In the past year or so, when thinking and talking about transformation of personal computing from something we do on desks and laps to something we do in hands and pockets, I’ve grown fond of a comparison with global warming, when observing most peoples’ attitude to it. Point at the charts and stats on sales trends and data use and they will agree that this is, indeed, the case. But as a spur to robust action this doesn’t seem to have any effect. The previously-linked-to BBC story about increasing average web page sizes in 2011 is evidence of this.
A reason, I think, is that, like global warming, the in-progress transformation of the web and how we interact with it is so completely, massively revolutionary that it can’t quite fit inside the average human brain. And so a weirdly well-informed paralysis takes over, where there is plenty of talking the talk, in general terms and safe, “in a couple of years” timeframes, but little to no walking the walk.
We can see the glaciers crumbling around us, the weird weather in analytics stats. We know what is happening before our eyes! And yet… “throw another scroller component or five on the homepage and… something… something… great user experience!” is the best we can come up with.
It’s going to be a disaster for a lot of otherwise very clever people.
But fortunately, unlike actual global warming, our collective denial isn’t going to fuck over the whole ecosystem of the web. The web is probably going to be just fine. It’s the vast majority of those who make their living making the web who are in real danger. There may even be a mass extinction event in the offing. Those who can’t adapt to the new environment. Those who thought Moore’s Law was a single smooth, exponential line heading always into the future and haven’t noticed we just jumped tracks. Those who are too lazy to tool up for the uncertainty of the immediate future, favouring the static safety of the past instead.
Revolutions require a bold response if you are to survive and prosper from them. And “Right Now” is always a bolder moment than “Later”.