Brace yourself for a technological avalanche

Arthur C. Clarke once wrote, “a critical reading of science fiction is essential training for anyone wishing to look more than 10 years ahead.” You’d have to guess Dave Evans, futurist & chief technologist, Internet Business Solutions Group, Cisco Systems Inc., is an avid sci-fi reader.

Evans hosted a teleconference dubbed, “The Technology Avalanche – a Look into the Future”, on Feb. 10. He shared what his top 25 technology predictions are for the next 20 years and the list is as fascinating as it is intimidating.

Courtesy image

“When this technology avalanche hits over the next couple of decades, it will be incredibly disruptive,” he said. “It behooves those organizations, individuals and governments to really get this and embrace this . . . this is a fundamental shift in how we as a species will operate going forward.”

This man is full of bold statements. Asked if he thought the human race is ready to surf that technology avalanche, he said to consider the advances of humankind over the last 200 years. For instance, the Internet, space travel, human genome; humans have a great capacity for adaptation.

He added a cautionary note however: social, political, cultural issues may impede that progress. But technology is like time, he said, and it does not stop.

Some of the 25 predictions Evans makes includes:

*By 2029, 11 Petabytes of storage will be available for $100 (US) equivalent to 600+ years of continuous, 24-hour-per-day, DVD-quality video;

*By 2020, a $1,000 PC will have the raw processing power of a human brain;

*By 2030, it will take a village of human brains to match a $1,000 computer;

*By 2025, teleportation at the particle level will begin to occur;

*By 2030, artificial implants for the brain will take place.

In the near future, Evans foresees:

*By 2010, 35 billion devices will be connected to the Internet (nearly six devices per person on the planet);

*By 2013, wireless network traffic will reach 400 Petabytes a month. Today, the entire global network transfers 9 Exabytes per month;

*The world’s data will increase six-fold in each of the next two years, while corporate data will grow 50-fold;

*Within two years information on the Internet will double every 11 hours;

*In the next five years, any surface will become a display.

A PDF containing his top 25 tech predictions is available as a free download here.

“What we’re seeing with Moore’s Law and Metcalfe’s Law is things are no longer growing at a linear rate; they never have . . . things are accelerating at an exponential rate, at a geometric rate and with that comes significant implications,” he continued. “If you look at the timeline of human history . . . we’ve done some fairly significant things.

“But all great accomplishments will be dwarfed over the next couple of decades.”

That’s because the rate of change is accelerating rapidly. There are some significant inflection points coming in technology, he continued. Quantum computing, nanotechnology, bio-technology, these will change how we view these laws.

Sci-fi author Clarke also predicted in 1958 that by 2030, humans would make contact with extraterrestrial intelligences; laughable to some perhaps, but not to Evans.

“As of 2010, more than 470 exoplanets have been discovered,” he said. “We will likely make contact with them before they make contact with us. Frank Drake recently proposed moving the search for extraterrestrial life off planet.”

Most intriguing was Evans’ comments relating to quantum computing and what he called the ‘information explosion’ that’s occurring.

“I think silicon technology will be around for quite some time . . . but ultimately the industry is moving to additional forms of computing. One of those forms the IT industry is spending a lot of energy on is quantum computing,” he remarked. “A traditional silicon computer operates by turning bits on or off. A quantum computer . . . is both on and off and every state in-between at the same time and that makes it massively parallel (read: mind-blowing fast).

“Another interesting phenomenon with quantum physics is this notion of quantum entanglement . . . if you take two particles regardless of distance and you change the characteristics of one, it’s immediately reflected in the other one.”

Thus, at some point in the future we’ll be able to transmit unlimited data from point A to B instantaneously, regardless of distance. “Quantum entanglement doesn’t have a distance limitation. Physicists don’t yet know why it works; we simply know that it does work.”

These are what he called the two game-changers for the human species over the next couple of decades.

“The world in which our children will live over the next two decades will be radically different from the world we live in today,” he added. “To give you a sense of how fast quantum computers are, if you took 5,000 planets the size of Earth and covered their entire surfaces in silicon base computing, a single molecule-sized quantum computer has the equivalent processing power . . . we think within the next decade or so, quantum computers will start to become commercially available.”

Regarding the ‘information explosion’, in 2008 the human race created more new data than we did in the previous 5,000 years. But separating the wheat from the chaff remains a major challenge.

“The amount of data we’re creating is unbelievable . . . YouTube alone has about 10 hours of new video uploads every minute,” he said. “We’ve become digital packrats . . . we’re creating all this new data but the message is data does not equal knowledge. We need to figure out how to mine this data . . . to make smart decisions.”

— Much of this article was originally posted on Partnerpedia.com

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One Response to Brace yourself for a technological avalanche

  1. Mind blowing stuff. Read Raymond Kurtzweil’s book “The Singularity is Near,” and you’ll get a sense of almost how out of control this is all going to get. Once you have a self modifying, self improving computer that is more efficient and inventive than a human, we’re out of the game. In a way, it’s nothing more than an extension of our DNA. DNA determines us, determines that we can create these machines up to a certain level of sophistication at which point our creativity leads to the development of machines that are better adapted to an increasingly digital world than we are. The quantum computing bit is really taking off which is going to play a huge roll in how we get to this singularity I think. It’s a very exciting time to be alive!

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