Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Future

According to Jonathan Coulton, “it's gonna be the future soon.”  The future: it's always there, but we never seem to reach it.

What do you imagine the future to be?  Often I will hear or read statements about how in the future one very specific concept will become all-important and change how we live life forever!  Just imagine if all of these statements actually came true.  The world twenty years from now would be completely unrecognizable.

So personally, while I think it might be fun to go off on a tangent about how one idea will change the world, I think in reality the things that will end up changing us the most are the things that we perceive make our lives easier.  After all, as cool as they might sound, we still don't have flying cars.

What we do have are smart phones, pedometers, Facebook, hybrid cars and Xbox Live.  Technology connects us, entertains us, makes us more efficient.  The more things it does for us, the more highly we value it.

So what do I imagine in the future?  I see us wearing our electronics in our clothing, triggering them with gestures to open a projected display that connects us to the world.  (This sort of technology is already in the works.  There are some particularly interesting projects happening here.)  I see us attaching a lot of value to things that reduce the time between desiring something simple and seeing it happen.

Take communication, for example.  Over time it has become more and more instant: telegraphs to telephones to cell phones to speed dial to voice recognition.  We come closer and closer to instant gratification.  We have remote controls and highways, reducing the amount of movement we need to make and speeding up the movement we do require.

And along with these advantages we have physical and social disadvantages.  I think the movie WALL-E gave us a pretty good picture of where all this ease and efficiency might lead.  Like most things technology comes with a mix of good and bad.

So where does all this lead?  I don' think anyone can say for certain.  There are a lot of interesting ideas though, and even if we can't explore them in real life yet, we can always explore them in books.  Maybe one day I'll have reason to write my version of the future.

In the meantime, happy imagining!

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