By Sterling “Chip” Camden
Contributing Writer, [GAS]
Richard Demming wrote a short story called “The Shape of Things That Came” back in 1950. The story, set in 1900, is about a writer who has traveled forward in time to 1950 and back again. He tries to publish a story about the future technologies he has witnessed, but it’s rejected — the editor says it’s unbelievable because with so many advances in only fifty years, it’s impossible that everyone could take them for granted.
I read this story for the first time just last year, and I had to wonder what a modern version of it would look like with all the advances in technology we’ve seen since the fifties. Just as in Demming’s story, today we take even the most recently introduced gadgets as commonplace components of our lives.
Now TechRadar has published nine predictions for the future of computing over the next fifty years. If I’m still alive in 2059, it would be interesting to compare how closely reality follows these prognostications. I’m guessing that they’re pretty far off the mark, given the history of such predictions and the accelerating pace of technology. Even looking forward five years into the future is getting pretty dicey, never mind fifty.
For instance, take the predictions about photonics. This is a technology that already exists. Is it realistic to think that no better alternative will be developed in fifty years? And will it really take that long for computing to reach zettascale? Will advances in display, storage, speech, and touch be only refinements on what we already have? Think of all the innovations in computing over the last fifty years and then tell me we can’t do any better than that.
But the one that really got my goatee is the ninth and last point: “Being a geek won’t matter”, because everyone will possess geek powers. A commenter named “matrixdweller” captured my reaction precisely:
Making the assumption that everyone will be geeks would be like saying, back in the early 20th century, that everyone would be an auto mechanic since automobiles would proliferate to a great extent. The more concise conclusion would be that everyone would know how to drive.
Sure the technical know how of the average person will far exceed that of the average person today. Similarly on how each generation’s technical know how is more advanced than the preceding generation’s (my parent’s still can’t set their digital clocks). There will always be those that have a more advanced comprehension of a subject than the general population.
Of course there will be geeks — they just won’t be working on problems that will have already been solved for fifty years. Instead they’ll be exploring new technologies that haven’t even been dreamt of yet.
Long live geeks!