If you look back at the past ten or so years, a lot of things have changed, and strangely stayed the same. Take the MP3 player for example; it has evolved rapidly from something that stores about an album of songs, to whole record collections, pictures, video clips. And yet they have stayed virtually the same size physically. Back in 1965, the co-founder of Intel, George Moore noted that the number of transistors per square inch on a chip had doubled every year since the integrated circuit had been invented back in the 1950s. Apart from a few plateaus over the years, it has tended to hold mostly true. When integration seemed to slow down, soon, some innovation in design meant that it leapt forward again. Originally, even George foresaw that his law would eventually fail, and he predicted that the finite physical limits for integration would be reached the year 2020.
The average MP3 player back in 2003 held 64 megabytes of music. The average MP3 player now holds at least 8 gigabytes on average, some 128 times more information. And 8 gigabytes is the lower end of the range memorywise. At the turn of the millennium, television and computer screens were largely dependent on the cathode ray tube. Now, everything is LCD or OLED flatscreen technology – plasma screens were just a fad in the end.
In terms of science and technology, we live in exciting times. Three Dimensional Printing has made a lot of things a reality, because we can now build things more immediately, bespoke and to order. Prototyping ideas has never been easier. What was once in the realm of science fiction, is now real – Douglas Adams’ Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy was an electronic book with all the known facts in the universe at your fingertips. We now have Kindles and iPads. Mobile phones destroyed the concept of the Personal Data Assistant, since most mobiles can do all that and more. If you think that the last decade was an eyeopener, the next five years is going to knock everything else into a cocked hat. Fast forward to 2020…
The future is here already
Moores Law didn’t account for one thing: the advent of nanotechnology. Already, molecular computing has begun to come into its own, where integrated circuits are assembled from atoms and molecules, rather than being printed. This is where things become mindblowing. Literally. The human brain is a computer on a molecular level. We can now assemble in theory at least, self assembling networks that are comparable to the human brain. What level of interaction and operability we will see from these new types of computers is difficult at present to ascertain. But the tantalising possibility that artificial intelligence will finally come of age, is here. For example, the operating system on your MP3 player, will choose music for you, based on intelligent and emotional deduction based upon what you have already been listening to. It was adapt to you personally, or even try to adapt your choices of music subtly by introducing new bands or genres.
We may also see the demise of the keyboard and mouse. Already, computers and phones can be locked with our biometric data (the shape of our faces, voice or fingerprints). Soon, they may be our familiars, electronic super servants, the Personal Data Assistant reborn as a multimedia self-selective and referencing interface. You would talk to your machine, much like people talk to their phones through the Siri interface now. Except the quality of interaction may surpass it by a wide margin. The machines in 2020 may not pass the Turing Test, but they might not be far off either.
In 1970, when man was still going to the moon, the computing power onboard the Apollo spacecraft was little more than 2 kilobytes. And that was enough to control the craft. Admittedly the ground computers back at mission control were much bigger – even so, they were still pitifully small in computing terms. Computers the size of small cars, with 6 megabytes of computing memory. Think about that when you next take out a USB stick to download some pictures from your laptop to take down to Boots to get some prints. In the next ten years, voice, nerve and to some degree thought control will take over the operational side of computing. Some may even choose to receive implants to control machines. The majority of us will probably settle for the slightly less painful sacrifice of our biometric information, or wearable tech such as a skull cap to pick up brain signals, or glasses to measure rapid eye movements.
The physical world
In 2016, the British Standard for Building Information Management (BIM) will become a mandatory requirement for all companies involved in large scale infrastructure projects. From the inception of a project, throughout its entire lifecycle, to its final decommissioning and demolition. London for example at the moment is going through a renewed burst of construction projects. Since the economy slowly turned around after the recession, more buildings are going up – the whole city is one big concrete farm, churning out new build and refurbishments like never before.
By the turn of the next decade, we will see 22 Bishopsgate, nicknamed the ‘Helter Skelter’, a 62 storey building completed, along with the repurposed Battersea Power Station, Number 1 Undershaft, which will be the same height as The Shard in London Bridge, and a whole host of studio flats in modern high rises. All projects developed using BIM processes and private funding.
It is probably fair to say that the petrol and diesel engines’ days are numbered. Even so, cars will more likely be hybrids rather than fully electrical for practical and technical reasons. Hydrogen Fuel Cells are still relatively inefficient, and gas has its drawbacks. Even so, we will see more electric vehicles come onto the markets and landing up on our driveways.
Human Computer Interaction
In this instance, we have already arrived. The iPad, Android phones and Google Glass; all can run applications and software that allow us to augment reality. If we’re walking down the street, the GPS in these devices allows the software to overlay real time information over our view of the world. General information about the world around us, our location within it. All at the touch of a button, or more likely with a spoken command. In five years time, applications like Siri and Cortana will improve vastly. They will be able to interpret your commands and suggestions more efficiently.
Virtual reality will also play a bigger part in our entertainment and relaxation. We can already make movies that are full surround. It is also possible to place these cameras in other locations, so that we could have virtual holidays without leaving our living rooms, our senses being augmented by a host of other mechanical peripherals, simulating breeze, smells and sensations, such as the feeling of warm sand under your feet.
And then there’s sex. We can’t leave out perhaps the most controversial aspect of augmented reality. The science of Teledildonics (yes, it is called that), will mean that people can resort to pleasuring themselves with machines more than each other. Whether it be a need for instant gratification, a psychological crutch or actual medical therapy for individuals requiring an outlet, we are already seeing unusual trends evolving – lifelike dolls built to order; the KIIRO is a dual sex toy, designed to please couples remotely. Women use a touch-sensitive vibrator, that can measure aspects of *ahem* male penetration. It then sends feedback to the male toy, whereupon they can both share the experience.
Without a doubt, solar power will be increasing in use, and becoming vastly more powerful due to design improvements and miniaturisation without loss of efficiency. Wind, wave and fossil fuels will fall eventually by the wayside – nuclear power, currently enjoying something of a minor resurgence, will once again head towards the doldrums as a power supply alternative.
The biggest difference will be how these cells can be applied to the sources that they will power. Some will be flexible, whilst others can be printed or even painted onto the surfaces of devices or buildings. The implications of this are staggering.