Aris Silzars Display Technology Consulting

DISPLAY CONSULTING

 

Hidden Agendas…

Wouldn’t it be great if we could foretell the future -- especially if we’re working at a company trying to develop the next great display technology?   Being able to know well ahead of time what products consumers will fall in love with and “simply won’t be able to do without” would most likely provide us with an insurmountable competitive advantage.  But if we were indeed able to know what’s in our future, wouldn’t that mean that we can’t do anything to change it?  That would leave us as helpless observers of predestined events.  And that, to me, doesn’t sound like an interesting way to go through life.

Nevertheless, we are all curious about what lies ahead.  And since for commercial enterprises that can involve financial rewards, there are a number of folks who have made a business out of trying to predict what new opportunities may lie beyond the visible horizon and what new technology developments may soon become “disruptive”.

I too, on occasion, have tried to look ahead and offer my opinions of where I thought the display industry would be ten or more years into the future.  Having done this for more than the past 30 years, I can say that most of my prognostications were reasonably accurate.  My explanation for my modest successes is that I have always tried to base my projections on the rate at which I thought display technology could evolve and the rate at which I thought worldwide manufacturing capacity could be implemented.  Unfortunately, using this approach, I was never able to come up with a truly “disruptive” technology prediction.  New technologies evolve gradually and it takes typically twenty years to get from a research laboratory demonstration to real products.  That allows everyone to become comfortable with the new developments as they are evolving.  And when the new technology finally has a major business impact (such as flat panel displays on CRTs) the evolutionary process does not appear to have been at all surprising or chaotic.

However, in spite of my excellent prediction track record, I have not become a famous or well-publicized futurist or technology prognosticator.  And why is that, you may ask?  I believe the explanation is really quite simple.  My predictions are unspectacular and to the popular press “boring”.   And when the future develops pretty much as I predicted the response is – well of course it happened that way, it’s an obvious outcome.  Once the future becomes the present, intelligent foresight is no longer appreciated. 

But if accuracy and a good track record aren’t sufficient to achieve “fame and fortune” then what does it take to become a well-publicized futurist whose opinions are regularly sought by the popular press?   Well, it appears that the more audacious the predictions the better.  As examples, consider the following.  Immortality is just around the corner!  We will all have nanobots running throughout out bodies fixing whatever ails us!   Solar energy will replace all of our energy needs in less than twelve years!  This list can go on and on, but I think you get the idea. 

Audacious predictions create publicity and the publicity makes the author known and his books and reports become salable items.  And once he is on this track, the next round of predictions has to be even more audacious to keep up the popular interest.  A prediction that medicine will give us immortality in the next twenty years – that’s good to sell a book or two.   A prediction that we will be served by intelligent robots smarter than us and have lots of free time – that’s good for at least a few popular press articles and another book or two.

Yet another path to financial rewards for those predicting the success of a new technology can be the organization of consortia or new businesses around this sure-to-happen new “growth opportunity”.  Such promotional activities can be perpetuated for a number of years -- until reality finally sets in -- because there are nearly endless explanations for why the new technology is on the verge of success but just needs a little more time and effort to get there.  And just like other money raising organizations that eventually run out of steam, once a cause is exhausted, a new one always seems to be waiting in the wings.

And that is why, when it comes to listening or reading about futuristic predictions, one has to be on the lookout for those darn “hidden agendas” – the motivations that may underlie the predictions that can cause a “time warp” or a “wisdom warp” of sorts.   What will it take to attract the attention of the public and thus sources of money to pay for the futurist’s “wisdom”?   A relatively mundane and conservative prediction will most likely not do the trick.  And who in ten years will look back and remember what was said?   The popular media seems to have a non-existent memory when it comes to reviewing these self-serving pronouncements . 

Surely we don’t have any of these problems within our display industry?  Do we?  Well, we don’t have too many, but on occasion something pops up that does have that “hidden agenda” feel about it.  The good thing about us engineers is that by nature we are a skeptical lot.  That tends to keep us from getting too far afield from a sound technical path.  Therefore, if we keep the technical issues firmly in mind, and think about those “minor” details that can easily turn into “fatal flaws”, we will be able to see past any of those over-enthusiastic and self-serving predictions.

I would be interested to hear your thoughts about how you think display technology will progress in the next decade.  You can contact me from this site, directly by e-mail at silzars@attglobal.net, or by telephone at 425-898-9117.