Ten future shocks for the next 10 years

A look back at the changes wrought by technology since 1978, and predictions of the shocking developments we can expect between now and 2018

The past 30 years of InfoWorld's existence have seen a series of future shocks, from the ascent of the personal computer to horrifying strains of malware to the sizzling sex appeal of the iPhone. In honor of InfoWorld's 30th anniversary, we've decided to take a playful look ahead at the future shocks that could occur in the next 10 years (30 years seemed a little too sci-fi).

An all-points bulletin went out to InfoWorld contributors, the replies to which we culled into 10 future shocks -- ranging from radical changes in IT's responsibility to "1984"-ish scenarios where privacy is a quaint notion. No doubt you've considered many of these possibilities yourself. Even more likely, you have just as many interesting scenarios to bring to the party, and we urge you to share them in the comments section of this article. Dream big -- given the drama of the past 30 years, the next 10 are anyone's guess.

Shock No. 1: Triumph of the cloud

My main prediction is that the high cost of power and space is going to force the IT world to look at cloud services, with a shift to computing as a cloud resource occurring in the next five years. So like the old mainframe model where we didn't care how the machine is configured, we just dump requests to the machine and get results. In fact, cloud computing services will resemble mainframe service bureaus. We're already starting to see cloud service bureaus, such as Amazon's EC2. Ultimately, the emergence of cloud computing will reduce the need for computing at the enterprise level. -- Brian Chee

Shock No. 2: Cyborg chic

By 2018, geek chic will look a lot like what today we'd call a cyborg. The human/machine interface will be ubiquitous, with people walking around giving voice/whisper commands and using earbud audio and an eyeglass display that superimposes a machine-enhanced view of the world on ordinary vision. Nobody will notice that half the population is cyborg, because we'll get there one small step at a time, as iPhone belt-clip holders give way to the iBeltBuckle, iGlasses (hey, that's catchy!), and iEarRings. A new generation of computer viruses will take over the new display technology. Sometimes they're fatal, as when the computer display shows an empty street, when in Actual Reality (AR) the street is filled with high-speed traffic. Other times they're just funny, as when the display insists on showing mustaches on every face in view. -- Bob Lewis

Shock No. 3: Everything works

You come home to do a little work on the computer, and when you turn it on, it boots up in just a few seconds with no issues. You open e-mail and it comes up without your having to wait. In fact, this new OS doesn't even have an hourglass icon! For the rest of the night, your computer does everything you ask it to do, without any waiting, hiccups, or errors. The interface is intuitive and sleek. It even changes based off what you're currently doing so that you can access features of the OS that you need while you're, say, working with e-mail or editing pics. We'll call this OS "Windows Sci-Fi" because we're all dreaming if we think that'll ever happen. -- Sean McCown

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