Toys will be toys

Toys will be toys

Chris Dixon on the next big thing:

The reason big new things sneak by incumbents is that the next big thing always starts out being dismissed as a toy.

Disruptive technologies are dismissed as toys because when they are first launched they “undershoot” their users’ needs. The first telephone could only carry voices a mile or two. The leading incumbent of the time, Western Union, chose not to acquire telephone technology because they didn’t see how it could be useful to businesses and railroads — their best customers. What they failed to anticipate was how rapidly telephone technology and infrastructure would improve. The same was true of how mainframe companies viewed the PC, and how modern telecom companies viewed Skype.

How can we encourage play or toy-exploration not only in kids but as people get older? Jonah Lehrer with results from an MIT study:

[P]arents and teachers must navigate the fine line between giving kids a taste of knowledge – the universe is not all mystery — while at the same time preserving a sense of ambiguity and uncertainty. When we explain things to kids, we shouldn’t pretend that we have all the answers. We shouldn’t turn science class into a dry recitation of facts that must be memorized, or only conduct experiments in the classroom in which the results are known in advance. Because it’s the not knowing – that tang of doubt and possibility — that keeps us playing with the world, eager to figure out how it works.

Overall, undershoot and grab hold of uncertainty.