The far vision of old-timers

Listening to what people here at SIGGRAPH are excited about, I have noticed a trend: Younger people are completely caught up in the feeling that “Hey, we are living in the future!” But older people have a view that is, arguably, more interesting.

Researchers in their twenties and thirties are totally grooving and the amazing effects of Moore’s Law. Techniques that were considered hopelessly slow when they were students are now real-time and interactive. The difference feels magical and exhilarating.

But by the time researchers get into their sixties and seventies, they’ve been through quite a few of these magical transformations. They’ve already been doing active research for forty or fifty years. Their longer experience of the past gives them a lever to obtain a longer view of the future.

When faced with today’s blindingly fast computation times, high bandwidth data transmission rates and vast memory storage capacities (and all of the things those enable, such as Cloud computing, fast machine learning algorithms and photorealistic real-time rendering), they don’t think of these capabilities as an end in themselves.

Rather, they tend to ask “OK, what will things be like in another forty or fifty years?” And then they start to follow through with potential models of usage and possible societal implications, based on those projected future capabilities.

So maybe, if you want to get a good sense of the future, you just might want to ask somebody who has had a more comprehensive experience of the past.

One Response to “The far vision of old-timers”

  1. J. Peterson says:

    This sounds like a special case of Clarke’s First Law.

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