I’ve been playing around with Google Labs’ Books Ngram Viewer and I wanted to try a few keywords to see what this amazing new tool for nerds could do. Basically, it lets you look up how often certain words and groups of words were used in Google’s book database.
After numerous attempts and a few anomalies (like typing “internet” generated results pre-1950), the results were fascinating. Lets take it for a spin:
According to the following graph, the future is behind us.
Future related (more like, future mentioning) books have taken giant steps back since the beginning of the millennium. According to the data, “future books” peaked around the year 2000. The latest data available, 2008, demonstrates that the level of future mentioning books is back to where it was in the 1970s era. Could it be that there was structural change after the tech-wreck bubble (2001 recession) or even slightly before that period in anticipation of the crash?
Strangely, however, I look at the technological improvements over the past ten years and I see revolutionary ideas one on top of the other (for instance, the iPhone, iPad, Kindle, Google stuff, Social Networks…). My first reaction is to blindly hypothesize that our current technological prowess may distract us from the future. If it is the case, could it be that technology is a detriment to forward-looking thinkers?
Note: the data in the graph is unsmoothed (raw) “Future” data from 1800 to 2008.