In 2001, Were We Right About the Future of Technology?

Happy 40th anniversary, PCMag! Moments like these get in touch with not only for nostalgia, but a search back again at what we received right, and what we acquired incorrect. I was the editor-in-chief of Computer system Journal for 14 decades, and in the September 2001 difficulty , for the 20th anniversary of the IBM Pc, I manufactured some predictions(Opens in a new window) about technology and how I expected it to look 20 decades into the long run. So now is the fantastic time for me to revisit individuals assertions and tally up my hits and misses. Let us just say I failed to rather have crystal-ball eyesight. But all in all, I failed to fare as well badly.

Overlook: The Utmost Worth of the Smartphone

“Digital cameras will be ubiquitous, with just about absolutely everyone employing personal computers to edit shots and electronic movie. Every single small business will use the World wide web for communications, and world wide web services will commence to get shape this year. About the subsequent handful of several years, your calendar will be offered on the world wide web and accessible anywhere you are. You are going to be equipped to share it with several men and women.”

I was form of right, these matters did occur, but I failed to take the prediction just about much ample. By 2011, electronic cameras and the World-wide-web ended up in truth in all places, and you could quickly share content material on the net. But what I missed was how the smartphone would in essence consume the digital digicam market—and additional importantly, how it would grow to be most people’s main computing machine for its portability factor, in contrast to the Computer system on your desk. Apple released the Apple iphone in 2007, with the Application Store next the subsequent 12 months. The relaxation is heritage.


Apple Apple iphone 13 Professional Max
(Molly Flores)

Hit: The Genesis of Cloud Computing

“The applications I genuinely want—real-time, accurate voice recognition and translation—are nevertheless several years away, but they’re coming. In the next few several years, we are going to see innovations in peer-to-peer computing not only for file sharing but also for harnessing all the computing electricity we have out there to address big issues.”

Indeed, the strategy of what we now connect with “scale-out(Opens in a new window)” computing was currently having off. We had application-as-a-provider (SaaS) remedies, such as Salesforce—and depending on how you glance at it, heading as much back as, say, ADP processing payroll on mainframes. Amazon Website Products and services launched in 2002, and it quickly developed into what we now connect with “cloud computing.”

These platforms at first commenced as more successful techniques of jogging regular apps, but they also permit organizations accumulate, retail store, and review significant amounts of information and facts in a value-powerful way. This enabled new apps and new organization models, accompanied by several pros and negatives. What I hadn’t understood was just how vital they would become as software-advancement platforms.

Neural Network


((Illustration: Weiquan Lin/Getty Illustrations or photos))

And it was the potential to practice deep neural networks with GPUs and generally, the ability to run these massive designs in cloud architectures, that truly enabled speech recognition and afterwards, translation. Siri introduced in 2010 and Alexa in 2013, and because then, these platforms have turn into more and a lot more exact, with genuine-time translation vastly bettering in the earlier couple years.

Strike: Broadband Becomes Huge

“The broadband and wi-fi revolutions are continue to in early levels, and the telecommunications current market is overbuilt. But I am certain we will eventually have wonderful broadband and wi-fi apps.”

This one’s a no-brainer, of study course. If just about anything, as I talked about before, I underestimated almost everything we would be executing on smartphones. But it did choose many years for online website traffic to capture up—and then exceed—what was built in the dot.com era.

Hit: AI As a Double-Edged Sword

“I also choose significantly the extremely real concerns about wherever technological innovation is headed. I obtain some convenience in the sluggish progress within the discipline of synthetic intelligence, but the ideas from people like Ray Kurzweil and Vernor Vinge make me wonder.”

I was appropriate to be involved about the use of technologies, but I failed to account for the AI explosion of the earlier 10 years. Deep-studying neural networks ended up an tutorial backwater when I wrote this it would be a further 10 years right up until scientists begun using them on GPUs. When combined with the large amount of facts we now have obtainable and the cloud infrastructure to handle it, this know-how has brought new accuracy to impression recognition and voice recognition, and afterwards to all kinds of other apps.

Facial Recognition


(Illustration: imaginima/Getty Visuals)

We have witnessed a lot of utility from equipment-mastering algorithms and the applications they’ve manufactured achievable, but we have also witnessed a good deal of instances in which these applications have resulted in unintended or biased effects, as perfectly as significantly controversy in excess of how they’ve been applied in the genuine earth. We are however grappling with these difficulties, and you can find no stop in sight.

Hit: Nanotechnology and Biotechnology

I think that nanotechnology and biotechnology are extra fertile grounds for both equally exhilaration and worry. For occasion, the controversy about bioengineered foodstuff presages more durable debates to arrive.

We’ve noticed lots of nanotechnology and biotechnology improvements in the past 20 years—mRNA vaccines for COVID-19 between them—along with many debates on these subject areas. A lot of the progress has been slower than I could have guessed, but let us phone it a strike.

Recommended by Our Editors

SpaceX Starship SN15


SpaceX Starship SN15
(SpaceX)

Miss: The Commercialization of Room

I never consider that technology will evolve as efficiently or speedily as some folks predict. Immediately after the moon landing, people considered we would get started colonizing the planets. Properly, a quarter-century has handed considering the fact that the last gentleman walked on the moon, and no 1 is even chatting about going back again.

No one particular has walked on the moon due to the fact I wrote that, both. But we have found outstanding growth in professional house applications—everything from satellite communications to GPS. I would not have predicted the advancements startups these kinds of as SpaceX have supplied increase to, together with reducing the price of likely to area, or that we’d see “place tourism” right before everyone could get again to the moon. These companies are now talking about going back again to the moon—and possibly to Mars.


I realized there would be controversies, but I didn’t count on social networks to unfold so broadly and to become instruments of additional polarizing society.

It really is often tricky to predict how men and women will use engineering. In the stop, no issue what the know-how is, men and women will come to a decision what is and is not helpful for them. As I often place it: Engineering alterations speedily. People adjust little by little.

I realized there would be controversies, but I failed to count on social networks to spread so widely and to turn into devices of even further polarizing society. I hadn’t grasped the significance that these networks would enjoy in commerce or in encouraging billions of people today to make and share their personal quick films. And I entirely missed the emergence of a decentralized blockchain (initially explained by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008) and cryptocurrency.

Bonus Strike: Technological know-how Is Never Dull

The following 20 many years guarantee to be pretty a journey. I would not overlook it for anything at all.

I was surely right about that. Here is to the future 20 several years!

Marcy Willis

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