Futurist Predictions in the World of Technology
Futurist Predictions in the World of Technology. Futurists can dish out some exciting and downright scary visions for the future of machines and science that either enhance or replace activities and products near and dear to us.
Being beamed from one location to another by teleportation was supposed to be right around the corner/in our lifetime/just decades away, but it hasn’t become possible yet. Inventions like the VCR that were once high tech — and now aren’t — proved challenging for some: The VCR became obsolete before many of us learned how to program one. And who knew that working with atoms and molecules would become the future of technology?
No one wants to be called a zero in terms of intelligence, but having zero-sized intelligence in computing means packing a whole lot of brains in a tiny, tiny package. Computer companies encourage forward-thinking creativity, and some, such as Intel, even have futurists on board to predict where technology is headed. We have the technology to put computers almost anywhere and in almost anything. Computers used to take up entire rooms, then whole desktops, laps and palms, to micro-chip-sized casings and atom-powered transistors invisible to the naked eye.
Many have predicted that the shrinking of computing size would also lead to the end of something called Moore’s Law. As computer brains have diminished in size — with some models powered by just five atoms and one-atom developments about 10 to 20 years down the road — getting smaller may reach an end point as atomic transistors replace chips. Whether the low cost will trickle down despite the high cost of innovating such small transistors remains to be seen.
Moon, Mars, More?
Space exploration has taken some hits in the 21st century, with cuts to the U.S. and other international space program budgets. But with the Curiosity Rover on Mars as of August 2012 and plans to launch the “most powerful rocket in history,” the Space Launch System (SLS) by 2017, NASA is still very much in the business of the future. After the planned, unmanned sendoff of the SLS in 2017, NASA intends to send a crew of up to four astronauts into space by 2021. This could be a return to the moon, with capabilities for missions on other planets [sources: Landau; NASA].
Will there be a day when you say “I can’t read your mind, you know!” and the reply will be “Oh, stop it — of course you can!”? It could happen. Neuroscientists are finding ways to read people’s minds with machines, and although this has been in the works for decades, real progress is being made by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, and elsewhere. Translating electrical activity from the brain by means of decoding brainwaves is one way to help sufferers of dementia, for example, who have complications with neurotransmitters relaying thoughts into comprehensible speech or holding thoughts long enough to get them out verbally before they’re forgotten.
Even if scientists and marketers can’t get access to our brains for neurohacking or neuromarketing, can they get access to our data? With unprecedented amounts of images and data available online, filling clouds and other Web-based storage, media, government regulatory bodies and marketers work around the clock to mine user preferences, habits and even relationships.
What to do with all of this data, and more specifically and maybe more urgently, how can we keep all of our activities in the virtual space from shaping the real space of our world? As search preferences narrow results when using the Internet, and our reading and research have become “optimized” based on what key words people search for, our choices in buying products and accessing news and information narrows as the enormous stores of data accumulate.