You can't really tell how a new technology will transform the world until it becomes commonplace

When it comes to new technologies, we tend to obsess over the early adopters. The so-called cutting edge. But you can't really tell how a technology is going to change the world until you see it in the hands of the late adopters, argues Paintwork author Tim Maughan in a fascinating new interview about augmented reality with the Huffington Post:

Technology becomes the most effective — and thus potentially the most damaging, for want of a better word — when it passes that novelty stage and becomes mundane and commonplace. The way smartphones have radically changed the way we lead our daily lives is perhaps the most recent example.

I'm sure most people reading this can remember when the first iPhone was launched, and how exciting and revolutionary it seemed: the mobile always on connectivity, the display, the touch screen and form factor. Now, they seem utterly mundane, ubiquitous. They're dull even. It's impossible to walk around any populated area pretty much anywhere on the planet without seeing dozens of them being used by all manner of people. And, the first iPhone was released just in 2007. It's been an incredibly short six years from revolutionary product launch to utterly mundane ubiquity.

And few of us have had time to pause and think about the effect it has had on us, either as individuals or society. What effect has the easy, constant connectivity had on our work or family lives? Combined with the explosion of social media — another very rapid groundbreaking-to-mundane cycle — what effect has that had on how we view the people around us? Or, physically far away from us? What effect has that had on how we view communication, discussion and debate?

When it comes to judging how technology effects us there's an understandable tendency to look at the bleeding edge, at first adopters and hackers, those that take the plunge and dive in. I think it's a tendency in part by academics and journalists to want to be seen as 'cool-hunters', finding the latest trends and speculating about what they could develop into. Always interesting stuff, but I'm not convinced the so-called cutting edge is as obvious as it seems. ...

We can all talk about the cutting edge possibilities of new technology, but the truth is until it becomes commonplace and in the hands of a massive range of people we can't tell how it will be used. I don't want to bruise anyone's geek-pride here (okay, maybe I do a little) but being an early adopter only makes you special for a short while, and on your own you're not going to make any paradigm shifts. By definition you need everyone else with you to do that.

The whole interview is worth checking out. [Huffington Post]

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