The New Year and the Future

We sit around the table, remembering fun times with family and watching the boy explore his new toys.  Then we get to talking about how radically different things are not and how much more radically altered things will be in the future.

When we got married, there was an internet, but it was little more than a modified dial up bulletin board (“You’ve got mail!”).  We had cable.  Cell phones were for the CEOs and Wall Street boys only.  My PC was a scorching 40Mhz with a 16 color 14″ monitor.

Now, there are more wi-fi connected devices in my home (8) than I had major electronics.  I can find just about anything on the internet (X-boy’s LEGO set was missing an instruction book.  It took me about 2 minutes to find it at LEGO.com and print it).  I have a 24″ HD monitor and a new PC with 4 CPU cores, running a 100 times faster.  My current cell phone (my 4th or 5th) has more computing power than my first 5 computers combined.

I do not have cable or satellite.  All of our entertainment comes via the internet (Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Roku, X-box live).

My son is enamored with my Kindle Fire.  When I was his age, we didn’t have TV.  We got our first TV, just in  time for me to watch Cosmos with Carl Sagan air live for the first time.

There have been stunning changes in just a few short decades and the changes, I suspect, will come faster and faster.

When I was 5, we had an 8-track player and AM radio in the car.  Since then, we have passed cassettes, CDs and gone directly to digital delivery.  I haven’t bought a CD, except as a gift, in years.

What will the future be like for my son.  What will we be doing when he’s 16… or 30?  What will entertainment and technology be like then?

In 1988, the Cray Y-MP super computer had 8 CPUs, each running at 167 Mhz.  My PC has 4 cores (8 virtual CPUs) running at 3.4 Ghz.  My $1000 computer is 3,000 times faster than the Cray.  It was 11 square feet in size and had up to 1 gig of memory.  My PC is about a square foot and can support 32 gigs of memory.  My PC also uses about a tenth of the power.

If we scale that up to future computers.  We can estimate than when my child is about 30, a $1000 desktop computer will be roughly like this one.

But the advances are coming faster and faster.  The only thing really holding us back is the economy and politics… and I will not get into that here.

Just think about the changes and how fast they are coming.  3D TV is almost a standard now.  My grandfather was born just a few years after the first manned airplane flight at Kitty Hawk.  Before he died, he had seen air-power virtually win a war, manned spaceflight, etc.  He went from no electricity in his home to downloading songs off the internet… in just 70 years.

We can’t even imagine what the future of technology holds for our children.  It will not be just improvements of modern tech… it will be radically different.  And it will be something our generation never even though possible.  True AI?  Colonization of other planets and the ocean floor?  Perhaps the singularity will come while I’m alive.

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