With the turning of the year and (unbelievable as it may seem) of the 21st century’s first decade, it is a good time to look toward the future and what technology might do for us. (Picture from Wikimedia.)
To some we may seem right where we started. We began with a dominant proprietary company in Microsoft, and leave with one in Apple. We began with a dominant search company in Yahoo and leave with Google. The tools that were big then — PCs and the Internet — remain big now.
But much has happened over that decade to set us up for miracles to come. The Internet has become a global broadband network. Chips have become much more powerful and cheaper. Wireless technology is replacing wires.
And needs are growing. Aging and climate change threaten our existence. These twin forces of supply and demand will be reflected in some easy-to-conceive changes, to which must be added miracles we cannot foresee.
- Energy — The most obvious boom that is coming is alternative energy. Solar, wind, geothermal and tidal solutions deliver no pollution, they call for a more robust, two-way energy grid, they use resources we need not import. Solutions for a hydrogen cycle are already emerging.
- Health — Health technology is going to become ubiquitous. It will move from the hospital and clinic into our homes, driven by a growing shortage of young workers and new payment models that deliver a fixed monthly fee to providers instead of charges for each service performed.
- Systems — Distributed computing systems mean we no longer deal with problems in isolation. The rage today is for studying systems — genetic systems, climate systems, ecosystems. Solutions from such studies are also systemic, and require that people change as well.
Another easy-to-make prediction is that the Internet of 2019 will be very different from what we have today. IPv6 will give every device its own address, making hackers easier to trace. The world of William Gibson’s Neuromancer books will be all around us.
Here is another easy-to-make prediction. Robotics will become real over the next decade. I was shocked to discover when my mom visited yesterday that my brother now employs a herd of Roombas to keep his floors clean. Expect more transparent interfaces, and more fully-formed robotic friends, in your life at last.
The great battle of this century will continue, between religious medieval-ism that lives in all faiths and the technological world. Technology will win this war because the techniques of the past are unsustainable — we must move forward.
What do you expect to come in the decade starting Friday?