Disappointment in the Future

This seems worth post­ing around now… As I’ve pre­vi­ously ob­served, fu­tur­is­tic vi­sions are pro­duced as en­ter­tain­ment, sold to­day and con­sumed to­day. A TV sta­tion in­ter­view­ing an eco­nomic or diplo­matic pun­dit doesn’t bother to show what that pun­dit pre­dicted three years ago and how the pre­dic­tions turned out. Why would they? Fu­tur­ism Isn’t About Pre­dic­tion.

But some­one on the Im­mInst fo­rum ac­tu­ally went and com­piled a list of Ray Kurzweil’s pre­dic­tions in 1999 for the years 2000-2009. We’re not out of 2009 yet, but right now it’s not look­ing good...

· In­di­vi­d­u­als pri­mar­ily use portable com­put­ers
· Portable com­put­ers have dra­mat­i­cally be­come lighter and thin­ner
· Per­sonal com­put­ers are available in a wide range of sizes and shapes, and are com­monly em­bed­ded in cloth­ing and jew­elry, like wrist watches, rings, ear­rings and other body or­na­ments
· Com­put­ers with a high-re­s­olu­tion vi­sual in­ter­face range from rings and pins and credit cards up to the size of a thin book. Peo­ple typ­i­cally have at least a dozen com­put­ers on and around their bod­ies, which are net­worked, us­ing body LANS (lo­cal area net­works)
· Th­ese com­put­ers mon­i­tor body func­tions, provide au­to­mated iden­tity to con­duct fi­nan­cial trans­ac­tions and al­low en­try into se­cure ar­eas. They also provide di­rec­tions for nav­i­ga­tion, and a va­ri­ety of other ser­vices.
· Most portable com­put­ers do not have keyboards

· Ro­tat­ing mem­o­ries such as Hard Drives, CD roms, and DVDs are on their way out.
· Most users have servers on their homes and offices where they keep large stores of digi­tal ob­jects, in­clud­ing, among other things, vir­tual re­al­ity en­vi­ron­ments, al­though these are still on an early stage
· Cables are dis­ap­pear­ing,
· The ma­jor­ity of texts is cre­ated us­ing con­tin­u­ous speech recog­ni­tion, or CSR (dic­ta­tion soft­ware). CSRs are very ac­cu­rate, far more than the hu­man tran­scrip­tion­ists, who were used up un­til a few years ago.
· Books, mag­a­z­ines, and news­pa­pers are now rou­tinely read on dis­plays that are the size of small books
· Com­puter dis­plays built into eye­glasses are also used. Th­ese spe­cial­ized glasses al­low the users to see the nor­mal en­vi­ron­ment while cre­at­ing a vir­tual image that ap­pears to hover in front of the viewer.
· Com­put­ers rou­tinely in­clude mov­ing pic­ture image cam­eras and are able to re­li­ably iden­tify their own­ers from their faces
· Three di­men­sional chips are com­monly used
· Stu­dents from all ages have a portable com­puter, very thin and soft, weight­ing less than 1 pound. They in­ter­act with their com­put­ers pri­mar­ily by voice and by point­ing with a de­vice that looks like a pen­cil. Key­bords still ex­ist but most tex­tual lan­guage is cre­ated by speak­ing.
· In­tel­li­gent course­ware has emerged as a com­mon means of learn­ing, re­cent con­tro­ver­sial stud­ies have shown that stu­dents can learn ba­sic skills such as read­ing and math just as read­ily with in­ter­ac­tive learn­ing soft­ware as with hu­man teach­ers.
· Schools are in­creas­ingly rely­ing on soft­ware ap­proaches. Many chil­dren learn to read on their own us­ing per­sonal com­put­ers be­fore en­ter­ing grade school.
· Per­sons with dis­abil­ities are rapidly over­com­ing their hand­i­caps through in­tel­li­gent tech­nol­ogy
· Stu­dents with read­ing dis­abil­ities rou­tinely use print to speech read­ing sys­tems
· Print to speech read­ing ma­chines for the blind are now very small, in­ex­pen­sive, palm-size de­vices that can read books.
· Use­ful nav­i­ga­tion sys­tems have fi­nally been de­vel­oped to as­sist blind peo­ple in mov­ing and avoid­ing ob­sta­cles. Those sys­tems use GPS tech­nol­ogy. The blind per­son com­mu­ni­cates with his nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem by voice.
· Deaf per­sons com­monly use portable speech-to-text listen­ing ma­chines which dis­play a real time tran­scrip­tion of what peo­ple are say­ing. The deaf user has the choice of ei­ther read­ing the tran­scribed speech as dis­played text or watch­ing an an­i­mated per­son ges­tur­ing in sign lan­guage.
· Listen­ing ma­chines cal also trans­late what is be­ing said into an­other lan­guage in real-time, so they are com­monly used by hear­ing peo­ple as well.
· There is a grow­ing per­cep­tion that the pri­mary dis­abil­ities of blind­ness, deaf­ness, and phys­i­cal im­pair­ment do not nec­es­sar­ily. Dis­abled per­sons rou­tinely de­scribe their dis­abil­ities as mere in­con­ve­niences.
· In com­mu­ni­ca­tions, trans­late tele­phone tech­nol­ogy is com­monly used. This al­low you to speak in English, while your Ja­panese friend hears you in Ja­panese, and vice-versa.
· Tele­phones are pri­mar­ily wire­less and in­clude high re­s­olu­tion mov­ing images.
· Hep­tic tech­nolo­gies are emerg­ing. They al­low peo­ple to touch and feel ob­jects and other per­sons at a dis­tance. Th­ese force-feed­back de­vices are wildly used in games and in train­ing simu­la­tion sys­tems. In­ter­ac­tive games rou­tinely in­clude all en­com­pass­ing all vi­sual and au­di­tory en­vi­ron­ments.
· The 1999 chat rooms have been re­placed with vir­tual en­vi­ron­ments.
· At least half of all trans­ac­tions are con­ducted on­line
· In­tel­li­gent routes are in use, pri­mar­ily for long dis­tance travel. Once your car’s com­puter’s guid­ing sys­tem locks on to the con­trol sen­sors on one of these high­ways, you can sit back, and re­lax.
· There is a grow­ing neo-lu­ditte move­ment.

Now, just to be clear, I don’t want you to look at all that and think, “Gee, the fu­ture goes more slowly than ex­pected—tech­nolog­i­cal progress must be nat­u­rally slow.”

More like, “Where are you pul­ling all these bur­den­some de­tails from, any­way?”

If you looked at all that and said, “Ha ha, how wrong; now I have my own amaz­ing pre­dic­tion for what the fu­ture will be like, it won’t be like that,” then you’re re­ally miss­ing the whole “you have to work a whole lot harder to pro­duce veridi­cal be­liefs about the fu­ture, and of­ten the info you want is sim­ply not ob­tain­able” busi­ness.