Betting on the Future

When I was a child, one of my favorite neighbors was a man named Lynn. Lynn was well-to-do and loved to splurge on new toys. Despite Lynn’s high standards, he often bought something just because it was new and no one else had seen it before.

Lynn’s house is where I went to get a peek at the future. One such day that continues to stick in my mind is was when he brought home one of the first CD players. Lynn went out of his way to have me come over to watch him unbox it because, even then, it was obvious that I got a disproportionate amount of joy from new gadgets compared to other kids on our block. Seconds after he set it up, the benefits of this new innovation were obvious. But so were the problems. Sure it was great to be able to fast forward and rewind with ease. Sure it won’t unspool. But there just weren’t many CDs available, and Lynn had a hell of a lot of cassettes.

When—as snot nosed neighbor kids are wont to do—I asked about these two glaring issues, Lynn just shrugged and said, “You’re right, but I think it’s going to be the future, and I want to see if I’m right.” He had the means, and he chose to use them to bet on what he thought was the future.

In hindsight it’s obvious that a CD player was a great bet. But at that moment, it was just as likely to become another 8 track, Betamax or LaserDisc player: another innovation with immense potential that the world decided to ignore. And even though the age of CDs and optical drives is starting to come to an end, they were a massive part of the world I grew up in, whose influence spanned far greater than just music.

One of the great pleasures of my life has been to watch new technologies and mediums arrive and witness as the world decides if it will embrace them or, as it often does, ignore them entirely. An even greater pleasure is getting to bet on, and advocate for, those that I believe will be the future.

While I’m sure Lynn did not mean for his off-handed rationalization to influence me, it continues to play a role in my life. Like Lynn, I’m selective but often spend money to flirt with the future. I not only bet on what I think will be important, but when my expectations are met, I go out of my way to try and get other people excited about the innovations I believe will indeed be a part of the future.

Today, my Apple Watch arrives. I expect, like I did with Lynn’s CD player, that I will see equal parts potential and problem once it’s around my wrist. I do however think it’s a step towards the future, and that’s why I bet on it.

Only time will tell if the device, and the wearables category in general for that matter, will go on to be a relevant part of the world we live in or become yet another innovation that the world ultimately choses to ignore. But I have high hopes based on my early experiences with the Pebble, from what I’ve seen from Apple and from what I’ve heard from others regarding the watch.

The geeky kid in me is excited to play with it. The quasi-adult is excited to become bored enough with it to clearly see if it’s a useful tool in my life or not. But thanks to Lynn, what excites me most is betting on a device that I believe is the future and getting to see if I’m right.

Note: This piece was inspired by a recent post from John Gruber of Daring Fireball.

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