Science fiction writers have long had a way of predicting the future of technology. Many of the things imagined by greats like Asimov or Pournelle in past decades have eventually become reality. And right now the world of computers seems to be at a crossroads. So when author Kevin J. Anderson started wondering where computers might go next, he went to his friends: Some of the foremost science fiction authors working today.
Anderson published their full responses on his blog, but after the jump is a quick breakdown of some of the things they predict we’ll see happening with computers in the next few years. One thing you’ll notice quickly is that almost all of them see a future where the gap between man and machine decreases, rapidly. Read on.
“I think before too long my cell phone (or its equivalent) will produce a large, three-dimensional, holographic image, and if I have some questions it will answer me in a language I know: spoken English. And it’ll perform any other acts of kindness or convenience I require, all without prompting. It’ll probably ask me if I’ve eaten my greens and done my exercise, and castigate me if I haven’t.”
Robert J. Sawyer
“The future of computing is artificial consciousness, and it will be here within 20 years, and maybe much sooner than that…
Thinking—and feeling—machines won’t be burdened with billions of years of Darwinian nastiness driving them and they won’t think in terms of win-lose but rather of win-win, because their natural environment is one of endless bounty, of unlimited copying of whatever resource one might desire. In the end, we may finally learn compassion and altruism from our machine children.”
Dr. Gregory Benford
“Our future wired world will have smart, wireless robots—gofers in hospitals, security guards with IR vision at night, lawn mowers, etc. We ourselves will be wired, with devices and embedded sensors taking in data and giving it out—a two way street.”
“Dattoos (computers laid on the skin like tattoos) would be a major step in both fashion and computing…
With dattoos, one updates one’s status not by going online but by high-fiving or rubbing skin — an altogether more sensual experience. The dattoo then transmits information to an imager in one’s glasses, or perhaps to wireless-enabled contact lens displays.”
Michael A. Stackpole
“Implanted sensors—perhaps inscribed as visible, invisible or mutable tattoos—provide a sense of our bodies in space and read nerve impulses. We become keyboards, where gestures akin to Aslan allow us to remotely access information streams and control devices. We’ll be able to move through a space, almost like Jedi using the Force, to turn things on, shut them off, launch productivity programs and glean information.”
“In the next five to ten years, we’ll see increasing development of neurosynaptic chips (such as IBM’s SyNAPSE program)—so-called cognitive computers that will mirror the interconnected structure of organic brains…In the longer term, when more efficient memory storage is developed, holographic displays/video will finally become possible. Retinal displays will be available for those willing to risk surgery—glasses for the rest of us. Many computers will be built into the clothes we wear, and even airbrushed onto or tattooed into our skin in flexible matrixes that will derive power from the heat, motion, and electrical charge of our bodies…
Along with hardware, software will change as well, becoming increasingly tactile and intuitive. Destructible environments will be common in video games. And, as humans have always done, we will continue to search for ways to improve our interconnectivity, both with cloud computing and social websites.”