Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Welcome to the world of...


That's right kiddies, today I'd like to spout a page full of nonsense about one of the broadest subjects on which you're still allowed to have an opinion and sound as if you might know what you're talking about - The vast panoply of things that haven't happened yet.

I know that not everybody likes science fiction, but everyone likes 'cool' stuff surely?

Cool stuff like, oh... I don't know... Flying through space, faster than the speed of light, giving it the old pew-pew-pew whilst shouting 'Eat Plutonium death, you repulsive alien weirdos!'

Or being transported from your bed to the breakfast table by conveyor belt, having a tablet that tastes like bacon and another that tastes like eggs.  Jumping into a hollow glass tube and be lowered to the garage level where you sit on a floating disk and tell it where you want to go.

If things like this ever happen, they're not going to happen whilst anyone who's currently alive is still alive, at least I don't think so... But then I'm not a Futurist.

There are people out there who are paid to tell big companies what the future is going to be like so that they can develop products that will better fit into that world.

Apple employed a futurist who told them that the future will all be featureless black monolithic slabs, that would spring into life when you touch them. (Leading a lot of people to believe that he'd watched Stanley Kubrick's film 2001 the previous night and had eaten a bad chimichanga.)

You'd expect Apple to be able to employ warehouses full of bearded, flip-flop wearing 'visionaries' to tell them how the future should look, but what about the chaps in the little vans who mess about in that mysterious green box at the end of the road?

British Telecom have a whole raft of futurists, a couple of whom came up with a frankly brilliant idea ruined by being called, incredibly ominously I think, 'The Soul Catcher'.  One of its functions is to cheat death, you wear the device throughout your life and it records everything you experience. At the moment of death, or frankly, whenever you feel like it, you can download yourself into a new-born baby and have another three-score and ten ad infinitum.  I'm sure they've worked out all the moral implications of this, and we shouldn't worry at all.  In fact, I've just noticed that they've renamed the project 'Soul Catcher 2025' and I'm going to go ahead and assume that this means you'll be able to buy yourself one for Christmas in about twelve years time.

While we're on the subject of the Technological Behemoth that is BT.  One of their other research teams are (allegedly) looking at human microchipping.  Much like they currently do with dogs - They cite their reasoning as developing a cashless, passportless societly.  Where your identity could be confirmed by swiping you with something that perhaps looks like one of those wands that they wave at you if you make the metal detector go off at the airport whilst you're just wearing your pants.   What it's not for, they say, is to be able to tell where every, single person on the planet is at any specific time... Oh no, nothing like that.  And it's not to provide plot devices for action films where the bad guy figures out where your chip is, hacks off that part of your body and lives as you for the next few weeks.  We do quite enough of that already with those eye-scanning lock things that all the secret bases seem to have nowadays.  All you need to do in that case is find someone who has access and introduce them to the business end of a teaspoon.

Mind control devices are also seeping into our toyshops at the moment... I don't mean they control your mind, yet... I mean that there are toys that claim to be able to be manipulated by your mind.  Did any of you see the Gadget Show Japanese special where the very lovely Pollyanna Woodward wore a pair of brainwave controlled cat ears?  She could make the ears move by thinking, or at least, by simulating different moods.  There are helicopters you can fly with your mind, assault courses that you can move floating ping-pong balls through.  And I'm reliably informed that there is a Star Wars game where you learn how to use the Force (i.e. make something happen just by thinking about it)

There are your standard advances, that every can think about, things like 'Oh computers will definitely get smaller.' You're right, they will.  But how small will they get? A chap called Gordon Moore (Nearly typed Gordon Freeman then... There's a Freudian slip for you) who helped to found a little company called Intel, posited something which has come to be called 'Moore's Law'. This states that the amount of 'switches' on a given size of computer chip will double about every two years - So it gets twice as powerful.  This can't go on forever though, as there's a limit to how small things can get - Or is there?  Scientists have managed to create a switch (more properly called a transistor) out of a single atom of phosphorous that can be used in the next level of computer design, something called Quantum Computing.  You know how all the information is stored inside computers as millions of '1's and '0's? Well, Quantum Computing's just the same as that, but all the switches are set to '1' and '0' at the same time... (This theory originally brought to you by an Austrian bloke who considered sealing a cat in a box with some poison to prove that it was both alive and dead at the same time.)

(No, not THAT mad Austrian bloke, not the one that enjoyed some hardcore antisemitism, a different one - It must be something in the water.)

The thing to remember is that these are just the things we know about.  The military (Specifically a bunch of complete nutters called DARPA - Who gave us the Internet amongst other things) are working on stuff that would turn your ears green and make your socks set on fire.  For instance, those of you that remember the first Gulf war in 1991, remember seeing all those videos of the new F117 'Stealth Fighter'? Well, they started developing it in 1975, and it first flew in 1981, so they're VERY VERY good at keeping things secret.

Listen to the tin-hat brigade and they'll tell you about reverse engineered alien technology, mind control (the bad kind), genetic engineering of humans and boxes that can generate and control the weather.  Who knows?

What do I see in the immediate future?

Well, lunch initially, then the publishing of a wildly successful book by a new writer about airships and robots, that has a strange close-up picture of the author from his eyebrows down to his chest on the back, because he is fat and balding.

What do you think the next century holds? I'd be genuinely interested in finding out, leave me a comment, it's the way of the future...


  1. I think next century is way too far off to speculate, and I strongly suspect I won't be around to see it. However, in the next 20 years [which I fully intend to be around for] in computing I think we'll see.

    A machine pass the Turing test for someone of average intelligence

    A commercial application of swarm technologies for mini-bot clean-up crews in hazardous environments

    The next stage of social "networking" where a wholly cybernetic persona plays an active part in the interactions

    Significant improvements in cyber-neural interfaces, massively enhancing the functionality of replacement limbs and sense organs

    The same depressingly slow crawl of advancement in space technologies [especially manned]

    Decreasing social barriers to the mixing of road/rail/sea and air transportation systems under manned and cybernetic control

    Increased computer oversight of "dangerous" human interactions [like driving for example] with the on-board computer having more sophisticated ways of controlling anti-social and illegal behavior, ensuring fuel and road usage efficiency, and reporting violations back to third parties

    Increasing use of computer persona in low level commercial interactions like call centres etc.

  2. Aw Man! - I was seriously hoping that you were going to wade in with a 'Well, actually...' About one of the BT technologies. But I agree with you, the virtualisation of the human race, certainly for low-level tasks is just around the corner.

    I'm looking forward to the day when the news camera pulls out of a tight shot of me repeatedly flexing a chrome-plated fist in front of my face, then getting out of a tube and cable heavy chair and watches me run into the distance on a pair of prosthetic, digitigrade legs... Real, or virtual

  3. Had I started my reply with "Well, actually...." I would, in the best tradition of these things, had to have you and your readers traced and killed.

    As an aside though, and nothing to do with the original subject of course, perhaps you can answer a question for me? I have been following with interest [and more than a little amusement] the recent "scandal" involving the government's access to internet information. Tell me, these people who seem to think that something called "internet privacy" existed, and this now has recently been taken from them by a ruthless Government, are they all children, or just mentally deficient?

  4. Seriously, the government can see things that we write or take photographs of and then post on an interconnected set of servers, mostly running an open-source operating system, that was developed and then 'given' to us by a wholly owned subsidiary of the government itself?

    Shurely Shome mishtake!

    I for one shall be writing my Blog on paper from now on, and hand delivering it to anyone who wants to read it - Avoiding all of the CCTV cameras of course.