Analogies

One of the challenges in research is trying to predict the future. Of course you can’t really predict the future — but you can make some educated guesses.

A trick for doing this effectively is to look at analogies from the past. For example, when a disruptive communication technology becomes widely adopted, something not obviously related is often also affected.

One of my favorite examples of that is the relationship between the iPhone and hotels. In July 2008 the iPhone came out. About a year later, Uber was founded.

Eventually people figured out that when they went to out of town conferences or business meetings, they didn’t necessarily need to stay at a hotel. If the professional event happened to be in a place where they had family or close friends, they could visit those people instead.

This is because an app-based ride service, unlike a taxi, can quickly pick you up from wherever you are. And that includes a residential neighborhood far from the nearest hotel.

It’s not clear to me that we all could have predicted that the iPhone would lead to people spending more time with family and friends. Yet that is exactly what ended up happening.

Similarly, you can be sure that whenever those future smart glasses come out, something new and unexpected is bound to happen. But it can be a challenge to predict just what that will be.

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