My latest 25 cent investment from the Pine Arizona Senior Center Thrift Store is “The Road Ahead” by Bill Gates, Nathan Myhrvold, Peter Rinearson.
Far from being my hero, I was curious where the road he envisioned back in 1995 actually went. I’ve not read much yet, but flipping through, I have to grudgingly admit that there are less things to take potshots at than I had hoped. Sure the Internet was under-estimated then, but he gives it due credence, and the “World Wide Web” (in those days it was always spelled out and encased in quotes), while antique-ly in its grey screen glory, is given coverage too.
Missing are the rise of open-sourcem software, the self publishing craze we are in the blog midst of (but who would have guessed?). A big gaff opens Chapter 5, “Paths to the Higway”:
The truth is that the full highway is unlikely to be available in homes for at least a decaode.
Boradband has reached homes sooner than his guess, but maybe he was not off by that much. He gave more hope for ISDN than cable for higher speeds to our homes, oops. And:
The current Internet lacks security and needs a billing system.
Hmmm, who just might be the bill collector…. maybe a guy named…. Bill?
Bill et al do pile high on the “highway” metaphors (I got rather tired of the hype about this mythical highway), but he does bring forward some ideas on the shrinking of personal technology (the “Wallet PC”), and he does correctly predict the advent of wireless networks and devices. He gives good weight to education. He touches on issues of privacy and encryption (neglecting to say how the monumental holes in his companies software create such opportunities). He writes much about the little shack he built up in the great northwest.
Well, that is my 5 minute page spin summary, now I will read it in bits and dribbles. Maybe embedded in some secret pattern is his cunning plan to take over the world, but maybe not.
Anyhow, it was an investment of less than a public phone call (when was the last time anyone used a phone booth, and where are they?), less than the cost of a US stamp, and about 1/9 the price of a cup of coffee at Starbucks. Not bad at all.