We overestimate the breakthroughs of the next one to three years, but we underestimate what is going to happen further into the future. I’d love to see what’s going to happen in 60 years.
This appears to be correct. Paul David, of Stanford, calls it “technological presbyopia:”
just as middle-aged people find they are too farsighted to read small print up close, and too nearsighted to have good distance vision, people tend to overestimate the short-run impact of new technologies, and expect immediate revolution, but underestimate the long-run impact, which is revolutionary.
That’s Diane Coyle’s gloss, from The Soulful Science.
This presbyopia seems consistent with our tendency to discount the future radically. A desert shop in Seattle (now defunct) summed up this sentiment nicely. Their motto? “Eat dessert first. Life is uncertain.”