The past 30 years of InfoWorld's existence have seen a series of future shocks, from the ascent of the personal computer to horrifying strains of malware to the sizzling sex appeal of the iPhone. In honor of InfoWorld's 30th anniversary, we've decided to take a playful look ahead at the future shocks that could occur in the next 10 years (30 years seemed a little too sci-fi).
An all-points bulletin went out to InfoWorld contributors, the replies to which we culled into 10 future shocks -- ranging from radical changes in IT's responsibility to "1984"-ish scenarios where privacy is a quaint notion. No doubt you've considered many of these possibilities yourself. Even more likely, you have just as many interesting scenarios to bring to the party, and we urge you to share them in the comments section of this article. Dream big -- given the drama of the past 30 years, the next 10 are anyone's guess.
[ Read about InfoWorld's unique perspective of the computer industry over the past 30 years, and what you can expect into the future ]
Shock No. 1: Triumph of the cloud
My main prediction is that the high cost of power and space is going to force the IT world to look at cloud services, with a shift to computing as a cloud resource occurring in the next five years. So like the old mainframe model where we didn't care how the machine is configured, we just dump requests to the machine and get results. In fact, cloud computing services will resemble mainframe service bureaus. We're already starting to see cloud service bureaus, such as Amazon's EC2. Ultimately, the emergence of cloud computing will reduce the need for computing at the enterprise level. -- Brian Chee
Shock No. 2: Cyborg chic
By 2018, geek chic will look a lot like what today we'd call a cyborg. The human/machine interface will be ubiquitous, with people walking around giving voice/whisper commands and using earbud audio and an eyeglass display that superimposes a machine-enhanced view of the world on ordinary vision. Nobody will notice that half the population is cyborg, because we'll get there one small step at a time, as iPhone belt-clip holders give way to the iBeltBuckle, iGlasses (hey, that's catchy!), and iEarRings. A new generation of computer viruses will take over the new display technology. Sometimes they're fatal, as when the computer display shows an empty street, when in Actual Reality (AR) the street is filled with high-speed traffic. Other times they're just funny, as when the display insists on showing mustaches on every face in view. -- Bob Lewis
Shock No. 3: Everything works
You come home to do a little work on the computer, and when you turn it on, it boots up in just a few seconds with no issues. You open e-mail and it comes up without your having to wait. In fact, this new OS doesn't even have an hourglass icon! For the rest of the night, your computer does everything you ask it to do, without any waiting, hiccups, or errors. The interface is intuitive and sleek. It even changes based off what you're currently doing so that you can access features of the OS that you need while you're, say, working with e-mail or editing pics. We'll call this OS "Windows Sci-Fi" because we're all dreaming if we think that'll ever happen. -- Sean McCown
Shock No. 4: Nothing escapes you
In 1945, Vannevar Bush conceived of a device called a Memex that would store and retrieve all information accumulated throughout one's life. In the next 30 years, advances in speech and video recognition, the power of cloud-based computing, and real-time, continuous, wearable content capture will bring the Memex vision to life. Just think: You'll be able to leave a meeting without worrying about manually capturing your to-dos. You won't have to remember that interesting thing your friend mentioned over coffee. You won't have to write down the thought that sprung to mind when you saw an advertisement on TV or a billboard on the way home.
Vannevar's Memex vision will come to fruition through your next-next-next-generation PDA. The device will continuously capture all audio and video from your daily experiences and upload that content to the cloud, where it will be parsed to succinctly recognize your tasks, interesting information, and reminders -- all searchable, of course. A summary of important content from your day will be available through your PDA automatically. And yes, like Google Chrome, a "p0rn mode" option will ensure that the things you don't want remembered won't be. -- Savio Rodriguez