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

Delighted 40th anniversary, PCMag! Occasions like these phone not only for nostalgia, but a look back at what we bought proper, and what we got improper. I was the editor-in-main of Computer Journal for 14 years, and in the September 2001 issue , for the 20th anniversary of the IBM Personal computer, I designed some predictions(Opens in a new window) about technology and how I envisioned it to appear 20 yrs into the long run. So now is the perfect time for me to revisit those people assertions and tally up my hits and misses. Let’s just say I failed to pretty have crystal-ball vision. But all in all, I didn’t fare too badly.

Pass up: The Utmost Great importance of the Smartphone

“Digital cameras will be ubiquitous, with just about everyone working with computers to edit pictures and digital online video. Each individual business will use the Net for communications, and world-wide-web services will get started to get shape this yr. Above the up coming handful of several years, your calendar will be readily available on the web and accessible wherever you are. You can be capable to share it with several people today.”

I was type of ideal, these factors did come about, but I didn’t just take the prediction just about far adequate. By 2011, electronic cameras and the Online had been without a doubt all over the place, and you could conveniently share material on the world wide web. But what I skipped was how the smartphone would basically eat the digital digicam market—and additional importantly, how it would turn out to be most people’s most important computing system for its portability factor, compared with the Laptop on your desk. Apple launched the Iphone in 2007, with the Application Shop subsequent the subsequent yr. The relaxation is record.


Apple Iphone 13 Professional Max
(Molly Flores)

Strike: The Genesis of Cloud Computing

“The applications I definitely want—real-time, exact voice recognition and translation—are nevertheless several years absent, but they’re coming. In the up coming handful of several years, we’ll see advances in peer-to-peer computing not only for file sharing but also for harnessing all the computing energy we have out there to fix huge issues.”

Yes, the idea of what we now connect with “scale-out(Opens in a new window)” computing was currently having off. We experienced application-as-a-service (SaaS) alternatives, like Salesforce—and depending on how you glimpse at it, heading as much again as, say, ADP processing payroll on mainframes. Amazon Internet Providers launched in 2002, and it before long advanced into what we now phone “cloud computing.”

These platforms in the beginning started as additional successful means of managing classic programs, but they also let corporations collect, keep, and assess significant amounts of details in a cost-successful way. This enabled new apps and new small business products, accompanied by a variety of pros and downsides. What I hadn’t understood was just how crucial they would grow to be as software program-advancement platforms.

Neural Network


((Illustration: Weiquan Lin/Getty Images))

And it was the means to coach deep neural networks with GPUs and usually, the means to operate these enormous styles in cloud architectures, that seriously enabled speech recognition and later on, translation. Siri launched in 2010 and Alexa in 2013, and given that then, these platforms have turn out to be additional and much more accurate, with serious-time translation vastly improving upon in the earlier couple yrs.

Strike: Broadband Gets to be Large

“The broadband and wi-fi revolutions are nevertheless in early phases, and the telecommunications industry is overbuilt. But I’m convinced we will at some point have great broadband and wi-fi purposes.”

This one’s a no-brainer, of course. If just about anything, as I talked about before, I underestimated anything we would be carrying out on smartphones. But it did take yrs for internet site visitors to capture up—and then exceed—what was created in the dot.com era.

Strike: AI As a Double-Edged Sword

“I also get seriously the very true problems about where technological innovation is headed. I locate some comfort and ease in the sluggish progress inside the area of artificial intelligence, but the strategies from folks like Ray Kurzweil and Vernor Vinge make me speculate.”

I was right to be involved about the use of know-how, but I did not 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 one more 10 many years right up until scientists started utilizing them on GPUs. When combined with the significant sum of details we now have accessible and the cloud infrastructure to tackle it, this technologies has introduced new accuracy to image recognition and voice recognition, and later to all types of other applications.

Facial Recognition


(Illustration: imaginima/Getty Photographs)

We’ve witnessed a lot of utility from device-mastering algorithms and the purposes they’ve built possible, but we have also observed a great deal of cases in which these programs have resulted in unintended or biased success, as effectively as considerably controversy over how they’ve been used in the actual entire world. We’re continue to grappling with these troubles, and you will find no conclusion in sight.

Hit: Nanotechnology and Biotechnology

I assume that nanotechnology and biotechnology are additional fertile grounds for equally exhilaration and concern. For occasion, the controversy about bioengineered food items presages more difficult debates to appear.

We have seen quite a few nanotechnology and biotechnology advancements in the past 20 years—mRNA vaccines for COVID-19 amid them—along with lots of debates on these topics. A great deal of the progress has been slower than I could possibly have guessed, but let us connect with it a hit.

Suggested by Our Editors

SpaceX Starship SN15


SpaceX Starship SN15
(SpaceX)

Miss: The Commercialization of Place

I never imagine that technologies will evolve as effortlessly or swiftly as some people predict. Right after the moon landing, persons thought we might get started colonizing the planets. Properly, a quarter-century has handed because the last gentleman walked on the moon, and no one particular is even talking about going again.

No a person has walked on the moon due to the fact I wrote that, possibly. But we have seen incredible development in commercial place applications—everything from satellite communications to GPS. I would not have predicted the advances startups these kinds of as SpaceX have given rise to, like reducing the charge of likely to place, or that we might see “area tourism” before any person could get back again to the moon. These firms are now speaking about likely again to the moon—and probably to Mars.


I realized there would be controversies, but I did not be expecting social networks to unfold so widely and to grow to be devices of more polarizing modern society.

It is always hard to forecast how folks will use technology. In the conclude, no subject what the technologies is, people today will choose what is and is not practical for them. As I usually place it: Technologies modifications promptly. Individuals change bit by bit.

I understood there would be controversies, but I did not expect social networks to spread so greatly and to become instruments of more polarizing culture. I hadn’t grasped the relevance that these networks would engage in in commerce or in encouraging billions of folks to make and share their personal brief films. And I entirely missed the emergence of a decentralized blockchain (very first described by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008) and cryptocurrency.

Bonus Hit: Engineering Is Under no circumstances Unexciting

The following 20 a long time promise to be really a journey. I wouldn’t pass up it for anything at all.

I was undoubtedly right about that. Here’s to the up coming 20 many years!