Zeitlisting: Listing the Year-End Lists

Imagination is more important than knowledge. – Albert Einstein

I love lists, especially end-of-the-year lists, which obviously lean in one of two directions — looking forward or looking back. The best backward-looking lists capture the zeitgeist of the year and bundle everything I summarily ignored at the time into a neat little heap that I can rummage through while I wait out the end of the year. I am assured by the content generators that I can make up for a ton of inattention and neglect over the last twelve months in a single fell swoop, and proudly carry a dab of cultural momentum into the new year. I’m skeptical of the hindsight of others, experience is too subjective, knowledge contained in lists is too localized to carry through.

Predicting the future takes a great deal more imagination, and is somehow less objectionable and self-serving. It’s more work to extrapolate, for sure, but it carries far fewer risks than a pithy summary of things we’ve already experienced. We all overvalue our own opinions too much to let other people decide what past pith is perfectly indicative of the year. The future? Well that’s just speculation. What do we care. Have at it.

I acknowledge that most of these year-end list are basically self-promotional, or an equal measure of wishful thinking and educated shot in the dark. I thought I would work toward the mean and create a matrix of the best thirty five articles available, extracting out the individual keywords, and tracking the number of mentions. I was curious if a consensus could mitigate some of the blather a little bit. I think it did, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Here are the five ideas that made the most 2014 lists this year:

The Internet of Things: Wearable Computers, Google Glass, Smart Watches, Sensors on Everything

I think in 2013 Edward Snowden revealed a lot about what happens to our online activities as their remnants pass through the ether. If we can track even more about ourselves, to the nanosecond and to the millimeter, and every single device we touch reports back to the host(s), then any pause we have been given by the abuse of our current data ought to transform into a progressive full-stop.

Big Data: Predictive/Visualized/Simplified/Actionable Big Data

The flip side of trend number one, is that the owners (or viewers) of all of that data place a tremendous amount of value on the results therein. The conclusions and resultant actions will feedback an equal and opposite reaction to each and every one of our actions, and it’s going to get awfully pingy up in here.

Cloud: A $100B Cloud for Everything/Personal Cloud Services

Everything, everywhere should be centralized and stored, always on, always addressable, and omnipresent. That is assumedly easier for everyone—all of tracked and all of the trackers. And let’s just hope that we all have electricity forever and forever, or else the sum of all knowledge, and a full record of our culture, will come with a kill switch.

3D Printing

And here, finally, we find evidence that the real world is still affected by the digital age in a way that’s not purely reactionary. Yes, Virgina, there can be output from the online world that finds it’s way back into our offline lives (and landfills).

Raging Against the Machine: Turning off/Tuning Out/Better Work/Life Balance

And here we end. With the most revolutionary idea of them all: turning off, tuning out, and just be-ing. As someone conceived in the Summer of Love it seems only fitting that this trend enter the charts at the grassroots, and sit poised to transform into a movement away from the echo chamber of digital hype cycles—which is what all of these lists really are all about. Going offline is only measurable if there was a line to be on in the first place. If you haven’t done it lately, it’s worth asking Siri again to define “alone” and “quiet.” You probably haven’t logged into either of those accounts in quite a while.

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