What will be the next big thing after Facebook and Twitter?
The people who are offering the Zen-like answer ("the big thing that can be predicted is not the real big thing, it does not have true buddha-nature") are being a little too skeptical. Historically, there's been a fairly good record of people seeing "the next big thing" (NBT) a respectable fraction of the time, so it CAN be done, without 20/20 hindsight. Here are some successful big-thing anticipations that I am cherry-picking to illustrate when, why and how you can predict NBTs.
- The moon race/Apollo was the NBT of its time and everybody knew it. It trained a generation of technologists and spawned a huge ecosystem of offshoots we use to this day.
- Distributed computing was the NBT of the 70s, and Xerox invested in it for a decade to make it happen.
- As the man told Dustin Hoffmann in The Graduate: "Plastics." Another NBT that plenty of people saw coming.
- Container shipping. The entire shipping industry saw it as a grand vision that could change everything, and they just had to wait for the people with the right talents. See my review of the history of the revolution:
What caused the early warning visibility in each case?