sexta-feira, janeiro 04, 2008
Aberto, Móvel e Lento ? - Tendências Tecnológicas do "The Economist"
Three fearless predictions
1. Surfing will slow
PEERING into Tech.view’s crystal ball, the one thing we can predict with at least some certainty is that 2008 will be the year we stop taking access to the internet for granted. The internet is not about to grind to a halt, but as more and more users clamber aboard to download music, video clips and games while communicating incessantly by e-mail, chat and instant messaging, the information superhighway sometimes crawls with bumper-to-bumper traffic....
In the meantime, accept that surfing the web is going to be more like travelling the highways at holiday time. You’ll get there, eventually, but the going won’t be great.
2. Surfing will detach
Earlier this month, Google bid for the most desirable chunk (known as C-block) of the 700-megahertz wireless spectrum being auctioned off by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in late January 2008. The 700-megahertz frequencies used by channels 52 to 69 of analog television are being freed up by the switch to all-digital broadcasting in February 2009.....
In short, win or lose, Google has already achieved its objective. Internet searches will doubtless be as popular among mobile-internet surfers as among their sedentary cousins. Owning at least 60% of the mobile search market is the prize Google has been after all along.
3. Surfing—and everything else computer-related—will open
Rejoice: the embrace of “openness” by firms that have grown fat on closed, proprietary technology is something we’ll see more of in 2008. Verizon is not the only one to cry uncle and reluctantly accept the inevitable.
Even Apple, long a bastion of closed systems, is coming round to the open idea. Its heavily protected iPhone was hacked within days of being launched by owners determined to run third-party software like Skype on it.....
Pundits agree: neither Microsoft nor Apple can compete at the new price points being plumbed by companies looking to cut costs. With open-source software maturing fast, Linux, OpenOffice, Firefox, MySQL, Evolution, Pidgin and some 23,000 other Linux applications available for free seem more than ready to fill that gap. By some reckonings, Linux fans will soon outnumber Macintosh addicts. Linus Torvalds should be rightly proud....
Problemas de Crescimento ?
O que os «rejuveniles» de agora reclamam então, precisamente, é a liberdade de «brincar», algo que teria ficado - nesta repartição de modelos e normas comportamentais - para as crianças, excluindo assim os «adultos» dessa dimensão preciosa da vida.
No caso destes «rejuveniles», não se trata, porém, de não querer crescer ou de manter uma postura irresponsável face ao ambiente circundante (mesmo se Peter Pan continua a ser, para este grupo, uma obra de referência, ela é vista, no entanto, como uma espécie de mitologia originária, em que a ideia de uma infância eterna aparece mais como uma vontade de permanecer capaz de dar expressão à imaginação e irreverência infantis de que como uma maneira de ficar para sempre jovem, sem crescer, vivendo num mundo de fantasia sem fim).
Esta vontade de brincar (que inclui não só o desejo de continuar a amar as coisas de que sempre se gostou - vivendo-as no dia-a-dia - mas também uma vocação para o jogo de um modo geral) tem vindo a ocupar um lugar crescente no mundo adulto dos negócios.
A noção de jogo como exercício criativo capaz de dotar gestores e executivos de flexibilidade, estimulando neles o engenho e a criatividade necessárias para as suas tarefas, levou ao aparecimento de empresas especializadas neste tipo de «coaching». Uma dessas empresas chama-se mesmo Play, e a sua missão é criar ambientes incomuns (espaços, situações), de modo a suscitar nos executivos participantes uma «libertação» criativa de energias que passa, no essencial, por recriar contextos favoráveis à «brincadeira». Citando Georges Bernard Shaw, estes «rejuveniles» tomaram como sua a palavra de ordem: «Nós não paramos de brincar por envelhecermos; nós envelhecemos por pararmos de brincar.»
Embora o livro de Noxon tenha suscitado alguma controvérsia - sendo até mesmo acusado de contribuir para uma ainda maior infantilização das sociedades contemporâneas -, o facto é que delimitou um território e deu expressão a uma pulsão que hoje anima um número significativo de indivíduos: uma exigência de mais tempo livre, menos stress e mais divertimento (não «recreação», como pejorativamente Noxon chama ao entretenimento «embalado» pelo sistema comercial).
Esta é também a tónica dominante - embora de um ângulo de abordagem diferente - de um outro livro acabado de sair, intitulado Consumed - How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults and Swallows Citizens Whole.
Escrito por Benjamin R. Barber (ed. Norton, 2007), o livro critica de forma impiedosa uma indústria que elegeu, nos últimos anos, as «crianças» como consumidores-alvo das suas estratégias. «Mais do que criar produtos», diz Barber, «o que a indústria faz hoje é inventar necessidades.»
Referindo-se aos «rejuveniles» (tal como a outros movimentos, como os «twixters», de que falaremos mais adiante), Barber considera-os como sinais de uma mudança cultural de extrema magnitude, em que as forças do mercado procuram que «os adultos se mantenham tão infantis quanto possível e, ao mesmo tempo, treinam as crianças a consumir em idades cada vez mais recuadas».
Jared Diamond - Maldição das Taxas de Consumo ?
We Americans may think of China’s growing consumption as a problem. But the Chinese are only reaching for the consumption rate we already have. To tell them not to try would be futile.
The only approach that China and other developing countries will accept is to aim to make consumption rates and living standards more equal around the world. But the world doesn’t have enough resources to allow for raising China’s consumption rates, let alone those of the rest of the world, to our levels. Does this mean we’re headed for disaster?
No, we could have a stable outcome in which all countries converge on consumption rates considerably below the current highest levels. Americans might object: there is no way we would sacrifice our living standards for the benefit of people in the rest of the world. Nevertheless, whether we get there willingly or not, we shall soon have lower consumption rates, because our present rates are unsustainable.
Real sacrifice wouldn’t be required, however, because living standards are not tightly coupled to consumption rates. Much American consumption is wasteful and contributes little or nothing to quality of life. For example, per capita oil consumption in Western Europe is about half of ours, yet Western Europe’s standard of living is higher by any reasonable criterion, including life expectancy, health, infant mortality, access to medical care, financial security after retirement, vacation time, quality of public schools and support for the arts. Ask yourself whether Americans’ wasteful use of gasoline contributes positively to any of those measures.
Other aspects of our consumption are wasteful, too. Most of the world’s fisheries are still operated non-sustainably, and many have already collapsed or fallen to low yields — even though we know how to manage them in such a way as to preserve the environment and the fish supply. If we were to operate all fisheries sustainably, we could extract fish from the oceans at maximum historical rates and carry on indefinitely.
The same is true of forests: we already know how to log them sustainably, and if we did so worldwide, we could extract enough timber to meet the world’s wood and paper needs. Yet most forests are managed non-sustainably, with decreasing yields.
Just as it is certain that within most of our lifetimes we’ll be consuming less than we do now, it is also certain that per capita consumption rates in many developing countries will one day be more nearly equal to ours. These are desirable trends, not horrible prospects. In fact, we already know how to encourage the trends; the main thing lacking has been political will.
quinta-feira, janeiro 03, 2008
O Canto do Cisne ?... ;-)
SO THERE you are on the moon, reading The World in 2008 on disposable digital paper and waiting for the videophone to ring. But no rush, because you’re going to live for ever—and if you don’t, there’s a backed-up copy of your brain for downloading to your clone.
Yes? No? Well, that’s how the 21st century looked to some futurologists 40 or 50 years ago, and they’re having a hard time living it down now. You can still get away (as we do) with predicting trends in the world next year, but push the timeline out much further, and you might as well wear a T-shirt saying “crackpot”. Besides, since the West began obsessing a generation ago about accelerating social and technological change, people in government and industry can spend weeks each year in retreats brainstorming and scenario-building about the future of their company or their industry or their world. The only thing special about a futurologist is that he or she has no other job to do.
Small wonder that futurology as we knew it 30 or 40 years ago—the heyday of Alvin Toffler’s “Future Shock”, the most popular work of prophecy since Nostradamus—is all but dead. The word “futurologist” has more or less disappeared from the business and academic world, and with it the implication that there might be some established discipline called “futurology”. Futurologists prefer to call themselves “futurists”, and they have stopped claiming to predict what “will” happen. They say that they “tell stories” about what might happen. There are plenty of them about, but they have stopped being famous. You have probably never heard of them unless you are in their world, or in the business of booking speakers for corporate dinners and retreats.
We can see now that the golden age of blockbuster futurology in the 1960s and 1970s was caused, not by the onset of profound technological and social change (as its champions claimed), but by the absence of it. The great determining technologies—electricity, the telephone, the internal combustion engine, even manned flight—were the products of a previous century, and their applications were well understood. The geopolitical fundamentals were stable, too, thanks to the cold war. Futurologists extrapolated the most obvious possibilities, with computers and nuclear weapons as their wild cards. The big difference today is that we assume our determining forces to be ones that 99% of us do not understand at all: genetic engineering, nanotechnology, climate change, clashing cultures and seemingly limitless computing power. When the popular sense of direction is baffled, there is no conventional wisdom for futurologists to appropriate or contradict.
Popcorn and prediction markets
There are still some hold-outs prophesying at the planetary level: James Canton, for example, author of “Extreme Future”. But the best advice for aspirant futurists these days is: think small. The best what-lies-ahead book of 1982 was “Megatrends”, by John Naisbitt, which prophesied the future of humanity. A quarter-century later, its counterpart for 2007 was “Microtrends”, by Mark Penn, a public-relations man who doubles as chief strategy adviser to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign. “Microtrends” looks at the prospects for niche social groups such as left-handers and vegan children. The logical next step would be a book called “Nanotrends”, save that the title already belongs to a journal of nano-engineering.
The next rule is: think short-term. An American practitioner, Faith Popcorn, showed the way with “The Popcorn Report” in 1991, applying her foresight to consumer trends instead of rocket science. The Popcornised end of the industry thrives as an adjunct of the marketing business, a research arm for its continuous innovation in consumer goods. One firm, Trendwatching of Amsterdam, predicts in its Trend Report for 2008 a list of social fads and niche markets including “eco-embedded brands” (so green they don’t even need to emphasise it) and “the next small thing” (“What happens when consumers want to be anything but the Joneses?”).
A third piece of advice: say you don’t know. Uncertainty looks smarter than ever before. Even politicians are seeing the use of it: governments that signed the Kyoto protocol on climate change said, in effect: “We don’t know for sure, but best to be on the safe side”—and they have come to look a lot smarter than countries such as America and Australia which claimed to understand climate change well enough to see no need for action.
The last great redoubt of the know-alls has been the financial markets, hedge funds claiming to have winning strategies for beating the average. But after the market panic of 2007 more humility is to be expected there too.
A fourth piece of advice for the budding futurist: get embedded in a particular industry, preferably something to do with computing or national security or global warming. All are fast-growing industries fascinated by uncertainty and with little use for generalists. Global warming, in particular, is making general-purpose futurology all but futile. When the best scientists in the field say openly that they can only guess at the long-term effects, how can a futurologist do better? “I cannot stop my life to spend the next two or ten years to become an expert on the environment,” complains Mr Naisbitt in his latest book, “Mindset” (although the rewards for Al Gore, who did just that, have been high).
A fifth piece of advice: talk less, listen more. Thanks to the internet, every intelligent person can amass the sort of information that used to need travel, networking, research assistants, access to power. It is no coincidence that the old standard work on herd instinct, Charles Mackay’s “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds”, has been displaced by James Surowiecki’s “The Wisdom of Crowds”.
The most heeded futurists these days are not individuals, but prediction markets, where the informed guesswork of many is consolidated into hard probability. Will Osama bin Laden be caught in 2008? Only a 15% chance, said Newsfutures in mid-October 2007. Would Iran have nuclear weapons by January 1st 2008? Only a 6.6% chance, said Inkling Markets. Will George Bush pardon Lewis “Scooter” Libby? A better-than-40% chance, said Intrade. There may even be a prediction market somewhere taking bets on immortality. But beware: long- and short-sellers alike will find it hard to collect.