Unexpected Consequences

Unexpected consequences
The most exciting thing about any new technology comes when new ideas start to gather pace. However, the consequences almost always surprise us - and not everyone is delighted. 

The invention of the Linotype machine on the previous page is a great example of this. The compositors, who set type by hand, were afraid they'd lose their jobs. In reality, thousands of new jobs were created. This was an unexpected consequence.  The building of the first iron bridge is another example. Its builders were introducing a new technology but they couldn’t imagine the changes that were to come. The Industrial Revolution which changed everything was an unexpected consequence.

Drawing of a Gutenberg press

The First Information Revolution
Perhaps the most famous example is the invention of printing. The new technology made it quicker to mass produce books, which you’d think would be a good thing.

What nobody foresaw was that the real consequence - the fast dissemination ideas - and that led to massive political and religious upheaval. 

Printers were put in jail but the technology - like all new technologies - was unstoppable.

New ideas spread like wildfire. Heretical opinions grew into movements and both the Crown and the Church found themselves unable to stop the rollercoaster that had been unleashed.

The Reformation was an unexpected consequence.

Future Gazing
As we stand here, in the early part of the 21st Century, we look forward, imagining that we can foresee the future. Space travel, driverless cars, wearable health monitors. All these we happily foresee - and indeed many are almost with us.

But if the past teaches us anything it's that we have no idea what the unexpected consequences will be. We simply cannot foresee them!

Here’s one guess: Since time immemorial we have gone to a doctor when we have symptoms. By then, some damage to your body has already happened. The future is probably a health system where you are called in long before you have any idea you have a health problem. Early detection = better chance of a cure.

Illustration representing health data

Big Data and Artificial Intelligence may alter healthcare forever

Is this an unexpected consequence? Probably not. It’s almost with us so is hardly unexpected. 

A Jobless Future?
Have a look at the technologies that surround us now and see if you can guess what consequences might arise. It’s not easy but if you can do it you may be a jump ahead of the rest of us. And that might be important, because another unexpected consequence might just be the complete disappearance of jobs!

Puzzled? The next page will explain.

Next: The End of the Job?

Alternatively, you might like to:
Read about another unexpected consequence - Texting

© Brian Smith 2015