In a world not short of bad news, I try to focus on the good. In doing so, I’ve become alert to a tendency that we all share: we expect the future to unfold as a magnified or extrapolated copy of the present. We expect that the next big thing will be a bigger version of the last big thing. What we don’t expect, yet what is most likely, is that the next big thing won’t look important to us at all—until it’s so important that we can’t ignore it.
The film The Social Network features an unusual hero: a nerdy code-writer possibly on the autistic spectrum who invents a communication tool which, within a half decade, is being used by almost 10 per cent of the earth’s population. Perhaps those of us who imagine revolutions were waiting for the next Che Guevara or Gandhi, but we got Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook. Are online social networks really a revolution? When 600m people use them, yes.
I was talking to the writer Paul Morley recently about the music form called Dubstep. “At last,” he said, “I’ve heard a form of music I really don’t understand. I don’t understand who makes it, why they’re doing it, and who’s listening to it. That’s what I’ve been waiting for.”