Nicholas Negroponte: A 30-year history of the future (TED Talk)

This talk begins with a visual tour of technology from the past 30 years. Negroponte has given 14 TED talks previously. In this one he wants to share what has happened in that time, and what he thinks is going to happen in the future.


  • Computation
  • Timesharing
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Computer aided design
  • Robotics


  • Interface
  • Fingers
  • Voice & gesture
  • Displays
  • Wearables

In the 70s papers were published saying how stupid it was to make devices where fingers interact with it. Many of these activities were not considered to be serious computer science – it was a bit silly.

Negroponte says he’s been to the future – because he’s seen so many early technologies, which turn out to become reality a number of years later. One example is Google Street View, which they were doing in the 70s with remarkable similarity.

“Computing is not about computers any more. It is about living.” – he said in 1980


  • New media
  • The medium is not the message
  • The daily me
  • eBooks
  • Digital and interactive TV

“The future of television is to stop thinking of television as television.” – 1985


  • Telecommunications
  • Trading places
  • Bandwidth compression
  • Computation as bandwidth
  • The water lilly and the frog


  • Bits & atoms
  • Digital cash
  • No marginal costs
  • Global is local
  • Local is global

“Nicholas Negroponte, director of the MIT Media Lab, predicts that we’ll soon buy books and newspapers straight over the internet. Uh, sure.” – Clifford Stoll, Newsweek 1995


  • Learning
  • Constructionism
  • 2B1 – satellites
  • One Laptop per Child
  • Where there are no schools

A big question came to his mind: can learning happen where there are no schools?

They dropped off the tablets with no instructions, no help to learn how to use it. Children figured it out in a short period of time – and they hacked Android within six months. Kids began to nominate themselves as teachers to other groups of kids.

The challenge is make access to the internet a fundamental human right. Every person on the planet should have access to it.

With $2b we could solve this problem with a stationary satellite. This sounds like a lot, and it is, but it would achieve a tremendous amount. And think of it this way: $2b is what the US was spending in Afghanistan every single week. Surely, we can connect Africa and the last billion people on earth to the internet for the same money.


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