Back to the Future

Last week, Bob and I went to the Central Exchange program featuring Bob Johansen, Institute for the Future. This noted futurist (how do you become one of those anyway?) revealed a world of computer integration, the likes of which I've never even considered, barring a George Jetson episode. The retail world, he predicts, will be experienced through overlays of consumer insights and information illuminated on any surface ... sunglasses that reveal data points on the world (and people) at every corner ... in short, total digital immersion.

For a moment, just a moment, I thought to myself ... Wow, technology is going to drive everything. I better start learning some programming! I'm way behind on my simulation design.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized technology doesn't really drive anything--it just facilitates interaction and experience. Facebook isn't about the sexy interface--it's about the connectedness. Twitter isn't about the adorable bird--it's about spreading useful information quickly. New technologies flourish because they deliver on the hierarchy of needs Abraham Maslow identified in 1943. Long before social media or blogosphere had ever made their way into our vocab. Check out Maslow's pic - what a happy guy he seems to be, knowing he unlocked the key to human needs.

So in 2009, we're really not that different than generations past. Yes, things move faster. Yes, people communicate with different tools. But our fundamental needs endure. In a world that seems to be rotating off its axis, I take comfort in that.