Thursday, May 20, 2010

Welcome to your life in 2020

I don’t know about you but I often try to imagine what the world might look like in the future and what I might be doing in it.  2020 is a particularly interesting year for me.  It is the year of my retirement, I hope.
“Retirement: entering a period in life where I don’t have to work to live but will choose to work at something, just because…”
I wonder what changes I will experience, initiate, or resist… over the next 10 years?  Warning, wild (or mild?) speculation follows…
Mobile communications devices: all landline phones are relics now – mobile devices are very small, thin, and foldable but are able to take on a rigid form when necessary.  They have a holographic image capability to project a 3D color image of live video calls, video media, virtual worlds, digital information, online applications, etc.  Multiparty communications present each party in the holographic image as if they were there.  Interactions and input with this digital world involve gestures, virtual touch / manipulation, natural human speech, and unrollable keyboards (I’m resisting the brain – device integration step!).  They detect and connect with other nearby devices, large screens, large projection systems, sound systems, cameras, cars, whatever makes sense to connect with.

Laptops and netbooks: huh?  oh ya, those last decade devices.  These are now only available as pre-owned devices for “old-timers”.  Having served us well, they have begun to move out of the way for small mobile devices which replace all other digital interaction devices.

Print on demand: designers rule in 2020.  They use the same type of 3D holographic tools as mobile devices but with a sophisticated “drawing” application to create 3D digital designs of all kinds of products.  Designers show case, support virtual trials, and sell the use of their designs through using the infinite shelf space of the Internet to businesses and consumers who “print” physical products on their multi-pass multi-composite atomic imprinting devices.  These “printing” devices literally print a product based on the design at a molecular level but placing atoms in precise arrangements one atomic layer at a time. Within minutes, people print a new mobile communications device, a coffee cup, a new toaster, a plate, fork, or t-shirt.  The buyer has some choices for color and shape.  The size of the “printer” determines the size and type of the product that may be printed.  The designer controls how many copies may be printed.  Traditional manufacturing businesses are nearly extinct.  The power of production has moved into the hands of the individual.  New models are being designed to allow reuse of existing physical products as the raw materials to produce different products.  The new printers will “absorb” physical objects and sort their atoms into the raw materials needed to produce new products.  Sounds dangerous…

K-12 Education: practical forms of the Holodeck (Star Trek artifact) File:Holodeck2.jpgare successfully being piloted by innovative educators and students.  Student and educator learning is being transformed through real world scenarios and environments as well as virtual digital imaginative worlds all through the safety of the Holodeck.  Teachers and students in the pilot projects use sophisticated tools to create Hololessons and Holomodules and they store these in the global Holorepository for easy access by other teachers and self-directed learners to use, understand, and modify.  Students and teachers connect their Holoworlds to others around the world for virtual multicultural experiences through their participation in Holoreal reenactments of important historical events.  Students are engaged, along side their teachers / learning coaches, in designing, creating, and connecting these worlds.  The possibilities are seemingly endless for rich educational experiences.
Seriously though, maybe not by 2020, but can’t you see glimmers of  possibilities in our lifetime?  I will have the good fortune to attend a very interesting conference this summer put on by the World Future Society.  Their focus is on the discipline of Futuring.  For an example of their work check out 20 Forecasts for 2010-2025, Trends and Breakthroughs likely to Affect Your Work, Your Investments, and Your Family.
“Foresight is critical to achievement in all areas of your life, including your major life decisions. People who lack foresight are likely to find themselves unemployed when jobs are unexpectedly lost to new technologies, competition from overseas, or shifts in consumer tastes. Foresight is the key to survival in a world of disruptive innovation.”
Let that quote sink in…  Pause for thought isn’t it.  I worry about where we are headed with technology.  Ray Kurzweil, the author of The Singularity Is Near and creator of the highly valued Kurzweil 3000 literacy solution (assistive / adaptive learning technology) , is interviewed in WFS’ latest journal edition and is a keynote at the July conference. His view is that sometime this century human level intelligence will exist in machines.  Machines will equal or surpass human mental capabilities.  He’s writing a new book “How the Mind Works – and How to Build One”.  I’m not sure I like that prospect personally, but with the accelerating increases in machine performance, maybe…

Anyway, feel free to speculate with me here about life in 2020, or beyond.  What do you think life will be like then?