10 Future Shocks for the Next 10 Years

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Shock No. 5: Smartphones take center stage

I see the smartphone evolving into the preferred instrument for constant connectivity, with voice interaction, facial recognition, location awareness, constant video and sound input, and multitouch screens. The keyboard won't go away completely, but it might be virtual: Think about typing in the air on an image projected from your "smart glasses." Business desktops would evolve into docking stations for your smartphone, with large screens and input devices, Gigabit or better connectivity, and local resources comparable to one of today's big servers (technical desktops would be similar, but with way more onboard CPU and GPU power, as well as massive memory and storage, all connected to massive servers and cloud resources). In this vision, the laptop nearly goes away. -- Martin Heller

Shock No. 6: Human-free manufacturing
We're already close to the perfect factory. (It employs one human and one dog; the human is there to feed the dog, and the dog is there to keep the human from touching anything.) Right now, manufacturing in the U.S. is up, while manufacturing employment is down. By 2018, automation will have hit enough labor sectors that while the GDP will continue to grow, fewer and fewer people will receive that growth in the form of wages. This will drive either social collapse or the establishment of a no-apologies welfare state. -- Bob Lewis

Shock No. 7: Perfect image recognition
I've actually always had this search engine dream. One day you'll be able to see a picture of something or take a picture of something, and load it into a search engine and have it scan the pic, search, and tell you what it is. So you see a flower, stop and take a pic of it, and Google will tell you what kind of flower it is. Or you can take a pic of a fungus growing on your favorite plant and Google will be able to tell you what it is by scanning the characteristics of the pic. Cars, people, buildings -- it should work for whatever you can photograph -- Sean McCown

Shock No. 8: Big Brother never sleeps
In the next 10 years, perfect governmental tracking and monitoring of each human being will become reality. Some people will accept LoJack implants for personal safety. Face-recognition technology tied to video monitors at street corners will also contribute. Also very possible: LoJack-style technology along with a digital voice recorder embedded in drivers' licenses (it's optional -- hey, driving is a privilege, not a right). The actual trigger will be pulled when Mercedes-Benz buys General Motors and acquires OnStar, which by then will be private industry's principle purveyor of "Personal LoJack" systems. Shortly thereafter, Russia will have acquired Mercedes, either through conquest or by buying it with oil money, so Russia will know the exact location and movement of most affluent Americans. So will China, which will have manufactured the LoJack transmitters, surreptitiously adding a backdoor feature that lets the Chinese government track everyone as well. -- Bob Lewis

Shock No. 9: Unbroken connectivity
Checking to see if you're connected to a network will seem as old-fashioned as turning on a device to get information in 10 years. Devices that are always receiving information (and displaying it on low-draw screens in the cover of phones and portable computers) will meet networks that are always available to make your interaction with the information world more like a flowing stream than a chain of data lakes. From sports scores to friends' activities, the idea of interrupting your activities to get the news will be a thing of the past. -- Curtis Franklin

Shock No. 10: Relationship enhancement

My 2018 prediction is that we use technology to remember and fortify social connections. You'll get together socially with a friend, geo-locate, take pictures, Twitter, make notes and videos, and so on, and it all gets automatically filed away. You may forget what happened, but you can access it all again when you search your own personal store, either by matching keywords or simply preparing for the next social event with same friend. There will be no difference between "online friends" and "real friends". This will be life-altering. We already have the freedom of not having to remember street directions. When we have the freedom not to remember what happened in social interactions, it raises a fascinating question: Will this solidify personal relationships or change them in some other way? -- Jon Williams

This story, "10 Future Shocks for the Next 10 Years " was originally published by InfoWorld.

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