From The Telegraph:
It is not hard to think of examples of wide-eyed predictions that have proved somewhat wide of the mark. Personal jetpacks, holidays on the moon, the paperless office and the age of leisure all underline how futurologists are doomed to fail. Any predictions should thus be taken with a heap of salt, but that does not mean crystal ball-gazing is worthless: on the contrary, even if it turns out to be bunk, it gives you an intriguing glimpse of current fads and fascinations. A few weeks ago, a science festival in Genoa, Italy, gathered together some leading lights to discuss the one aspect of futurology that excites us all: cosa farà cambiare tutto — this will change everything. The event was organised by John Brockman, a master convener, both online and in real life, and founder of the Edge Foundation, a kind of crucible for big new ideas. With him were two leading lights of contemporary thought: Stewart Brand, the father of the Whole Earth Catalog, co-founder of a pioneering online community called The Well and of the Global Business Network; and Clay Shirky, web guru and author of Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age.
Shirky meditated on how, during his formative years, it was thought that the decades to come would be dominated by nuclear power and the great adventure of space flight. Decades later, it is now clear that those technologies may have dominated discussions of the day but their direct influence remained firmly with the technological elite. With the benefit of hindsight, his early years were the age of the transistor and birth control. When it comes to the forces shaping our lives today, Shirky points to how coordinated voluntary participation is on the rise, thanks to online tools. With the help of the internet, people are now learning how to make use of the increasing amounts of free time that have been afforded to them since the 1940s for creative acts rather than consumptive ones.