The loud pops just heard outside signal that the evening’s festivities have begun. Tonight, we celebrate the incrementing of the year. The year 2009 will be no longer. In its place, will be a shining blank slate, 2010. What wonders will await us in 2010?
If you’d asked me this question in the year 2000, I’d have guessed that the world would have sunk into anarchy, not because of Y2K, but because of oil shortages. And, hey, that came close to being true. Why, if you’d have asked me during the gas crisis, I’d have sworn we’d be at six, eight, maybe ten dollars per gallon by now. But that gas crisis was caused by a gaming of the market, just as was the collapse of the real estate bubble at about the same time.
If you asked me about 2010 in the year 1990, I’d have confidently predicted that virtual reality, robots, neural interfaces, and cybernetics would be commonplace. Hardly an original prediction. But it must be said that we do have all these things, though most of them are in the early experimental phase.
I would say that technically, VR is the closest to being commonplace— take World of Warcraft, for example— but is still pretty far from the full-immersion sensory smorgasbord most of us imagined.
As for robots, we have autonomous floor sweepers, which technically count, though they’re a far cry from the robot butlers we imagined back then. We have butler-like robots who can sing and dance, who can climb stairs… and occasionally fall down the stairs.
Neural interfaces and cybernetics show promise. There have been experiments that have enabled the blind to somewhat see, the deaf to somewhat hear, and the paralyzed to control computers. There have been some amazing prosthetic limbs protoyped. Sadly, it’s still a way from mass production.
Now, if you had asked me in 1980 what the year 2010 would hold, I would have, without hesitation, described vast fleets of spaceships swooshing through the solar system. They would, almost certainly, have been almost identical to those seen in Star Trek and Buck Rogers in the Twenty-Fifth Century.
Ask me about 2010 now and I’ll guess that mobile and cloud computing reach a critical mass and become the norm rather than an alternative. I admit, not nearly as dramatic as spaceships, cyborgs, and/or anarchy. But, I think it’s quite likely to happen. I guess we’ll have to wait and see, won’t we?
Happy New Year!