Twenty-five years from now, my generation will be around 50-years-old and our world will look nothing like it does now.
Today, we find our information in a stream of time; an endless stream of flowing moments that are captured and then contributed to our growing collective intelligence that exists on the world wide web.
It’s why we can be anywhere with anyone and be able to talk about the same things, big events or small. We search based on interest and are provided with not a spattering of stuff, but a fine tuned chunk of information specific to our query. As time goes on, we are given more and more of what we want without having to look too hard for it.
We track things of interest on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. We know what people are doing and saying at all times of the day and all of this continues to compact into the present as we ice-break into the future.
And it happens fast.
Everything is up-to-date and trending. Current events are covered from just about every angle in a frantic race to be at the head of the curve. To introduce what is next before anyone else does. News has become snippets, lists and quick musings designed to capture attention and immediacy as the long-form essays and scholarly papers collect dust and under 20 shares on Facebook.
But, what am I rambling about? Let me get to the point.
All of this came to me when I started to imagine the future.
Not too far ahead, just a mere 25 years from now, when I hit 50. The world will have to look dramatically different right? Think about what’s happened since 1990 or 2000 even. We think in a different way. No longer do some people just know something and others don’t, rather we can all know everything, if we really want to. We’re all a bunch of pros that have a newsfeed showing the same things from different people.
But what are we crunching towards? Originally, this was going to be a list. But, there are so many predictions list out there that come around every year, I think I would be better suited to approach this the way we receive our information: In a stream of time.
This is what the world will look like when my generation, millennials, turn 50. Time-travel glasses on and full speed ahead! (I don’t know, it sounded right):
It is November 22, 2039, the sun rises and I am 50-years-old.
My alarm clock wakes me up for work and it plays a song based on my mood. How did it know my mood? I told it my mood just by existing. The future will be dominated by the abundance of information we input. Everything we do or say will be analyzed and applied to something else. We will be walking diaries.
Let's imagine, the night before I made a status update on whatever social network dominates in the future saying, “Tomorrow’s the big 5-0, feeling old.” This bit of information and the emotions surrounding it, right down to the replies of “Cheer up” underneath would be synced to everything else and my alarm clock (tablet-type-thing? Use your imagination) will know this.
As I roll out of bed, the song “This Year” by The Mountain Goats comes from the speakers. How did it know? Computers are already capable of reading facial emotions; it seems like gathering our emotions from posts would not be a stretch. This mass syncing of public information is a concept that David Gelernter refers to as Lifestream in his article for Wired magazine. We are already living in the early stages of such a world now and the abundance of what and who uses the information we share will only increase.
1. Quantum Computers
In 25 years, quantum computing will be much more prevalent, if not the replacement to the microprocessor driven computer of today. As our demand for fine-tuned information and the amount of information we continue to input into our computer system continues to rise exponentially, we will have a need to not only store so much information, but also sort through it in a revolutionary new way.
In his article, Kevin Bonsor and Jonathan Strickland explain that the traditional Turing Machine utilizes a system of 1’s and 0’s on an endless tape, while “in a quantum Turing machine, the difference is that the tape exists in a quantum state, as does the read-write head. This means that the symbols on the tape can be either 0 or 1 or a superposition of 0 and 1; in other words the symbols are both 0 and 1 (and all points in between) at the same time. While a normal Turing machine can only perform one calculation at a time, a quantum Turing machine can perform many calculations at once.”
Along with computer systems that react to how we feel, we will also see a greater singularity with our computing and robotic technology. If Google Glass and our evolving smart phones are early indicators, we are approaching an ever-increasing reality where the line between the world on the Internet and the tangible three-dimensional real world is becoming blurred.
A way we will see this line further blurring is the way that computers grow to share more of the tangible world than ever before. So, while humans are becoming more machine-like walking around with devices that will most likely be much smaller and less goofy looking than Google Glass emulating what a computer does, robots will be more human like.
The moment of Singularity, as defined by Lev Grossman in his article for TIME magazine, is the transformation of our species into something that is no longer recognizable as such to humanity as it exists in 2013. It might be the moment when machines take over the world, like in The Matrix or it might be defined as a world where humans and machines live side by side with machines aiding humans. Robots caring for the elderly are a reality now.
Now, imagine that same concept and imagine our lives 25 years from now.
I roll out of bed in the morning and a household robot helps prepare my coffee or I roll out of bed on my fiftieth birthday and then take cover under my bed as an air-raid siren warns of an unmanned (un-manually-programmed) drone strike.
We will be living in times where we will be grappling with what the human identity is. Whether robots are imitations of humans or are they original unto themselves. We will be out of our league in terms of knowledge and computing powers as well as our creative edge, as robots continue to take leaps closer to being human and humans struggle to keep pace. The Singularity moment is being pointed to as the year 2045, so we will have to wait and see.
But, perhaps, I roll out of bed on my fiftieth birthday and I am not on Earth at all.
3. Dark Energy and Space Exploration
With planned missions to Mars already in the works (Mars One may or may not be an elaborate hoax) and with a relentless focus on unraveling the potential of dark matter, a few people may very well be off living in a colony somewhere other than Earth or soaring through the heavens.
Last year, an unnamed scientist made news by putting forth a proposed project to build a replica of the Starship Enterprise. While it would not use a fully developed matter/anti-matter reactor with a dilithium regulated reaction, it does assert that such a ship is possible. Perhaps, given 25 more years and ample research into the world of dark matter, we too will be taking to the stars in ways that seem like purely science fiction to us now.
Today we stand poised to evolve into a species living in a world that is driven by forces acting beyond our capabilities. The year 2039 will be a period of unimaginable data available for everyone. It will be an age where no stone is left unturned and nothing is a mystery.
For now, my fiftieth birthday is a big mystery and there is absolutely no telling what the future holds. For the time being, let's see how Google Glass does, then we can decide if robots are going to take over the world.