Futurism in IT – An Introduction

Grade A Customer Service Technician Sean Quinn gives us an introduction to the past, present and future of IT.

Past, Present and Future

It’s arguable that in many ways, the ongoing history of information technology’s evolution is also the history of modern futurism. A great and very legendary visionary named Gene Roddenberry, creator of the original Star Trek franchise envisioned a future that seemed somewhat believable to the television audience of the 60s. He foretold of personal communicators, computers that can talk, and devices capable of detecting all sorts of electro-magnetic energies in the environment as well as portable laser – based weapons that could stun or kill a target.

And although many of the technologies foretold in that great series are not scheduled to exist for another hundred or more years, many of them have started to appear on the open market already.

Futurism is about being able to tell where technological innovation is going, and what impact it is likely to have on society and the way people live, based on what’s happening now in the mainstream and by extrapolating that with information from the cutting edge of technological research.

IT futurism can be a fascinating topic. It lets us speculate on what the technological landscape of our cities will look like in 10 years, 20 years…Futurism creates the visions that today’s innovators strive to achieve tomorrow.

Some of the topics I plan to cover in the blogs ahead are complex and involve some speculation. I will write about technologies I’ve glimpsed, tried, read about and predicted over the years. For many of them, I’ve been right to some extent about how things would be today, based on how and where things seemed to be going 10 to 20 years ago, in terms of technological development. There’s a certain validating gratification in being able to predict and then watch as one’s predictions about the future unfold in real-time.

My next piece will revolve around what portable and wearable computing platforms will be like in 5 to 10 years. There are interesting developments at Neurosky, which, combined with Google Glass will help us replace hand-held smart phones with total heads-up thought-activated smartshade headsets with visor displays. These devices respond to neural commands, eye-tracked blink clicking and voice commands which will keep us in touch with the internet and phone network without carrying a clumsy, bulky phone, tablet or computer. Much of this technology will be compressed into a wrist watch and headset combo, which will make for a wearable computing platform that is on par with today’s best desktop systems and tomorrow’s best super phones.

Later, I want to take a deeper dive into a topic I can only just barely grasp as it is: quantum computing, which Google plans to roll out in its data centers in order to increase processing power.

3 months ahead and beyond, I’ll be looking at other topics that revolve around what kinds of information processing will be possible and indeed actual in the future. And if you hang out with me for the ride, we’ll discover to what extent these things come to pass in the years ahead. One example of the ways in which things will change for many people is in the area of desktop fabrication and 3D printing.  It won’t be long before a third of modern households have a computer-driven 3D fabricator in the workshop. A device like that will allow you to craft almost any sort of object you want using CAD plans, or even by downloading open source generic design templates for dish washer parts, car parts, customized toys, housings for all sorts of things or for entrepreneurial product prototyping.

There are some exciting new developments in the battery space as well. Batteries are not information processing systems, but they power our gadgets. And the batteries are getting better all the time. I’ll take a closer look at some of the cutting edge battery developments and what they imply for mobile computing as well as how they will revolutionize UPS technologies.

One of the really cool things that will be powered by these new battery technologies is the personal drone. It won’t be long before everyone has a drone hovering above their car in traffic to see what’s going on 6 blocks ahead, streaming the real-time tactical feed to your smart-visor. You’ll be able to send it up to have a look at the solar panels on your roof for you, to check on the kids in the back yard, and even to take selfies.

Somewhere down the road, I’ll be taking a more conceptual twist and having a look at how cloud technologies are re-shaping the human experience on a personal and lifestyle level. I’ll examine the relatively new phenomena of social networking, online dating and other cloud-based changes in the way people interact remotely on personal and intellectual level, finding like-minded people to form networks of communities that are made up of solitary individuals who happen to live in the middle of nowhere, or who live in a city where they don’t fit in much with the people in their immediate circles. That aspect of technology has already introduced huge amounts of change in the modern world. And I expect that this change will continue to develop and accelerate as more people begin to separate the social stigma of the past from the mental and emotional invigoration that online social communities can create.

Photo credit: Radar Communication on Flickr.com