Walker Smith writes:
There’s something about building a new website – as we have just done for The Futures Company – which takes you back, deep, into the history of the internet.
The unexamined assumption of the original Information Superhighway idea was that people wanted to dive into a sea of data. This assumption was mistaken, which is why, today, we don’t have an Internet Information Superhighway in which individuals rummage through every bit and byte of everything ever captured, created or learned about every topic of interest or importance. Instead, we are headed towards a networked world in which we prefer the answers we get from those we trust most. At The Futures Company, we saw this coming.
As early as 1999, both Yankelovich and the Henley Centre – subsequently merged to form The Futures Company – anticipated today’s shift from deluge to direction. Yankelovich referred to this as the “pinpointing” trend, which would see search replaced by ‘smart search,’ thus anticipating years in advance the search model Bing introduced recently to an ever-more sophisticated marketplace as the emerging alternative to the Google model.
Even if people wanted to swim in a sea of data, it’s just not possible. Human cognitive capacity is bounded by fixed upper limits, something that psychologists have known and shown for decades. This is all too obvious in every headline about the dangers of phoning or texting while driving. There is only so much attention to go around, far less than the information available to fill it. As a result, two competing concerns crash into one another.
On the one hand, people insist on seeing more information as a prerequisite for trust. Yet, on the other hand, people are simply unable to process all that they see or assess its accuracy or adequacy. In a world of more information than ever, the imperative is to make do with less. Hence, smart search.
So it is with The Futures Company as well. Our newly updated client gateway is built as a smart search engine that doesn’t just list data, it points to answers. The ambition is to put the future at clients’ fingertips by offering a smart foresight tool, one that not only gives future direction but that is itself an embodiment of where the future is headed.
The image at the top of the post is from RENCI, in North Carolina, and is used with thanks.