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The future—visualize yours

Posted: 09.10.13

You can’t use the past to see the future—I’m pretty sure we’ve all heard that before, and probably even said it a few times. It’s especially true in the case of computers. Think back to the sixties—there was a one big mainframe for many, in the eighties and nineties we got to almost one computer each, and today we have many computers to one.

With miniaturization we can turn anything into a computer, so what do you choose? In 2002 the computer goes to zero. 

How do we change the future?

Change the story people tell themselves about the future they will live in. This is known as visualizing; it’s very powerful, and works.
The failure is the inability to imagine a better or different future—you’ll get what’s given to you.

Can we imagine a radically better future? Pay attention to and seek information on new developments in medicine, technology, social and educational de¬velopment, ignore religious dogma and bureaucracy—think of Copernicus. He had to overcome hundreds of years of so-called proof from Ptolemy and religion. He transformed the world from belief driving data to data driving belief.

When people are asked to visual the future and how computing will enable it, they call up images of the terminator or blade runner. Or, they imagine ridiculously sterile clean new worlds—neither is correct. The future will be like it is now: messy, noisy, busy, and hopefully better.

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about futures we want to avoid. Sometimes these concerns are more important than identifying the future we want to live in. Regardless, we need to change the narrative and change how we have conversations about those narratives.

Computers will be such an intimate part of our lives that we won’t pay much attention to them, and we will not even aware of most of them. The sensors in our pocket and probably in our clothes, shoes, jewelry, and glasses will tell us and maybe others not only what we’re doing but how well we’re doing. Is our heart rate too high, is someone yelling at us, have we eaten too much, do we need a drink?

All that data collection about our activities and behavior patterns can be very useful to giant computers in the ubiquitous cloud as our data is mashed and compared to millions of others, and simultaneously used to help us get our preferences. This will be the big issue, the privacy and protection of data about us and from us. Data about us includes bank accounts, health-related, criminal, educational, and other records and the mechanism for how we, and only we, access our data will be developed largely on how we visualize and articulate our vision of the future.

We can change the future if we can come to a consensus of what we want it to be. On big issues like wars, national health care, government budgets, and spending, we probably can’t find a consensus, at least not in the democracies of the world where leaders are actually elected. In other countries where leaders are self-appointed or clique-appointed (often disguised as an election), then the vision those citizens have will be that of their leaders and reflect the leaders’ personal ambitions and desires. Computers may not help much there, but computers will make it more difficult for those leaders to avoid transparency—everyone has a camera and video recorder, and almost everyone can upload their observations. That has a sobering effect on tyrannical behavior.

The millions of observations and data collection points combined with the expansive and faster communications networks will deliver solutions to problems at amazing speeds. New medical treatments, emergency reactions to environmental and manmade disasters will be managed much faster and more effectively.

In my future everyone reads TechWatch, GPUs are ten times as fast, run on one-tenth the power, and cost one-tenth as much. What’s your future look like?