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

Shock No. 4: Nothing escapes you

In 1945, Vannevar Bush conceived of a device called a Memex that would store and retrieve all information accumulated throughout one's life. In the next 30 years, advances in speech and video recognition, the power of cloud-based computing, and real-time, continuous, wearable content capture will bring the Memex vision to life. Just think: You'll be able to leave a meeting without worrying about manually capturing your to-dos. You won't have to remember that interesting thing your friend mentioned over coffee. You won't have to write down the thought that sprung to mind when you saw an advertisement on TV or a billboard on the way home.

Vannevar's Memex vision will come to fruition through your next-next-next-generation PDA. The device will continuously capture all audio and video from your daily experiences and upload that content to the cloud, where it will be parsed to succinctly recognize your tasks, interesting information, and reminders -- all searchable, of course. A summary of important content from your day will be available through your PDA automatically. And yes, like Google Chrome, a "p0rn mode" option will ensure that the things you don't want remembered won't be. -- Savio Rodriguez

Shock No. 5: Smartphones take center stage

I see the smartphone evolving into the preferred instrument for constant connectivity, with voice interaction, facial recognition, location awareness, constant video and sound input, and multitouch screens. The keyboard won't go away completely, but it might be virtual: Think about typing in the air on an image projected from your "smart glasses." Business desktops would evolve into docking stations for your smartphone, with large screens and input devices, Gigabit or better connectivity, and local resources comparable to one of today's big servers (technical desktops would be similar, but with way more onboard CPU and GPU power, as well as massive memory and storage, all connected to massive servers and cloud resources). In this vision, the laptop nearly goes away. -- Martin Heller

Shock No. 6: Human-free manufacturing

We're already close to the perfect factory. (It employs one human and one dog; the human is there to feed the dog, and the dog is there to keep the human from touching anything.) Right now, manufacturing in the U.S. is up, while manufacturing employment is down. By 2018, automation will have hit enough labor sectors that while the GDP will continue to grow, fewer and fewer people will receive that growth in the form of wages. This will drive either social collapse or the establishment of a no-apologies welfare state. -- Bob Lewis

Shock No. 7: Perfect image recognition

I've actually always had this search engine dream. One day you'll be able to see a picture of something or take a picture of something, and load it into a search engine and have it scan the pic, search, and tell you what it is. So you see a flower, stop and take a pic of it, and Google will tell you what kind of flower it is. Or you can take a pic of a fungus growing on your favorite plant and Google will be able to tell you what it is by scanning the characteristics of the pic. Cars, people, buildings -- it should work for whatever you can photograph. -- Sean McCown

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InfoWorld staff

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