When thinking about the future we tend to think about the things that will change. Will self-driving cars change suburban life? Will virtual reality change how we conduct meeting and the nature of work? The list goes on. However, when thinking about the future we seldom think about the things that won’t change. Understanding what won’t change in the future can be very useful when it comes to building products, infrastructure, institutions and systems that will stay relevant for decades to come because they solve a fundamental human or societal need.
I first heard about this idea from an interview with Jeff Bezos where he argues that Amazon they focus on the things that won’t change in 50 or 100 years in consumer behavior and that’s the consumer’s desire for great price, speed and convenience. This might seem like a simple idea and it’s but it can take some time to distinguish between things that seem indispensable because they truly address a core human desire/need and those that are incumbent because they’ve accrued significant mind share in the minds of consumers.
For me the takeaway is simple. Whenever I am trying to build something that I want people to use for many decades I will ask myself the following questions:
What problem or need am I fulfilling that exists today and will keep existing in the next 50 years?
If I am able to tackle a problem that I think will be relevant throughout these period of time, then I know I might have stumbled upon something interesting.