‘Oxford in 2065’ was typical Flash Gordon futurism: extrapolating from today into the future. But it never works, for two fundamental reasons. The first is that it ignores human behaviour. Driverless cars owned by the city or some other third party will rapidly be vandalised. Only personal ownership imbues a sense of duty of care. That’s why phone boxes on council estates are always out of order whereas mobile phones owned by those estate-dwellers are looked after. The second issue is that innovation isn’t linear. No one predicted Google or Facebook twenty years ago. Bill Gates’ famous book The Road Ahead was wrong on pretty much every major prediction about the way technology would go, and he was at the time of publication the ultimate tech geek. So if he couldn’t get it right, how can we expect anyone else to do so with an equivalently blinkered perspective?
We can be sure that human behaviour won’t change and therefore short-sighted personal goals will always weigh far heavier in the scheme of things than far-sighted general social goods. We can also be sure that the pace of technological development coupled to basic economics will mean that many of the supposedly promising developments today will fall by the wayside and entirely unseen (but actually quite foreseeable) technologies and applications will dominate the world of 2065. Coupling technological understanding to evolutionary psychology could save a lot of investors a lot of wasted money and likewise help entrepreneurs to get it right more often, more quickly.