Through Linear-Colored Glasses

At some point you’ve experienced this: technology advances obsoleting your devices almost the moment you first turn them on. The ever-forward march of progress is of course unstoppable. But we, as humans, have  a strong tendency to perceive this change as linear. Each year, we see speed, size, resolution, or some other desirable attribute advancing at a steady pace. With our macro-lens view, however, we fail to realize this linear-seeming progress is usually a small near-linear snippet of a geometrical or exponentially changing phenomenon.

And it’s not because we’re stupid or uninformed. Even the technology greats–who arguably should know better–are routinely caught with their Linear-Colored Glasses securely in place.

Three of the more prominent fall encompass the rapid pace of computer technology. Thomas J. Watson, founder of IBM, the worlds longest running successful computer technology company, could not have been much farther off the mark when he proclaimed the worldwide need for computers would never reach double digits.Thomas J WatsonJust as egregious, was Bill Gates naïve pronouncement that personal computers would never need more than 640 kilobytes of memory.Bill Gates

And it’s not just individuals. Powerful expert-laded think tanks can get it very wrong as well. Take the 1980’s prediction by McKinsey & Company claiming the worldwide cell phone market would top out at 900,000.McKinsey.fw

What do all these have in common, besides being domain experts who you would think would get it right? They’re human. They sit behind distinctly-human linear-colored glasses.

In all three cases, industries were disrupted beyond the imagination of these brilliant minds. And it continues…

In 2011, the U.S. Energy Information Administration asserted “The US will have an installed solar photovoltaic capacity of 8.9 gigawatts by 2035. By the second quarter of 2014, the figure was already 15.9 gigawatts!

A handful of futurists have been championing an more accurate view of exponential change. Ray Kurzweil is one of the most notable. He has routinely made rash predictions (to the linear-constrained populace) only to be conservatively accurate.

I believe one of the most impactful future disruptions fueled by exponential change will be energy. The prices of solar photovoltaics have fallen steeply by more than 90 percent since 2008, as predicted by Swansons Law, named for Richard Swanon, founder of U.S. solar-cell manufacturer SunPower.  If these exponential increases in cost efficiency continue, we’ll soon see electricity too cheap to meter. This is a radical assertion–but it is backed by solid facts and trends. If this is true, major disruptive changes will hit all energy sectors. They are not ready.


Almost-Flat Design — Windows 10 advances the cause

Few dispute the fact that Microsoft lead the charge to introduce flat design to the masses. With early designs showing up in Media Center in Windows Vista, followed by Zune and Metro, Microsoft forged a trend that many have followed.

Now comes the fine-tuning. Almost Flat design has become more popular. Subtle gradients and shadows are being allowed back in where prudent. You see this everywhere. Look closely at Google’s fresh new flat designs, for example, the compose button in gmail where you will see a very slight gradient enhancing its clickable nature.

One striking difference with the new preview for Windows 10 is the focused-window shadow. Compare these two screens showing notepad in focus and over top of wordpad. The first is from Windows 8.1, the second from Windows 10.


Windows 8.1


Windows 10 Preview Build 9841

I certainly welcome this. The lack of focus/blur distinction in the current Windows platform has been one of the few usability shortfalls.

The sharp-eyed will notice another change: Consistent with the principles of flat design, Notepad has now lost it’s gratuitous border chrome.

I will be watching for more evidence of the evolution of almost-flat design in future previews.


Greyrock Mountain 2011

As a warm-up to the pending CCI Longs Peak climb, last weekend a small group made an early-morning assent up Greyrock Mountain. If you zoom in, you can clearly see the beetle-kill in all directions. Compare with the similar Greyrock panorama from 2008 where there appears to be no visible kill.

And some static images, just in case we outlast endomondo…