The future of both computers and communications is clear in rough terms, even if the details are obscure. First, no matter what technology is used (quantum or genetic computers, or something even better), computer speeds will continue to increase, apparent size limitations notwithstanding. Indeed, I would argue that not only is the rate of change in computer speeds accelerating, but the rate of acceleration is increasing as well. Moreover, we will use increasingly clever software, such as genetic programming, to solve problems that are orders of magnitude faster than the BFI (brute force and ignorance) algorithms we use today, further juicing the effective speeds.TALK, TALK
Meanwhile, we will have to change our ideas and approaches to communications. We all grew up in a world where communications was difficult and expensive, but we are emerging into a world where it will be so cheap that it will be sold at zero incremental cost, with only the costs of administration being significant (as with VoIP, for instance). And it will be almost ubiquitous, with wireless systems, such as WiMax, filling in the cracks that cables leave behind. Moreover, networks will work seamlessly and invisibly because that’s what users will want.
And all of this will have happened long before we reach 2035.
It may be I’m dead wrong, but for the moment give me the benefit of the doubt, because the real question is not, “What will the technology be capable of?” Rather, the true question will be: “What are the larger implications of universal communications tied with computers that are dramatically faster than today’s supercomputers?”
Everybody who wants one will have an apparently intelligent wearable computer that will be their constant companion, guide, agent and guardian, performing any cyberspace task that does not require a physical presence — including commissioning people and organizations to do real things in the real world on our behalf. Younger people — say, anyone born from today on — will have this computer implanted in their body. The “mainframe” will be embedded under the armpit, and powered by body heat. The user will have a microphone implanted in the jaw so they can both speak and hear by bone conduction, and will give many or most commands by voice. The monitor will be a pair of contact lenses that display things in a heads-up manner, often overlaying 3-D images over reality to provide computer-enhanced vision, say on a snowy night’s drive.
These computer genies will provide real world and cyberspace security. With so much computing power in the hands of anyone who wants it, including hackers and terrorists, we will be forced to solve the issue of IT security — or be blasted back to the Stone Age.
Humanity will be forced to move towards our most essentially human characteristics to thrive. Almost all routine work will be done by computers and robots. The only work left for humans will be creative work — and that may be reserved by law to homo sapiens, as computers will be quite capable of doing work that is both novel and appears creative.
Teamwork, human relations and personal service will be among the most important aspects of human work — whether it’s designing
an unmanned probe to a nearby star system, playing baseball, or performing a ballet or Shakespeare. Beyond this, the enormous rush of IT capacity will force us to seek meaning and understanding, not facts and information. And the world will start to look more and more like patterns of information.
I know one researcher who believes, for instance, that the human genome is not a blueprint for the human body but rather a finite state machine that operates like code to create and maintain the brain, body (and mind?) and adapt to changes in the environment. As we learn more about quantum mechanics, and the backstage workings of the universe, I suspect we will find that there are no particles, but that it is all just bundles of information. We may find that “mere anarchy” is, indeed, loosed upon the world, as Yeats said.
And these are merely a few of the pebbles on the beach before us. The world of 2035 will be as baffling to the inhabitants of 2005 as today would be to the people of 1800.