[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:

	http://tinyurl.com/lpd8o    OR

 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.



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