[FoRK] Where the F&@# is my flying car?
Jeff Bone <
jbone at place.org
> on >
Fri Sep 8 07:48:01 PDT 2006
Futurists get real:
From the introduction:
Bursting tech bubbles before they balloon
By: Marina Gorbis and David Pescovitz
IEEE Fellows Survey
As our population ages and needs more care, there will be fewer young
people to provide it. But don’t expect to fill the personnel gap with
humanoid robotic nurses, say a majority of the more than 700 IEEE
Fellows surveyed in a joint study by the Institute for the Future
(IFTF) and IEEE Spectrum.
The survey was conducted earlier this year to learn what developments
IEEE Fellows expect in science and technology in the next 10 to 50
years. They ought to foresee such things better than most, because
they have so much to do with bringing them about.
What other bubbles did the Fellows burst? Forget about being
chauffeured to work by your car; the Fellows doubt that autonomous,
self-driving cars will be in full commercial production anytime soon.
And though they say Moore’s Law will someday finally yield to the
laws of physics, slowing the increase in computer performance, the
IEEE Fellows don’t expect to get around the problem by using quantum
weirdness to perform calculations at fabulous speeds. Seventy-eight
percent of respondents doubt that a commercial quantum computer will
reach the market in the next 50 years. In short, the future is taking
longer than expected to arrive.
“We tend to overestimate the impact of a technology in the short run
and underestimate it in the long run,” observed former IFTF president
Roy Amara years ago. The IEEE Fellows seemed to agree. On the whole,
the Fellows turned out to be a down-to-earth bunch—no space elevators
in most of their forecasts—and they were quick to dispel future hype
while eager to ground their forecasts in state-of-the-art engineering.
A few were uncomfortable making forecasts, arguing that science and
technology are unpredictable. At IFTF, we wholeheartedly agree.
Trying to predict specific events and timing is best left to
astrologers. Instead, our researchers in Palo Alto, Calif., look for
signals—events, developments, projects, investments, and expert
opinions, like those provided by this survey—that, taken together,
give indications of key trends. Observed as a complex ecology, these
signals reveal where these developments may be taking us.
The survey identified five themes that we believe are the main
arteries of science and technology over the next 50 years:
“Computation and Bandwidth to Burn” involves the shift of computing
power and network connectivity from scarcity to utter abundance;
“Sensory Transformation” hints at what happens when, as Neil
Gershenfeld, director of MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms, puts it,
“things start to think”; “Lightweight Infrastructure” is precisely
the opposite of the railways, fiber-optic networks, centralized power
distribution, and other massively expensive and complicated projects
of the 20th century; “Small World” is what happens when
nanotechnology starts to get real and is integrated with
microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) and biosystems; and finally,
“Extending Biology” is what results when a broad array of
technologies, from genetic engineering to bioinformatics, are applied
to create new life forms and reshape existing ones.
More information about the FoRK