TED Conversations

Tim O'Reilly

CEO, O'Reilly Media


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William Gibson said "The future is here, it's just not evenly distributed yet." What futures have you seen that are here, but unrecognized?

In the late 70s, when the Homebrew Computer Club was meeting, its members were beginning to experience the world that we all now take for granted. In 1992, when I published the Whole Internet User's Guide and Catalog, there were only 200 websites, but we featured the WWW in the book because it was so clearly the shape of things to come. When Jeff Han demoed his multi-touch screen at TED in February 2006, he prefigured the iPhone launch a year later. When the kids at the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition are modifying bacteria, they are showing us homebrew genetic engineering around the corner. Make Magazine's enthusiasts are becoming tomorrow's industrialists, with companies like Makerbot, DIY Drones, and Willow Garage Robotics turning what once seemed like an curiosity into real businesses.

In each case, these people were already living in a future that was soon to rush upon us all.

What have you seen lately that has made you stand up and say "Whoa! That person knows something I don't, is living in a world I haven't seen yet?" The answers can be from technology, but can also be new social forms, and can be positive or negative.

Point me to companies and individuals who tell you something about the shape of the future by the way they are living or the work they are doing.


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  • Feb 20 2011: Tim O'Reilly (respect) asks for "unrecognized futures"... Try ROADMUSHING BOOMERS.
    Boomers - that's 20% of the world's affluent population - retire this year 2011.
    No one has a clue what they'll do, except change the course of history (as usual).

    Clue - howsabout continue what they were doing 40 years ago ?
    1) Looove, no war
    2) RevoluciĆ³n
    3) My rules

    Including being these...
    1. Deep into nature
    2. Frugal / non-materialist
    3. Fit
    4. DIY/maker - constantly inventing simple/funny lifestyle mods to overcome aging constraints
    5. Friends with everyone on earth
    6. Keen for heart-warming social/cultural/artistic people-experiences
    7. Affectionate for the less fortunate
    8. Admin-free, paperwork-free, increasingly possessions-free
    9. Increasingly vegetarian
    10. Bio, but real bio
    11. Increasingly oil-free
    12. Increasingly sharing
    13. On the road
    14. Loving it

    For boomers, a new lifestyle tool is being designed open-source and local-built worldwide...
    See it at http://www.roadmushers.org

    Don't laugh - the most disruptive ideas are always the simplest. And always laughed at.

    I'm a boomer. I know what we want. I'm making the prototype right now.
    • Feb 20 2011: The boomers scare me, largely because I don't know what they want. The Boomers:

      1.) There are a lot of them,
      2.) They arguable have the most lose (especially if living off of some sort of fixed income),
      3.) They will have a lot of time on their hands (especially to become politically active),
      4.) They are not me generation (and therefore cannot necessarily be relied to understand my generation).

      Does the future really belong to the youth, or to the Boomers?

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