Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Technology in this coming decade:

The current of Digit has an feature written by me, which serves as a five year timeline of emerging technologies in the computing and communications realm.

Here's an excerpt. For the rest, buy the damn mag cause it's really worth a read.

Computing in 2015
Forget 2012 and the singularity. We're going to try and envision the future of personal computers and technology in the year 2015.

To start off with this feature on future predictions, which will only deal with certainties, we would like to assure our readers that world is not ending in 2012. NASA, in fact had a news release dismissing claims about a phantom planet or galactic alignment which would bring the end of the world. "Even if these alignments were to occur, their effects on the Earth would be negligible." says a news release. "Each December the Earth and sun align with the approximate center of the Milky Way Galaxy, but that is an annual event of no consequence."

However, it is difficult to gaze in a crystal ball and project a grandiose vision for future of all technology, what with the whole gamut of futurologists like Arthur C Clarke, William Gibson and Neal Stephenson jostling for space in this beat. And then there's Thomas Friedman, and the likes of him who explain the world of globalization, chronicling the next big killer app, hotshot CEO in double page photo spreads. Even though there are no five year plans outside of the realms of socialist governments, especially in the field of computing and consumer electronics. However, given that we live in India, and get 3G close to a decade after Japan got it, it would be fairly easy to predict the future of tech five years from now by looking at what is happening around the world.

What makes this task somewhat difficult, is that some of our readers might actually scan this issue and put it up for laughter and ridicule in the year 2015. So we will stick to the obvious, and try and be fairly authoritative about what we are saying here. Even though Bill Gates famously once said 512 KB of RAM should be enough for anyone.

We're dwelling here on the state of the communications and semiconductor industry, where intellectual property, software and interface patents, and walled gardens help retain precarious monopolies. One can't help being cynical when the invisible hand of the free market pinches your wallet. As of December 2009, we're yet to see a $100 laptop or a 10,000 rupee Android, Netbooks are still running on underpowered Atom processors with half the power of an Intel Celeron of the same clockspeed, while CPU companies limit features on their high-end processors by blowing polysilicon fuses out of it. While some first world countries like Finland have declared bandwidth a birthright, Internet connectivity in India is capped at 10 GB by some of the largest telcos, under a "fair usage policy".

The future of computing is already here in many parts of the world, it's just that most of us are yet to afford or experience it, or see it in the Indian subcontinent. Finding low-cost, high value tech products that aren't neutered in anyway is an endless and often fruitless quest. A friend of mine equates devices that require proprietary connectors to circumcision, and far worse - female genital mutilation. He claims to "support Cowon" because unlike other manufacturers, they have good support for video and audio codecs. He asks, "Why don't we have a hard drive version of the iPod Touch?"  For the same reason that we don't have a $200 tablet, yet, I tell him.

Post scriptum:
There is an excellent thread on somethingawful:
 brad industry discusses the future of media.
 I think as digital imaging technology continues to march ahead that photography will undergo a transformation similar to what happened to painting about a century ago. The old idea of photographs as documents will finally die, what we call photographs will come to encompass a huge range of image making techniques and processes, and visual literacy will become even more important than it is now.
General interest and mass market print publications will die or evolve into digital versions. Advertising dollars will continue to follow them. This has already happened to a large degree (look at how many magazines have gone out of business the past year). Print will not die out though, actually I think the opposite. There will be a renaissance in magazines and books in the form of small, niche publications that emphasize quality. This will be made possible as print-on-demand technology continues to mature and allows anyone to become a 'curator' or 'publisher' with minimal investment. Consumers will seek these out as a more personal alternative to the never ending, bite sized stream of digital information. Social media will be the driving force behind how these projects are created and promoted.
Large blogs will move away from the copy-and-paste + commentary approach as old media institutions die and will transition to become the new patrons of the arts as they commission original content to bring in eyeballs in much the same way that magazines do now.


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