I’ve been thinking a lot about the future lately, both near and long-term. I wanted to get my predictions down in writing.
There is a war that is about to explode this Christmas over the living room. A computer will replace the cable box, and there isn’t a clear winner in the space. The winner will be as ubiquitous as the smartphone, and we’re not even close to that yet. Just as the iPhone showed us what a mobile touch operating system looks like, we are still waiting on someone to show us what an operating system looks like that we control from a couch. It’s not the same as a computer, and it’s not like anything we’ve seen yet.
Batteries limit most of the technology we use today. The reason you have annoying cords for your ear buds is due to the fact that we don’t have light, thin, long last batteries to power wireless versions. Batteries dictate the weight shape, size, and useable applications of almost all of our technology.
The problem is physics. They can’t pack electrons any tighter into lithium ion batteries. We’ve hit the ceiling and now we need something new. One promising option is a nobel prize winning substance called graphene. It’s a superconductor with power storage properties. It might not extend battery life for us, but it may reduce re-charge times to a second. In 3-5 years, graphene will be at the core of our most amazing advancements.
There is a bit of movement in this field with Up Bands, and a rumored Apple Watch. This is a just a bit of noise before the biggest paradigm shift since the Internet.
Ray Kurzweil said it best when he pointed out that looking at the Internet through a monitor is the equivalent of looking at the world through a keyhole.
When we were young we thought of the Internet in terms of “going online”. Now the Internet is just on. Ask a child the difference between online and offline and they won’t know what you’re talking about. The same is going to take place with computers. There won’t be a separation between being awake and being connected.
Google Glass is the first prototype in this field. It’s not a product that’s ready for mass consumption, but it is a necessary first step to figure out how this new paradigm is going to work. Very few people are going to wear something that looks so absurd, but soon it will look like any other pair of glasses. Eventually it will be a contact lens and at some point in the future it will likely be an implant.
I can already hear the cries of people saying that they don’t want to always be online. Take a look at the employment rate amongst people who can’t use computers. You won’t have a choice, and to be honest, you won’t want one.
Thinking about a Twitter stream projected onto your retina probably isn’t that appealing, but that’s not what this is going to be. A great deal of how we experience computers is limited by the constraint of having to displaying information in 2D on a flat screen.
Eventually information will just be overlaid onto reality. Augmented Reality is the term if you want to look it up. When we look at something online we expect there to be information and context. Prices, ratings, specs, explanations, and comparisons are standard in the digital world. Now imagine all that information overlaid onto the real world. Look at a person and their name and background will pop up.
We’ve spent a lot of effort trying to make computers more brain like. It’s a lot easier to just marry our brain with a computer.
Right now our interface with computers happens tactically by typing and touching. This is incredibly inefficient way to interact with a computer.
The first challenge is to allow a machine to read the information stored in our mind. This is a lot closer to a reality than you might imagine. Watch this for a demonstration. Once a computer can interpret our thoughts, we are freed from the ball and chain of our keyboard. The visual world won’t just be augmented with extra data; our brain will literally be augmented with a computer.
If you want to remember something, you won’t have to repeat it to yourself. Think to your internal computer that you want to save it, and it will be done. Retrieval of information will be just as easy. You won’t forget anything, ever. You will able to do calculations at lightning speed. All of the daily mental power that goes to low-level mundane tasks will cease. The computer will take care of it, and you will be left to think. A million productivity apps have made this promise and failed, but that’s because it’s painful to tell the computer want you want.
Right now, when we want to create something with a computer, we need to write technical instructions for it to understand. It requires thousands of lines of code, or hours of clicks in software like Photoshop and CAD. We are translating what’s in our mind into a language the computer can read.
If the computer can read our thoughts, all of those technical instructions become unnecessary. We will think of something, and then the computer will make it so.