This Week in the Future: All the World’s a Screen…

Screens on Screens on Screens
Screens on Screens on Screens
Screens on Screens on Screens

The week of October 21, 2012 found TV, radio and the Internet abuzz with screens. Apple launched its not-so-secret iPad mini to a chorus of gushing admiration, or a collective “meh” depending upon which side of the fence you stand. National Public Radio’s Morning Edition embarked a week-long series of daily stories called “How we watch what we watch: The Future of TV” that explored topics like, “So Many Screens, And So Little Time To Watch” or “For Sports Fans, A Plethora Of Platforms To Watch On.” It seems at this moment in history we have gone screen crazy… and I love it!

Much Ado About Screens… 

In 2009, I wrote a book called Screen Future: The Future of Entertainment, Computing and the Devices we Love, a collection of research I had done with my colleagues at Intel going back to 2005. My work as Intel’s futurist is called futurecasting. I don’t make predictions. I develop models for what it will feel like to be a human 10 to 15 years in the future. I do this by using a wide range of research by some wicked smart people both inside and outside the company to help Intel know what it will feel like to be a human a decade from now, so they can in turn design, develop, produce and ship the complex products that take them 5 to 10 years. It’s of vital business importance today for the company to know what people will be doing with their chips and platforms in the future.

So, you ask, what were the business models in 2005 telling us about what it would feel like to be a human in the year 2015? Screens! Really, I’m not kidding.

Always Bet on Choice… Choice Always Wins.

Screen Future
Screen Future

The message of Screen Future was that our future was all about screens. For decades we had been talking about devices. If you wanted to call someone, you went to your phone. If you wanted to watch TV, you went to your TV. If you wanted to get on the Internet, you went to your PC. But Screen Future said that all of these would come together and it wouldn’t be about the device anymore, but instead about the screen.

This wasn’t convergence, a popular term in the 1990s that said all of these capabilities would come together into a single, uber device. Screen Future said that it wasn’t one screen to rule them all, but was instead whatever screen we had handy. If you were on the bus, you might use the screen in your pocket. If you were at the office, you might use the screen on your desk. If you were home, you might use that big beautiful screen on the wall.

Beyond that, all of these screens would work together to adapt to whatever task you wanted. Ultimately, in 2015 it would be about choice. We would get to choose the screens we wanted for how they fit into our lives and the things we wanted to do. Always bet on choice. Choice always wins.

Our future is full of screens and they will continue to pop up in fun and useful places: in our glasses and contact lenses; on our planes, trains and automobiles; in some of the most boring but insanely productive places, like government offices and hotel check in. As we look to the future, we should expect screens. We should keep an eye on screens and how people are interacting with them.

But screens are not the area to focus on. If you are obsessing about screens, you aren’t looking at the right thing. Screens will only become less scarce a commodity as we move to 2015 and beyond. Ultimately we should focus on what’s on the screens… and I don’t mean the content.

All the World’s a Stage… and all the Men and Women Merely Players

Our current screen mania is giving us an incredible opportunity to touch the lives of nearly every human being on the planet. Screens have revolutionized how we do business. They have radically altered how we communicate and how we understand the world around us. They have sped up and expanded how we do global science. They have given voices and power to millions who, just a decade ago, were unknown and silent.

The great opportunity in our screen future is revealed when we see all of these screens as windows to connect with people. The power of those screens can connect us with the people and stories we love. They can make us more healthy, productive and sustainable. The future is about what we can do with all of the screens and not the screens themselves. If you’re just staring at the screen, you’re looking at the wrong thing.


DISCLAIMERI am Intel’s futurist. I am currently on sabbatical from Intel.  My thoughts, observations and analyses are mine personally and I am not speaking on behalf of Intel.


About Brian David Johnson

The future is Brian David Johnson's business. As a futurist at Intel Corporation, his charter is to develop an actionable vision for computing in 2020. His work is called "future casting"—using ethnographic field studies, technology research, trend data, and even science fiction to provide Intel with a pragmatic vision of consumers and computing. Along with reinventing TV, Johnson has been pioneering development in artificial intelligence, robotics, and using science fiction as a design tool. He speaks and writes extensively about future technologies in articles and scientific papers as well as science fiction short stories and novels (Science Fiction Prototyping: Designing the Future with Science Fiction, Screen Future: The Future of Entertainment Computing and the Devices we Love, Fake Plastic Love, and Nebulous Mechanisms: The Dr. Simon Egerton Stories). He has directed two feature films and is an illustrator and commissioned painter.



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