an established culture and set of resources for engineering or biomedical startups, they might seem less daunting.
Sorry but Social mobile local (or as people cooler than me are calling it, SoMoLo) is still pretty new. You're just going to have to "suffer" through a little more.
I get the author's point that it seems like the same things are getting made and funded over and over. But with only about 1/2 the U.S. pop. owning smartphones, you can't blame people too much for trying to stake their claim. Anything more innovative might be too early anyways.
If the author is simply bored of taking pictures on a phone and beaming them halfway around the world because it's now commonplace... I'm sorry, I don't know what to tell you. There will be another shiny new toy invented that will be another great extension or augmentation of the human experience for you to enjoy in a few years, doubtlessly. So cheer up.
One thing I know is true: All of these things that are being built on the internet and the internet itself.. They are just different vehicles for human expression; they are all extensions of the human thought, the human environment; all facets of ourselves as a species.
I think the author of this article flounders about in coming up with what is "next" because they don't really understand the reasons why the successful products appeared in the first place:
Nobody at Facebook invented the idea that humans like to be in contact with each other.
Nobody at Pinterest came up with the idea that humans collect things that they find interesting. Humans have been doing that for as long as we've been around.
Nobody at Instagram invented the idea that humans are creatures who crave artistic expression. When we didn't have canvas or quill or a camera, we painted on cave walls.
All of these companies just fascilitated a need that was already there, whether people were concious of it or not. I would argue that these products were inevitable, it was just a matter of who would get there first.
If you want to try to answer the obtuse question of "What is next", a question that comes from a confused origin.... You only have to study human nature. That would be my answer. If the author is soliciting advise about the next hot startup to invest in, that's a totally different ballgame.
The picture of the last 20 years is not rosy. Computer technology has advanced a lot, sure, but when I read things from the 70's it seems that there was a more enlightened society back then. I heartily agree with rohern's sentiment.
It's a societal problem. Even though a lot of people would love to work on really new and bold and innovative things, it's impossible to do if society doesn't enable it. For example if your project is immediately shot down due to legal reasons, or not financed out of fear or conservatism.
Yes, the past 30 years have been an amazing whirlwind of development of consumer computing technology. Yes, things won't be jumping by leaps and bounds the way they were when the basic hardware and bandwidth were getting up to speed. The latest social app is not going to blow you away the same way, say, the invention of the Internet did when you first discovered it. But I'm sure it pales in comparison to the wow-factor of the telegraph when it was first invented.
We live in a time when computing technology has filtered out to the mass populace. It is an interesting time to be sure. But we are just scratching the surface of what is possible with computers. There is tons of work to be done to refine the art of computation, which I believe ends with creating AI that can do things we are incapable of doing as humans. That is still a very long way off.
And assuming all goes smoothly without any major natural disasters or self-destruction, after that, there will be a new chapter in human existence where I believe we will have to come to grips with having automated everything and no longer having to employee people en masse. Where will we find meaning once the struggle to survive is pushed so far from our daily concerns?
The point is things are constantly evolving, and there is no chance that things are about to get boring. "Web", "Social", and "Mobile" are only "done" if you are tech pundit looking to summarize the state of the world in a tidy 800 words. The reality is that these things are just building blocks whose novelty has worn off, but whose ultimate utility is far from being realized.
I'm not too worried, change is accelerating and the wows will keep on coming. Five years from now should look more different from today then today looks compared to 2007. The main dangers are monopolistic predator companies, walled gardens, and government intrusion. Other than that, we will continue being blown away for years to come.
Imagine tablet devices or similar technology that provide individualized, adaptive teaching programs that exhibit techniques that allowed students to progress each at their own pace, using highly innovative and entertaining forms of education.
Imagine all progress (and regress) made by the student as a form of continual testing and as gates to increasingly more complex subjects, with programs that adapt to a student’s areas of weakness (and strengths), hitting at core concepts from different angles and in ways that appeal to that individuals ideal method of learning, until that student was able to progress to the next concept, or skip and then revisit once a complementary concepts is are understood that would augment that student’s ability to master the concept they skipped earlier.
Imagine technological innovation that allowed us to take a less linear approach to certain subjects, which is the only method today given the constraints of 1:* teacher:students and the invisible “bar” which forces certain students to move at the lowest common denominator pace, while taxing other students to keep, such as those that have difficulty learning in the cookie cutter way.
Imagine applications that blend multiple subjects (math, science, history), presenting the material not using your standard “preach at you” teaching technique, but instead using role-based or video game style interactive learning that makes the kid WANT to study, gets excited about the subject.
Envision a system where the best teachers become the product managers that formulate the logic and program flow for those innovative applications, and your run-of-the-mill teacher becomes a custodian for keeping things under control while the students interact with their devices, and of course, with each other, as social interaction is essential for their well-being as well.
Sure there would be many hurdles, not the least of these being teachers unions and the hurdle of changing centuries of preconceived notions of how education should be accomplished, but hey, the author asked for what the next revolutionary idea could be, and a transformation in education with technology at its core has my vote.
Some areas of life require a delicate moderation of technology, and education is one of them. Anyone who drools over education as a "start-up opportunity" likely hasn't done their research.
Care to explain why? The GP had some valid points and your rebuttal is that he or she 'hasn't done their research,' without making a single valid point. The metaphor about 'watching people interact with tablets' is not at all what GP mentioned. He suggested that teachers design what interactions take place, and take a proactive role in ensuring that their interactions are effective, while still injecting 'human' aspects of teaching.
This is exactly my point. Those who work with software/tech/etc often trivialize the relationship between software and people who hold completely different societal roles. No matter how intuitive you make an application, no matter how effective you seem to think your application enhances learning, there will always be a vast number of people (in this case, teachers) who have not the time, nor the desire, to "design" a set of "interactions" for their student.
Are there effective teaching aids available for tablets? Yes. Does that translate to a need for technology-guided learning in more aspects of education? Absolutely not.
The OP talks about "a complete reset on education with technology at its core." I stand by my point; this is a dangerous idea. And you don't have to believe me, most any teacher will tell you this is a bad idea. Teacher flexibility and intuition is (usually) right; software isn't going to magically determine a child's academic strengths and weaknesses.
Education is not some cookie-cutter problem you can fix with a well-designed app.
We are all going to disagree about how much tech is too much in education. On the other hand, very few disagree that tech has no place in hospitals, the enterprise, supply chain management, etc. That alone illustrates to me how ridiculous it is to treat education as a space needing a "reset."
The high demand for education due to complete institutional failures in the developing world and the reduced cost of learning and coordination that the Internet provides will make students there extremely receptive to new ways of learning as soon as it becomes affordable. Sufficient penetration of the mobile phone and the tablet computer in these populations will be the vehicle for this change. I wonder if this penetration could put some of these developing countries in a position to leapfrog old ways of learning and ramp up both enthusiasm around learning and skill acquisition.
Imagine a responsive system that negotiates the route between your present-state knowledge and skills and your (or your school’s or your job’s…) learning goals. Such a system requires a profile of your current knowledge and skills, a map of the declarative and procedural knowledge and skills that fulfill the learning goals, and a logic engine to reconcile the two.
Etoys in Squeak. Alan Kay has some presentations about them.
| Decades ago, the answer was, "Build the Internet." Fifteen years ago, it was, "Build the Web." Five years ago, the answers were probably, "Build the social network"
In other words, when you read near future sci fi and think, "that's a cool piece of plausible tech that I really want right now!" what is it?
"We are prosthetic gods." That quote dates back farther than you might think. Printing, telecom, radio, the internet, the web, the social network, the smart phone... all of these take the sum of human knowledge/experience and inch it slightly closer to my brain.
The next step is to have it rest right against my temple while we debate whether or not to break out the scalpel.
Hate to jump on the bandwagon, but I'm ready for the Goggles. Google's commercials don't scrape the surface of what it could mean to have internet-enabled constant-on cameras on everyone's face, for better and worse. But that's the next space I want to explore.
Everyone is convinced -- because the people who work in marketing are happy because they can sell ads -- that social media is an important thing. It is not.
Social media is people doing what they were already doing, only more often and anywhere. Flirting with girls, talking with friends, etc. Making these activities digital is not changing society or improving lives. It is the same society and the same lives, with more time spent on these activities. Never has anyone gone to bed thinking "Gosh, I wish I had spent more time looking at funny pictures of strangers today." People often go to bed regretting not doing what they could have done when instead they were on Facebook and Twitter and [insert the names of 90% of the startups you have heard of].
Every founder will go on and on about "changing the world" if you let him. This is as if changing the world were something worth doing for its own sake. If you see a problem that is worth fixing and you fix it, then the change effected is important and even virtuous. But the key is that problem must be worth solving. Just because a petulant and spoiled American wants his iced mocha faster does not mean that speeding up sales of mocha is a worthy problem. Can you make money doing it? Probably.
I went to school to become an engineer (I'm 24) because I thought that computers and the internet were going to make invention and innovation possible even for people who did not work for industrial laboratories. Maybe the hugely reduced barriers to entry into the technology sector that resulted from cheap computers and good programming tools would lead young and eager people of brilliance to found ambitious companies to finally -- aren't we all sick of being exasperated by the mediocrity of culture and politics in the past 20 years? -- steer human life into better modes of existence and a new frontier of boldness. Sure, the internet cannot do this all on its own, but is such a powerful and promising tool, that maybe it would start things.
This has not happened. There are a few gems like SpaceX and Willow Garage that seek out challenge in this way, but they are doing it independent of the cheapness and openness that computers now allow. Worse, many of the companies that have been founded are dedicated to aggressively ruining the internet by making it a place for sucking up private information, showing ads, and selling the same old useless junk.
What it seems to me this article is about is that innovation in technology right now is about money, not about betterment. A billion dollars was just spent on Instagram. To do what? If you are so in the bubble of the "startup world" that you do not see the self-evident absurdity of a situation in which that is a possible and reasonable event, you are become blinded.
Stop thinking like a marketer and think like an inventor with balls. Stop trying to get rich unless you are getting rich by doing something that is worth doing.
I write this as someone who honestly loves technology, hacking, the hacker ethic, and HN, but I walk around Palo Alto every day being slowly crushed by disappointment. The problem is not that the good hackers are being spread across too many companies, it is that too many companies are not doing things worthy of hackers.
That is completely wrong from my experience. By the same logic the mobile phone didn't improve anything because you could already call people on land lines (and indeed, people argued exactly that). E-mail didn't improve anything, rather it was damaging, because people stopped writing letters.
Facebook has improved my life. A lot. It has enabled (not enhanced, enabled) loose but very enjoyable contact with acquaintances I hadn't seen for ten years. The light-weight way of staying in touch is perfect for keeping associated with my network in my former city after I moved. I get a steady stream of pics and status updates from my sister and her kids. People I've met travelling years ago suddenly mention they're coming through my city, and we catch up, or vice versa.
All of these COULD be facilitated using pre-Facebook technology, but pre-Facebook experiences suggests that they didn't.
I agree though, we need more of these companies. I think of all the things that we could be doing, and I remember how I used to want to change the world before running a business got in the way. Sometimes you need an opportunity that puts you in a position to do something that truly fulfils your dreams, as Elon Musk did with PayPal.
Can only hope some of us are observant enough to have our preparation meet with opportunity.
I know I have. Many more times than I care to admit.
>it is that too many companies are not doing things worthy of hackers.
Excellent. And since I always ask this question of people who lament the status quo:
What did you have in mind?
Make personal analytics useful (something like http://www.engadget.com/2012/03/09/stephen-wolfram-reveals-t..., but in a way that is actually useful to normal people).
Link the offline and online into one seamless reality (google glass)
If I had to dream about the future and what it should be we're aiming for, it'd be joint universal augmented network access. I want to live in a world like this one --> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denno_Coil
Conceptually, I think this is similar to the last-mile broadband problem - it's not economical to lay fiber to the customer's home unless the customer lives in an urban/reasonably densely populated area. Similarly, if you want to go from transport hub to transport hub (bus/rail station, airport etc.) that's no problem, but getting from the transport hub to your home ranges from expensive and awkward to impossible, depending on how far you live from the transport hub.
Self-driving cars solve this problem. Who cares if you have a 100 mile commute, if you can snooze all the way? Just order the car for a set time every morning to allow enough time for the drive and go back to sleep on the way.
Compare Europe and New York's Tri-State-Area to Boston or BART.
So while I don't necessarily expect people to have something in mind, I always hope they do.
Small data. My data. A 1999 google like interface into an index of me: my email, my documents, images and video that I've collected. Nice to haves would be a copy of the various conversations I have had on third party social media sites.
This index should be set up in a way that I can easily include a copy of it in my Trust that will pass my assets to my daughter (note - I am increasingly thinking that the raw data, much of what either lives in the cloud or gets backed up to CrashPlan, is an asset that should be part of the an Estate that gets passed to the next generation). She should be able to add to it when she is a old enough and (if I am so lucky) my grandchildren's grandchildren should be able to search for vague terms in the stories that their great grandmother (my daughter) told them when they were young. They will get links to relevant emails or documents that help them explore the past. They will be able to see the connections between images takes a the same time or location in a way that lets them explore their history. As I understand this tool better I will be able to narrate a one way version of my story to those of future generations.
As I said above, a tool like this would solve my problem. Do you think it would be useful to a computer literate, smart but non hacker/programmer type? Any ideas on how you think one should approach this problem?
I hate to sound all Statler-and-Waldorf on you, but DO-HO-HO-HO!!!!!
Technology is not going to change our social system. Our technology is fine and dandy. Our social system is increasingly shitty.
So the real question is: how do you take anti-profitable activities like fixing our social system (ie: wealth redistribution) and make them profitable?
It's a useful tool that I use every day for organizing meetups and, in my opinion, is superior to a mailing list in pretty much every single way.
My local reddit users group has almost 1000 members in it, and has no branched into several "sub groups" [a book club, a film club, a music club, a workout club, and a hacker club]. Just now before reading this, I found a movie to go to tonight with somebody, committed to start reading a book with somebody else, and got invited to an event this Friday.
Oh, and somebody who is planning an event for this Saturday asked me to RSVP.
Last weekend our group had a nearly 100-person strong "masquerade" at a bar in Phoenix. We pretty-much took over the bar.
None of this stuff would happen if not for facebook, and I know this because there have been active attempts within our community to push stuff back onto reddit, all of which have failed.
Facebook is a useful tool to me, and a useful tool to a lot of other people. If it disappeared tomorrow, it would effect me in a very negative way.
Did I mention that your friends list isn't private, law enforcement can get all this data at any time, and we're using all this data for business purposes?
I found somebody to go to a movie with because he posted on our film group saying:
"This film is playing in Tempe tonight, who wants to go?"
And I responded with a "Me".
>Did I mention that your friends list isn't private, law enforcement can get all this data at any time
No, and I'm glad you didn't, because that sounds like utter bullshit. "At any time"? Do you mean "With a court order"?
This "oh no I'm so scared" reaction to facebook is neo-luddism at its finest. The point at which facebook turns into a magical black box is too high for some people, and they get scared of it.
Here's the big bad secret: facebook isn't doing linguistic analysis on your messages, and if they're using information about what youtube videos I've "liked" to serve me more relevant ads, then good, I'd rather see information about bands or lecturers I'm interested in visiting Phoenix than I would about penis pills and weight loss "secrets".
The ads they show you will now be more targeted, about movies and located around Tempe. I've seen ads based on search terms in "private" conversations I've had on FB. They mine your interactions very aggressively. You'll almost certainly see that guy's posts on your "News" feed more often for a while.
"At any time"? Do you mean "With a court order"?
OK, I was a tad hyperbolic. But LEOs can search FB for "public" information about you and your friends without a court order. I put public in quotes because if you're not keeping on top of your privacy settings, you probably don't realize that some things you thought were private are actually public.
A National Security Letter would do just as well, and at least two years of data need to be at the government's disposal. Without addressing the merits of National Security Letters, I should point out that one covering your data, or many people's data, or all of Facebook's data, might arrive at any time.
>I've seen ads based on search terms in "private" conversations I've had on FB.
Why on earth would you think this was "private"? It's private to you and your friend, but you're using a third party (facebook) to facilitate the interaction.
Gmail does the exact same thing. So does amazon.
The side-effect that all this information provides an unsettlingly complete snapshot of your life, trusted to a single entity, is an inevitable byproduct. Facebook has certainly made a few mistakes, but the things people complain about aren't specific to Facebook -- they're inherent to any useful, complete social network.
Is there a consumer-friendly solution to this dilemma? I'm not sure. Privacy-wise, you can't have your cake (super-connected with your friends) and eat it too (keep the site from knowing about all those connections).
Also, having you paying money would probably be less beneficial to Facebook, as I'm sure they can make more money from advertising.
I'm not trying to defend FB here but it is worth remembering that they've reached 800million people so they've obviously got something right. The question people should consider is at what cost to themselves.
Just thought it was funny though - that your local Reddit group convenes on Facebook. I thought the self-serve subreddit platform was made for that micro-community purpose! ;)
And people use pictures of themselves as identifiers. It's a lot easier to recognize people based on faces than it is to recognize them based on silly usernames.
I mean...these are people that I regularly interact with in real life. I get the pseudo-anonymity for reddit proper, but non-anonymized interactions on facebook are good.
I'm an organizer too, and when Facebook's new group system came out (Was it a year ago now? Facebook time is it's own reality...) its functionality was just perfect.
Little things like Facebook's group system - I feel like there's a million different innovations on Facebook that all blow my mind. We were hacking a jomsocial social network at one time as a hobby project... Every time FB launched something we just couldn't help but laugh at how simple they made it all seem.
Guess it all ties back in to your original point. Facebook. Respect.
You could have said that about AOL or CompuServe or any other of several previous market leaders. for that matter, people managed to have social lives prior to the advent of the internet; the media of communication were things like posters, bulletin boards (as in large pieces of wood), small ads, magazines and so on. I don't think the article is picking on FB particularly, it's just the company that happens to be on top of the social networking pile right now. What the author is getting at is that things have sort of plateaued for the time being and it's not obvious where the fundamental innovation is coming from, so in the meantime you're seeing a lot of cargo cultism.
Think of what we have now as a large-scale version of the pre-web internet, which was much more limited in scope than that of today, but internally quite well connected as long as you were content to adopt a unix-y way of looking at things. The advent of the browser upended all that, but at the very beginning it was quite clunky and a lot of people thought it might be a problem in search of a solution. To my mind, the proliferation of APIs and attempts to establish platforms is quite similar to past stages of development. Facebook is not the problem; it's the curremt least bad solution to the problem (for many people). I'll cannibalize a recent comment on another thread  to sum up why:
Avid Facebook users want their content within Facebook's standardized UI and relatively well-curated system. Like AOL, Facebook is the online equivalent of the mall - somewhat bland, but fairly clean, safe, and above all well-organized. Myspace was just as technically impressive as Facebook back in the day, but because it included a host of customization options it wound up looking like a shopping district that had gone to seed and was covered in bad graffiti and flyposters. You could tell it was doomed when some people were making a business out of selling sparkly animated gifs as page backgrounds. Myspace was so freely customizable that browsing and navigation ended up becoming a chore for visitors; you'd go to someone's page, loud music would start, and you'd be frantically looking for the transport/volume controls - like multimedia Geocities. With Facebook you never get lost as a visitor, and if the site limits a page owner's visual expression somewhat, the same is true for everyone else so you're not at a real disadvantage.
So what is the problem, exactly? Platform fragmentation. I spend most of my social internet time on Hacker News and Metafilter, and on a few other forums to a lesser degree. It's probably not an accident that these are among the least visually crufty and feature-rich social sites on the web; HN doesn't even allow inline hyperlinks. I personally share things mostly by cutting and pasting URLs. I maintain very little presence on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or (insert your favorite thing here) because of the transactional overhead. All social sites involve Conversations with persistent Communities of People about Stuff, and I've capitalized those 4 elements because they're like the legs of a table and can be captured within relatively simple data structures.
Platform fragmentation is the fact of all these different services having distinct identities. From an individual human point of view what matters is this conversation, the social groups we are in, you and I as persons, and this substantive topic. We could be having this conversation on Facebook, G+, Twitter (in very fragmented form) or wherever. What makes HN unique is the stuff people want to talk about and the group of people with overlapping interests. The actual mechanisms of displaying and posting are incidental. to my mind they should be wholly transparent, in the same way that I don't care about exactly which routers this message goes through to reach you, or where those switches and servers are located, or who manufactured them or wrote the firmware. We've abstracted away the hardware layer, and in my perfect world we'd now abstract away the UI layer as well. On the other hand, you could make the argument that NNTP and Usenet have ultimately failed to fulfill their potential because of a tragedy-of-the-commons problem; it's so public that it's hard to curate, and it's not obvious how to make money out of it.
PS: also a problem for RSS. The browser is, at its core, a page rendering interface, just as a terminal is a highly interactive text interface. That's great, because we are very clever at putting things on pages. But what we need now is a network traversal interface.
Revolutionary innovation is at least partially random and obviously much higher risk. It often comes as a result of many people iterating many times on the same-old-same-old.
This article really seems to do nothing other than state the obvious and offers no real suggestions or directions for where to go or what to do next. Oh right, biotech, cure for cancer, end hunger, solve the energy crisis, etc. Because no one has tried or is trying to solve those, and they are clearly as easy as figuring out how to get people to share photos of themselves.
an astute article. One thing not addressed here is the failure of the Smantic Web paradigm to really take off; I don't know whether this is because of a lack of critical mass in the quantity of semantically coded data or the immaturity of ontology frameworks or something else - my best guess being that the browser is no more suitable to traversal of the semantic web than FTP/ Archie/ Veronica/ Gopher were suitable browsing tools for hyperterxt - although each solved 'part of the puzzle.'
Another thing is that huge ontological databases actually exist, it's just that no one seems to be able to use them for anything useful. Knowledge bases and formal reasoning over them used to be a big deal in AI.
This comes from someone who tried to do a startup that essentially tried to incentivize creating semantic data. It's a hard earned lesson, but I now have zero belief that manual formalization of data is ever going to take off. Even if lots of cool things would be possible if it did.
would be quite interested in hearing more about your startup if you want to post to HN or correspond via gmail.
But yet, adoption of SemWeb tech is growing. Google and Yahoo both rolling out their respective "rich snippets" type interfaces a couple of years ago helped a bit. Those acts raised awareness of the value of SemWeb tech and gave it a bit of a kick. I saw a post earlier today that mentioned some research showing that 25% of the HTML pages out there have embedded structured data (microformats, RDFa).
Edit: better link to specific part of the discussion that mentions the "25% of pages contain RDFa" claim:
The Khan Academy (and other free online, high quality education) is probably the most revolutionary thing that has come out of the internet in the past few years.
I don't know how much effect it has at the moment in the developing world - whether resources like that are used in the classroom and by students - but the potential for transformation is huge. There is an enormous amount of people in the world with untapped talent because of lack of access to high quality education.
Biotech, synthetic biology etc aside, I think the next thing to facilitate change in computing is portable display technology - for personal use maybe it will be Google Glass once it's a mature product. For shared use I think low cost, lightweight high res laser/LED pico projectors will take off in the next couple of years. The computer itself will be a tablet/mobile phone, either with its own display or hooked up to one of these new display devices.
Battery tech is another interesting one - once we work out how to produce cheap, high energy density, long life batteries from a natural resource that is abundant, we'll see a lot of accelerated progress in several areas.
Of course the 1st world problems of not having enough cool gadgets and software will be put into perspective when the Earth's limited food/energy resources vs growing population starts playing out for real.
>Then he hit a roadblock. A big one. Migicovsky couldn’t raise more money. Few investors were interested in betting on a hardware startup, or dealing with the headaches that often come with manufacturing goods 
Perhaps the bulk of entrepreneurs and investors are after the "quick money". I know some pure finance types currently at Tristate area hedge funds contemplating a switch to Venture Capital (I urged him to reconsider, for a variety of reasons). If hypothetically, investors pat the entrepreneur on the back for the quick flip web startup, and the entrepreneur pats the investor on the back for financing his quick flip web startup, then is it any wonder that perhaps, HW entrepreneurs get lost in the fervor?
Edit: Somewhat related: http://earlywarn.blogspot.com/2012/04/global-robot-populatio...
No, quite the opposite. If you really want to be bold about inventing the future, money is one of the things that needs to be replaced.
The internet is, in a general sense, a technology for cooperation -- for organising collective activities through shared information. Money is really just an information channel for doing that too, but it is now comparatively obsolete.
We thus have an economic system that hugely neglects the provision of commons and public goods.
We are in the age of sensors and A/D conversion. Many (not all) startups today do operate at the app layer... they are web / mobile apps etc. They produce tools that enable us to consume and produce info... at scale... we're talking millions of people are slowly but surely doing the analog-to-digital conversion for a future. At a mass scale, the result will be x,y,z,t,status,interest,social,connection connections/graphs for many things across many verticals. Privacy issues aside (they cannot be ignored, but bare with me for a second), the end result is a real-time layer on the world that exists in the digital domain, not the analog one. We are creating a world of installing "sensors" through market forces.
There is a step function in innovation (a new S-curve, if you will) that will occur at some point, that will be dependent on the world where things are digitized (the one we are creating now) in order to unlock innovation further. Not just technically, but from an adoption/diffusion/comfort level in society. We are going through that now... so the outcome ain't so bleak. At the end of this particular journey (call it a bubble, call it something else), we will have 1 billion+ people who a) are comfortable with sensors / digitizing their stuff and themselves b) and are doing it.
We are converging on a dominant design of what a digitized world looks like, through market forces! And in more recent years, the big data techniques emerging that will also be pushed by market forces. The best way to think about that is the following: In the ABSENCE of the incremental innovation (instagram of x, pinterest for y), I can imagine many future business and technology plans saying: we would like to build this technology, but it is not feasible because it requires a world where everyone is a sensor. Or even better, our new technology can change the world, but it assumes that people / things are digitized.
tl;dr: current crop of startups are creating sensors for big data and other processes. This can create future innovation opps that leverage this big data in new and profound ways. The absence of such startups is a blocker for that future class of innovation.
Hope not too incoherent... typing this at 30,000 feet in a cramped seat.
The internet of stuff is next!
A lot of the building blocks are in place, personally I think Arduino is a really big component that is driving the revolution and Kickstarter is providing a surprisingly good platform for funding it. However there's still a few missing components. One of the goals of LTE is to power this new network, but existing carrier business models don't seem appropriate. As a consumer I'm really not interested in paying $20 (or more!) a month for each my fridge, and toaster, and television, and door to be connected. Light Squared was a promising push in the right direction, which unfortunately failed.
Along the same lines of networking though, I think there's a lot of really good opportunities for low end hardware. Qualcomm dominates the market in LTE chipsets, but good luck getting access to the developer stuff as an indie user. API's tying all these components together will be essential.
So rather than an internet of stuff the new paradigm in the making will probably have something to with scarcity. No idea what, exactly, but my bet would definitely on a future of scarcity rather than a future of abundance.
We have grown attached to our electronic devices and online friends. Maybe we need to step back and think about going back?
We're "hardwired" to do everything IRL, simply because we couldn't have evoved to adapt to it in such a small period of time.
But here's others technologies that we weren't "hardwired" for, and which actually "re-wired" us: Language and Agriculture. I'm having an hard time figuring out how doesn't your argument apply to them too.
Inane chatter in real life causes your body to release hormones that make you feel good. Inane chatter on facebook not so much.
Well, I actually find inane chatter to be painful anywhere, but; the Internet is just Facebook now? I'm not hardwired to play online games, but they do make our bodies release dopamine and cortisol, even though we're not hardwired for it.
So maybe the future is indeed that we learn to take the internet for what it is: a fantastic tool for disseminating information and doing business, but nothing more.
But we're not hardwired for that either. How is that application good? Shouldn't we be transmitting information in form of songs, as it's natural?
So the challenge will be to give people meaningful ways to interact with each other in real life now that the human component has been taken out of things like education and shopping.
When was the human component taken out of things like education? And did the introduction of the web really remove a meaningful interaction, or did it just free up time that can now be spent with e.g. your family instead of with salespeople? Because that's my (anecdotal) experience.
That said, reading about SpaceX excites me much more than reading about Instagram.
The top two things which I'm waiting to see in my mobile is 1) The lightfield camera and 2) a device like the "sixth sense".