by Mike Shea on 19 May 2013
On my 40th birthday I had some fun looking back at blog posts from ten years to see what was on my mind and what I thought of the future. Apparently I was into Matrix Reloaded in a big way; boy was that a mistake. It was interesting to see my predictions for the future of computing. I'm not sure I was too far off, given how hard it was to predict things like the iPhone back ten years ago.
I thought it would be fun to make some predictions again for the next ten years of technology, so here are my technology predictions for the year 2023.
If we generally consider Moore's Law to be in effect, we can expect computing power to grow 32 times over the next ten years. While Moore's Law generally follows CPU power, it isn't that far off for all general computing capability taken in whole. We will see this 32x overall power increase in a mixture of CPU performance, memory, video performance, and network bandwidth. Battery limitations will keep up with this power increase, though not necessarily at the same pace. Increases in CPU efficiency will mean we can have small computers that can last for years on a single battery charge. Think about how long digital watches last now on a single battery.
I think it's safe to say that mobile computing is the future of information consumption. For general information consumption and communication, the mobile platform will be what we all generally use.
I'm not sure Google Glass or wearable computing will be that future. I don't think head-mounted displays offer that much more to us than a mobile computer in our pocket. We might, however, come to some version of Snow Crash where a small headset feeds us augmented or virtual reality.
Audio-controlled systems will also get better. Systems like Siri and Google Now let us interact with our computer without the need for a screen. People already wear bluetooth headsets everywhere. As computers can better understand and communicate with us aurally, this might become a new dominant way we interact with our mobile computers.
Over the past ten years, megacorporations such as Google, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook have taken over the once open web. They've closed the doors and built proprietary stacks of hardware, software, networks, distribution platforms, and online services. Each of these technology megacorps will seal up their stack and grow stronger as they lock things down more and more.
Each piece of content you buy locks you further in to the stack. Our allegiance to the stack we choose will become our new digital citizenship. I'm personally a member of the Apple stack. I've got way too many shows purchased with them to painlessly leave them for one of the other stacks. My music is all held in iTunes Match. This is only going to get worse over the next ten years. In the future, children will follow the stacks their parents had. They'll inherit vast pools of encrypted data owned by the megacorps and licensed to the consumer.
Blu-ray will be the last physical digital medium for movies. The cost, convenience, and control of digitally distributed media makes life easier for consumers and gives content owners the control they've always wanted over their material. Books, music, and video games will all follow the same path.
Digital distribution will be the end of the middle men. Best Buy and Game Stop will be artifacts of the past.
4k resolutions will be the new standard resolutions for TVs and computer screens 10 years from now.
After the 2013 generation of gaming consoles, the next set of consoles will come out in 2018. They will be digital only distribution systems tied to games, movies, and TV shows held within their stack. They will be small and relatively low power rather than the most cutting edge platforms. They will be roughly four to eight times more powerful than the 2013 generation. Some or all of these new consoles will be from companies who had not yet previously developed a game console such as Valve, Apple, or Amazon. These consoles will support 4k resolutions and one or more of these systems will support a virtual reality headset like the Oculus Rift.
Nintendo will cease to make new consoles, going the way of Sega and licensing out Mario, Metroid, and Zelda to other systems.
The next massive online game to make a big splash will bet he one that lets its customers design their own content, such as a virtual dungeon, and sell it with 30% of the revenue going back to the game manufacturer and 70% going to the creator.
What would World of Warcraft be like if there were ten thousand instances you might try out, all lovingly created by people who know what sort of content we actually want? The game producer would make millions on content they never even created. Independent game designers would make thousands building game content and selling them directly to customers. Customers make out by having a nearly infinite pool of custom-built content to digest for not a lot of money. This will be the next big thing in massive online games.
There's a misconception that 3d printing is cheaper than overseas plastic manufacturing. Cost isn't the reason 3d printing will be a big deal, customization is. My hope is that, in ten years, we'll have desktop 3d printers that use recycled plastic to turn plastic cups into flower pots when we need them. I'd love to see desktop 3d printed custom miniatures for my D&D game, including color, but I think that's more than 10 years off.
The big struggle with 3d printing will come from control by both politicians and megacorps. 3d printing will be rife with intellectual property theft. Why buy a Mickey Mouse toy at the store when you can just print your own? The solution to this is mandatory digital rights management in every US 3d printer that only accepts "approved" models. Yes, hackers and makers will get around this, but the rest of the populous will have to suffer with buying pre-approved models for digitally limited commercial 3d printers.
The 32x leap in computing power will be most felt with medicine and physical monitoring of our bodies. We're starting to see movement this way with things like the Fitbit, the Withings scale, and life monitoring apps on our smartphones. How soon until we can measure vital statistics, blood sugar levels, calorie intake, calorie expenditure, and other things? How soon until our insurance companies and health management firms start to get a hold of it?
There will certainly be a struggle for privacy with this sort of data, but if we can get a hold of it ourselves, we can learn much more about our actual behavior instead of just our perception.
I just started reading Arthur C. Clarke's Songs of Distant Earth. Clarke makes a great case for the idea that robot ships will be the future of space travel. Getting humans out of Earth's gravity and surviving in space is a tremendous pain in the ass. Sending out robots is much cheaper and much less dangerous. Robot ships can travel all throughout the solar system and even outside the galaxy. We can explore other planets and beam back the results just as we did with Curiosity.
This is more than ten years out but the future of the human race resides in robotic ships soaring throughout the Galaxy on billion year voyages filled with frozen genetic material and databases full of our digital lives.
So there are my predictions for the next ten to one billion years out. Check back in 2023 and we'll see how I did!
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