The Future of Work

Just try to live at the edge of the future. Be the power user of whatever you’re interested in and then things will be obvious to you.

- Paul Graham

INTRODUCTION

How is it that on some rare occasions - as if by divine intervention - some people are able to see the future? 

These titans of industry who are able to successfully predict the course and evolution of several industries and either shape them to their needs, or find a way to fit within them.

Is it a skill? Is it luck? Can it be learnt? 

Here’s a clip of Bill Gates explaining the internet to David Letterman in 1995 that has recently resurfaced and gone viral (in tech/startup circles at least):

Here’s another example, this time from an interview with Steve Jobs - in Playboy of all places:

Playboy: What will change?

Jobs: The most compelling reason for most people to buy a computer for the home will be to link it into a nationwide communications network. We’re just in the beginning stages of what will be a truly remarkable breakthrough for most people—as remarkable as the telephone.

Playboy: Specifically, what kind of breakthrough are you talking about?
Jobs: I can only begin to speculate. We see that a lot in our industry: You don’t know exactly what’s going to result, but you know it’s something very big and very good.

Playboy: Then for now, aren’t you asking home-computer buyers to invest $3000 in what is essentially an act of faith?

steve-jobs-rolling-stone

Jobs: In the future, it won’t be an act of faith. The hard part of what we’re up against now is that people ask you about specifics and you can’t tell them. A hundred years ago, if somebody had asked Alexander Graham Bell, “What are you going to be able to do with a telephone?” he wouldn’t have been able to tell him the ways the telephone would affect the world. He didn’t know that people would use the telephone to call up and find out what movies were playing that night or to order some groceries or call a relative on the other side of the globe. But remember that first the public telegraph was inaugurated, in 1844. It was an amazing breakthrough in communications. You could actually send messages from New York to San Francisco in an afternoon. People talked about putting a telegraph on every desk in America to improve productivity. But it wouldn’t have worked. It required that people learn this whole sequence of strange incantations, Morse code, dots and dashes, to use the telegraph. It took about 40 hours to learn. The majority of people would never learn how to use it. So, fortunately, in the 1870s, Bell filed the patents for the telephone. It performed basically the same function as the telegraph, but people already knew how to use it. Also, the neatest thing about it was that besides allowing you to communicate with just words, it allowed you to sing.

And finally, from the documentary General Magic, then CEO Marc Perot said of this new device they were working on (timestamp of 8:56 if you want to check it out - highly recommended):

“There comes a moment where for some reason, you are in the future. And you see something very, very clearly. You just see it. That’s what happened to me. And I went into the future and I saw the world which I thought was very real, and very tangible. and I stood in that moment inside it. And I looked around it - me - and it was there. It was all there. It was basically the General Magic vision. ”

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