25 years of wired prediction: Why the future never comes

WIRED’s first problem appeared four years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and two years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The Cold War is over, but WIRED insists this will be anything but a period of calm. The networked computers would create a new world culture and ensure shared prosperity – in a series of dramatic subversions. The first number opened with the statement: “The Digital Revolution is sweeping our lives like a storm in the Bengali – while the mainstream media is still searching for the snooze button.” Technology promises to unleash “such profound social changes that their only parallel is probably the detection of fire”. There is no doubt that WIRED has rooted these changes. The magazine’s branding move during the 90s was to shout, “Make a claim!” while also promising, with a bright smile, that out of this chaos is a better world.

Everything is ready for transformation. A 1994 e-Border Organization profile asked, “How difficult is it to hack government?” In 1997, Jon Katz argued that we were witnessing “the initial stirrings of a new kind of nation – the digital nation – and the formation of a new post-political philosophy”. The old left-wing politics of American democracy will inevitably diminish in the face of this new digital regime. “The Digital Nation moves towards a more plausible, less dogmatic approach to politics. The world’s information is being liberated, and so are we. “

The notion that the future of politics, with the internet, can become less than reasonable and than dogma is rarely discovered. Somehow, however, WIRED optimism does not appear as a saccharine, but as a fanaticism. For the June 1995 issue, then chief executive editor Kevin Kelly sat down with Kirkpatrick Sale, a self-described “neo-Luddite”, for a lengthy ideological debate on the subject. technology future. Near the end of the Q&A section, Sale predicts that industrial civilization will, over the next few decades, suffer economic collapse, class wars and widespread environmental disasters. In response, Kelly pulled out her checkbook. “I bet you $ 1,000 that by 2020 we haven’t even reached the kind of disaster you describe,” said Kelly. “I will bet on my optimism.”

July 1997

The July 1997 cover story of the magazine announced “A lasting boom: The History of the Future 1980–2020.” On the cover, a smiling globe with a flower in its mouth, next to the words: “We are facing 25 years of prosperity, freedom and a better environment for the whole world. Do you have a problem with that? “

The following year, WIRED not only bets on technological optimism – it also gives readers tips on how to bet on it for themselves, with their own money. The magazine launched the “WIRED Index”, a portfolio of companies central to the so-called New Economy, “a wide range of businesses that are using technology, networks and information to reshape the world. “. It will rise 81% over the next 12 months, outpacing any other broad financial index.

And yet, underneath the rowdy optimism that marked the WIRED covers and its biggest announcements, the magazine also occasionally publishes grim, deadlock warnings. Back in February 1994, RU writer Sirius contemplated the rudimentary motivation that had begun to manifest himself in an online world where anyone could be a publisher. “As more and more people are able to acquire a voice, a voice needs exceptional stiffness in order to hear better,” he wrote. “On the streets, people accept diversity because they have to – you will go from one place to another if you don’t meet anyone. But the new media always urges you to make fun of someone else’s instant opinion… You can be part of the biggest crowd in history. Very happy, friends. Pile on! “In January 1997, Tom Dowe wrote an essay warning about fake news:” The net is opening up new terrain in our collective consciousness, amidst old ‘news’. and what used to be called gossip – gossip, gossip paranews—Information that looks like news, it may even be news. Or half of the truth is carelessly crafted. “

January 1998

Schrage’s 1994 essay on advertising was less off-topic, but it certainly wasn’t too buzzing. “To appreciate tomorrow’s multimedia networks, don’t turn to Bob Metcalfes, Ted Nelsons and Vint Cerfs for ideas and inspiration. He writes. “The economics of advertising, promotion and sponsorship – more than teraflop technologies, bandwidth and GUI – will shape the virtual reality we can soon be.” The article envisions a world where smartphones (well, PDAs) are present everywhere and around ad-driven content. “Without a doubt, many digital PDAs will prove to be the annoying equivalent of spam and those stupid automated phone marketing calls. But so what… there will be a good software marketplace that sift through the trash and highlight what PDA owners want. Between those lines, you may encounter early glints of the fundamental idea behind AdSense and Facebook – a future at least more complicated than it is clearly liberating.

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