Better questions

“The scientific mind does not so much provide the right answers as ask the right questions.”Claude Levi-Strauss

Augusts online are usually the time of scandal and high emotion, all based on little real news. It has gotten a little more dire now that many websites are paid by the click. “Is the Web dead? Is Net Neutrality dead? Did Privacy kill it? And what does Apple think of all this?” You know the drill.

But what’s going on around us, nearly unnoticed besides the pretty shiny drama, is the great advance humanity is making.

We’ve got the first universal translatorsdisplay screens big as six football fields… early control of external devices through handheld control panels… assistive technology which can turn anyone into Superman. It’s no longer sitting at a desk, staring at a screen.

Good progress, but we humans don’t know how to architect this stuff well. We made Usenet open to all, and forgot about spammers. Then made the same mistake with email. The World Wide Web of hyperlinked documents got buzzworded by “Web 2.0″ for third-party tracking. We yak yak yak and miss the big picture.

You’re living at a time in human history where, within two years, most everyone everywhere will have the world in the palm of their hand. And also, you’re one of the relatively few who sees this future coming and can do something about it, can influence its course.

It doesn’t really matter at all what brand of device is in their hand. The big question is, how will they use it, and how will we change as a result? How can we design things now to bring about a better result later?

You have the opportunity to change this, just by your day-to-day awareness… just by the questions you ask each day. The techblogs are a distraction, with the same dynamics as celebrity TV shows. You have to choose the questions you ask, else others will choose them for you.

With such massive disruptive opportunity arising in day-to-day life through multiple screens, what’s most important to you in the way they will be used? And what can you do to bring about the type of future you’d like? That’s really a much more valuable question to ask.

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Like to close out with some of the quotes from Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen which were in that interview in The Telegraph, almost hidden beneath the “But what about Apple” veneer.

“We’re really filling out the entire chain of what we can deliver to our customers,” he says.

“One of our key objectives was continuing to help our customers with the ability to have this content and application displayed on multiple devices. We’ve seen the explosion of smartphones and TV. It’s very exciting.”

“We’re delivering on our promise of enabling people to author once and deploy multiple times,” he says.

“It’s so early in the entire mobile revolution. People are going to use mobile devices to do more and more in terms of accessing content and applications on the web.

“Digital publishers are undergoing a massive transformation in terms of the business model and the emergence of the tablet devices as well as smartphones is a new opportunity for them to monetise their content.

“We’re a significant part of helping them make that transformation. Marketing firms around the world are all moving their businesses online.

“There have been so many naysayers about our ability to take Flash and all its power and make it run and sing on mobile devices and we’ve proved that can be done. We’re mission-critical to the companies we work with.”

“Around the world, when I tell people that I work for Adobe it’s amazing to see their faces light up when they talk about Photoshop and how it’s changed their world, or Acrobat and PDF and how they’ve helped them be more effective.”

(Adobe, I think, is a reasonable bet in all this… the company has had the good fortune to be oriented from its start around expanding the possibilities of human communication. Creative tooling has also sensitized Adobe early on to solving real human needs, and reconciling diverse desires. Adobe’s business is relatively transparent. I think it’s a trustworthy endeavor.)