Relay #70, Panel F

don't just know technology, understand it

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Was there a futurist at your career day?

Being a futurist today isn't a hard job at all. An educated guess is all you need to be able to spell out where we as a species are headed in terms of our technological advances.

A hundred years ago futurists would guess where we're going simply by taking what was known in that day and extrapolating future developments based on their own understanding of what it means to progress. If something is fast, it will be faster, if it's big, it will be bigger. Efficiency and usefulness was measured in terms of power and at the time it was inconceivable that more power could come from something if it's smaller than a previous incarnation.

Today we are a little more exposed. Both in terms of what is possible and to the potential of the natural world (organic and otherwise) in helping us achieve it. There is a larger focus on synergies; Build on a technology until it matures, then merge it with something else. There is also a great deal of openness. Yes, there are trade secrets in terms of implementation of technologies, and patents, it could be argued, are stifling innovation, but that doesn't make us any less knowledgeable as to what can be accomplished. It simply stops us from doing it ourselves.

Armed with this, it doesn't take a Ph.D. to give a relatively reasonable hypothesis of our impending revolution. Living a life where technologies that are seen as conveniences today are merged with our ecological and social framework, making them inseparable and indistinguishable. A time when technology will simply be us.

Take a dash of wireless, mix it in with a good heaping of broadband, add nano technology to taste and serve with a spicy multi-terabyte processing sauce (either nano or chemical based will do nicely) or maybe a serving of human genome and what you have in a sure-fire recipe for future technologies.

Fact is, anyone with enough information and a little imagination can make a pretty good guess as to where we'll be in the next 10, 20 or 50 years. Our technology is that predictable. Whether this is good or bad, the jury is still out. The only sure thing here is that there is a clear distinction between a futurist of today and any incarnation of a previous era.