I Have Nothing to Contribute… Or So I Thought

I was initially very hesitant to start a blog. Who the hell cares about what I think or what I do? The only people that might care, I talk to in person or via IM, regularly. But a funny thing happened since I established my first blog years ago: I realize that things obvious to me regarding technology and its proper use and abuse, were not so clear cut to others.

I have always seen over the next hill when others are staring at the road, and a few are looking at the top of the hill as far as where tech is going. I know the ultimate purpose of technology that practically everyone seems to forget. I know that all the current mainstream interfaces will eventually be replaced by things that are only in laboratories now. And I recognize that even those could be superseded by more refined technologies that would look like magic to anyone not paying attention.

I cannot take the credit for this train of thought though. I really owe much of it to science fiction writers that I have read since I was a teenager. Phillip K. Dick, Bruce Sterling, Orson Scott Card, William Gibson, Neil Stephenson, Pat Cadigan, Elizabeth Hand, Richard Paul Russo, and many others that have dabbled in (near) future worlds and really thought about the logical conclusions to current and future technologies are the real inventors of the future. I feel like I am simply taking their imagination and adapting it to our reality. Pat Cadigan wrote about IO bodysuits people wore in Synners, while Card wrote about battle tactics and drones long before the USAF had their silent assassins roaming the skies of Pakistan (and soon the U.S.A. if some people have their way). William Gibson wrote about glasses connected to the Internet which superimposed information about the current environment years before Google was a verb. Sterling wrote about artificial tanner in Islands in the Net and beneficial nanobots that repaired and increased the natural speed of human tissue repair in the Artificial Kid. Stephenson wrote about nanobots waging invisible wars in the cities and creating waves of dust storms from the bodies of the losing nano-army. Stephenson also wrote about books that woud make iPads look like Etch-A-Sketches and flexible pages that interacted with people via 3 senses for information and entertainment.

It is their insight I am channeling, and then thinking about how such things could be possible. I think I have cracked the “how” of one or two technologies that could make a few of these possible by the end of my life. However, being one person, I do not have the time nor the resources to make these come to pass.

My knowledge came slowly at first, and some ideas have seen the light of day here. I started writing my observations down. One was a sarcastic tech to user translation chart. One was the underuse and over-use of communication from IT departments. Another was examining where things break down from people to machines and back again in processes leading to anything from data loss to products failing to ship and/or being cancelled mid-stream. Others are private, including the “how” to make haptic feedback seem quaint, like a 50s future film. “Aw! Isn’t that cute! They thought that vibrations could make people feel like they were pressing physical buttons!”

I have been in this business almost as long as I haven’t, and easily have 10 years experience in all facets of making technologically evaluations, decisions and recommendations above what most people with full time jobs currently have. It hasn’t been smooth, nor easy, considering I get bored easy and move from project cycle to project cycle, only letting it rest when there is no more to be done to improve it, or when I find some turnkey solution that can replace it. But this cross-training and incessant drive toward reading current news and keeping up on new paradigm-altering technology, has allowed me to start putting together the pieces to make new things. The guiding principle is the end of technology as we know it, and integrating science fiction of decades ago to science fact of today and the next 10 years.

And I have to admit, a lot of this inspiration, I also owe to more recognizable SciFi movies and shows, including everything from AI to A Scanner Darkly to Babylon 5 to Blade Runner to Hardware to Terminator. I am not saying these were all televisual gems, but some had very interesting ideas—some relegated to minor mentions. How many people remember Minority Report’s glove touchscreen interface and how it seemed like pure fantasy when it first opened in theaters? While some people said it was never going to happen, I was thinking: We will need multiple cameras embedded in or close to clear LCD substrates, and tracking software that recognizes fingers and gestures, along with position aware computers and displays so you can toss a file from one screen to another.

But other things, such as “how do you destroy an AI that is connected to every computer in the world?” or “What happens when every fiber of clothing you wear or every cell of your body has a processor, memory or some sort of I/O embedded in it?” and “When is something no longer just a machine? Aren’t people just organic machines with billions of slow parallel processors prone to error and self programming?” And most importantly, “Whose best interests are served by pervasive monitoring technology?” and “How can average citizens leverage surveillance to improve their own security and privacy?”

I do not know the answer to all of these, nor when these issues will be explored, but I do know this: techs whether they are support personnel, developers or engineers will always have jobs. That is assuming no massive EM phenomena permanently nullifies electronics. But if something like that happened, we would probably have bigger things to worry about than not being able to turn on a phone.


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