Friday, November 27, 2015

Predicting the future

It's been a common pastime since the first iron was smelted and the first wheel was crafted: human beings like to predict the future of technology.

But how can we predict what will come next? There are actually some pretty simple tools that we can use, and they're not terribly inaccurate. First, stop wishing. Most predictions of the future are based on wishful thinking. Everyone will have a jet pack, we'll all live on clouds and peace will reign... or not.

In reality the progression of events has been pretty simple. We make things smaller and faster and more amenable to mass-production. We occasionally invent something ground-breaking but even the printing press, steam engines and computers only sped up what we were already doing.

So, what will the future look like? Simple:

  • Communities will be less geographical and more cultural
  • Nearly everything we do will be recorded and saved forever
  • The trade-off between privacy and security will probably become moot
  • The idea of "a computer" will become obsolete
  • Whether we continue to call something "phone" or not, the idea of a dedicated communications device is probably gone for good
  • Network connectivity as a scarce resource will seem an absurd notion
  • Food will have to change radically, probably toward genetically engineered vegetarian crops that grow in very different environments than modern farms
  • Space will become accessible, but still not entirely "safe"
  • We'll conquer most disease, but what's left will be pretty nasty
  • If hard AI happens, most of this will be secondary to the social and even physical transformation that results
Also, we all get jet packs.

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