In my early days of technology industry research, reporting and analysis, I would get quite excited by the promise of new technologies. Over the years I’ve learned that it can take quite a long time before amazing technologies like flying cars, dick tracy wrist watches, and flexible displays move from prototype to mass production. Specifically, it requires reasonable manufacturing costs, a potential market, and the absence of legal/ethical roadblocks. For example, I reported on flexible displays over a decade ago, and now they are just beginning to make their way into the first mass produced phones. Another example is Google Glass. Everyone’s talking about it, but who will be willing to sit across from someone wearing Glass as it records their face and sends it to Google as a geo-tagged image? Will Amazon ever launch its drone delivery service when little helicopters zipping around town are sure to cause safety issues, and merchandise is sure to be hijacked?
The same is true with grandiose predictions of how technology will impact our lives based on current capabilities. IBM has predicted that using powerful processing power, artificial intelligence, and cloud computing, over the next five years everything will have the capacity to learn and adapt to each persons needs. Specifically, IBMs 5 in 5 for 2013 says:
- The classroom will learn you
- Buying local will beat online
- Doctors will routinely use your DNA to keep you well
- A digital guardian will protect you online
- The city will help you live in it
I wonder which of these five have the money and motivation to come true over the next five years.
1. The classroom will learn you
There is no money in education in this country at this time. Schools are struggling and many are being shut down. It would take major funding to develop an intelligent system that tracks the educational progress of every student, and recommends a curriculum to assist students in achieving their dreams. Without money, there’s no motivation for any tech company to develop this solution. Perhaps Google can develop an ad-supported educational system. It’s probably already working on it.
2. Buying local will beat online
The blend of brick-and-mortar and e-commerce is already in full swing. I don’t see it helping local mom-and-pop businesses compete against the big block-buster stores. Sure, you can pick out an item at walmart.com and go pick it up at your local walmart, but that doesn’t help our local businesses compete in price with walmart.
3. Doctors will routinely use your DNA to keep you well
The medical industry can’t even get standardized digital record-keeping implemented.
4. A digital guardian will protect you online
There are considerable investments being made in computer security as a necessity to protect countries and bank accounts from cyberwarfare, cyberespionage, and constant hack attacks. I find this prediction plausible since lots of money is at stake. Tech companies could gain considerable attention and business by promising tight security.
5. The city will help you live in it
This is also plausible and is already occurring through apps like Google Now.
Some may say that my years studying tech trends have made me a pessimist. I consider myself a realist. A realist that understands the benefits that miraculous predictions provide to those in the tech industry.