Kevin Kelly, one of the smartest people I know, wrote a great blog post about digital things he's been wrong about. He thought The Sims would flop, but 100 million copies have been sold. He thought Photoshop, ink jet printers, Quicken, and eBay were sure losers and that push technologies, MusicJam, and virtual shared workspaces were sure winners.
Sadly I can detect no pattern to my mis-predictions. In some cases, I did not anticipate improvements and advances that would remake a pathetic first version into a truly cool tool. In others I anticipated advances that never came.Link
If I could actually tell which inventions were going to succeed, I'd be a billionaire. You would too.
I believe no one can always be right about what will work because the number of variables determining success are too high. The details of execution for each idea matter greatly. The Sims by a different genius, different company, different platform, different ecosystem may well have flopped. Photoshop by a different team may have crashed. Likewise, MusicJam or Second Life is a different setting may have flown.
This inherent uncertainty about success is what makes life so interesting.
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. Come and hear Mark speak at the ALA conference in Chicago on July 1.