Well , it’s 2010. Not just a new year , but in case you haven’t realized it yet , the start of a new decade, the “teens”. The 2000’s were over before we knew it.
It might not be obvious immediately, but our life today is quite different from 10 years ago , especially in the realm of “personal technology”. The biggest advancements , and something that we couldn’t have predicted in 1999, come in the sector of mobile phones. Who would have thought we would all be carrying around micro-computers in 2009 that allow us to surf the internet at any time, make video calls, connect to a GPS satellite and get guided navigation and also take pictures that can rival a decent camera ? I’ll admit , my smartphone sometimes still amazes me.
However , as someone who is always wondering what the future might hold, I have to say I’m disappointed in mankind’s progress in other key areas.
Take transportation. I really didn’t expect that the internal combustion engine would still be dominant in 2010. The car enthusiast in me appreciates that powerful sports cars haven’t disappeared, but it’s a bit disappointing that cars have only become more expensive , without necessarily breaking new ground. In fact, we’re in the era of cost cutting. Some new models don’t seem to have the inherent long term quality that we would have expected by now. Just more gimmicks along with progress in some areas. Why are cars still so inefficient ? Why is ride quality getting worse by the model year ? Why does is cost a fortune to maintain a modern vehicle ? I actually think that it could be better, but companies are holding back , preferring to just build what makes them the most money.
Space , the final frontier…
The most disappointing area would have to be space travel and exploration. Remember, there was a movie launched in the 80’s called 2010: The Year we make contact. Well, we won’t make any physical contact with other planets and civilizations with our current technology ( unless they come here ). Mankind went to the moon in the 1960’s , but right now in 2010 we have no way of going back. The shuttle program is being scrapped , and NASA will actually rely on the Russians for a few years, to send supplies to the Space Station. The next Ares rocket is in development, however there are rumours that there isn’t enough funding to complete it. Hopefully that proves false. We may just be living in the era of robotic space development, and all those movies you watched as a kid showing exciting expeditions to far off planets now look even more ridiculous and far fetched. What Virgin is doing with private space travel is encouraging , but once again , frustratingly, it seems that it all comes down to money, and who cares what progress we make as a civilization ?
And then there’s computing. There’s lots of progress here, right ? The products that I work with on a daily basis ( not just Office or Windows , but SQL and Visual Studio as well ) are much the same as 10 years ago, but there’s new features and we can do more today. I suppose the big shift in terms of desktop computing took place in the 1990’s, but I’m quite excited when I see how far we have come on the enterprise side of computing, and look forward to the next 10 years.
Some things worry me though. When commentators proclaim that time wasting gimmicks like Facebook and Twitter are the biggest computing innovations of the decade, I wonder if we’re really going forward here. Sure , they are nice communication tools, but consider Facebook as a computing breakthrough as compared to those from previous decades, like the desktop GUI or the Microprocessor itself. It’s a laughable comparison, maybe a sign that we’re in decline ? Maybe the cloud will be the one thing that brings about the most significant change in the way we compute, if it hasn’t already.
The greatest computing landmark that we could hope for in this decade would be the achievement of the Computing Singularity, the rapid advancement of artificial intelligence until computers reach a state where they can think for themselves. This always invokes fear in people, who immediately think of Hollywood parallels like HAL9000 and Skynet, but those surely are extreme examples. The dangers should never be forgotten though.
I don’t know if it will come during the next 10 years. I do know that in terms of computing , 10 years is a long time , and whatever we have now will seem horribly outdated in 2019.
So lets hope that the next decade proves more exciting for us techno geeks and dreamers. The technology we have today may satisfy the masses , but it’s not good enough for us !