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The third challenge

The meat of a letter in response to a presentation by Jan Chipchase of Nokia:

You mentioned that you are working on technologies that will be used 3 to 15 years in the future, but it seems like your project is actually about dealing with the past. What can be measured in human behavior, especially towards the phenomenon of technology, is so conditioned by what's already come before that you could end up in a kind of "feedback loop" of observation. By this I mean that you'd be unable to fully divorce any behavior from the particular history that leads up to it - here's where context fits in of course.

You couldn't possibly pretend that the behaviors you catalog exist in an ahistorical vacuum. In this sense you're left in a position of evaluating (not necessarily judging) the real history of technology. Your research ends up taking the form of Walter Benjamin's "angel of history," with your back towards the future, watching debris pile up in front of you... Benjamin also wrote of a "backwards-facing prophet" which might be more accurate. Suffice it to say that this is an impossibly challenging position to be in!

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