The Future

We can’t know the future – not the specific details but we constantly try to imagine the future.  Here are some impressive videos from Microsoft that shows what the future might be like following the trends of current technology.

The first one appears to have been made in 2009.

The next one from 2011 seems very similar, as if they were actually produced at the same time.  Or we have to assume that 2019 seen from Microsoft from two years apart looks very much like.

Do these predictions please you, or scare you?  It certainly seems the Geeks have inherited the Earth.  But if you think about it, it’s a rather tame mundane view of the future.  Adults still go to work and children go to school – the difference is the physical objects around us get more intelligent.  But do we?

We like to think that people are evolving too and in some ways we are.  We’re moving toward a society where everyone is equal regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation.  However, if you think about it, we’ll all be treated equally fair, at least under the law, but will we be different?  Greed will still coexist with charity, violence will exist with peace, law and order will still fight the lawless, the rich will get richer and the poor poorer.

I think if you plotted the evolution of humans it would show one long slight incline.  If you plotted the evolution of technology we’d see the classic hockey stick graph.

These two videos show a future for rich people, nothing is implied for the poor.  Without technology and money, the poor of one era seem to live pretty much like the poor of another era.  I’d also imagine if you are politically conservative now, or liberal, you will be the same in the future.  And I’d say if you are a bookworm that loves music and movies, then you’ll probably be a bookworm that loves music and movies in the future.  Most people will even be living in the same house they are living in now.

We can’t predict the details of the future, like who will win the presidential race in 2012, or what life will be like as the Earth gets warmer, or will we find a solution to the financial crisis and the economic divide between the 1% and the 99%.  There are an infinity of factors that go into shaping the future that keeps us from calculating what the future will be.

Some of the tech predictions we see in these Microsoft videos might come close to happening, but I doubt the tech will be as slick and clean as how they predict them.  It would be interesting to find some videos from 1999 and 2001 that Microsoft created predicting 2009 and 2011.


6 thoughts on “The Future”

  1. Interesting, Jim. And yes, this seems to be the future for the ultra-rich, almost entirely white or Asian, filled with clever gadgets that are probably little more than status symbols.

    In the first video, that plane is virtually empty. Apparently, only a very few people can afford to fly anywhere in the near future. And these people seem to live on vast estates, too. Seeing that we’ve just reached 7 billion people on the planet, you’ve got to wonder how everyone else is doing.

    Productivity improvements would be great, of course, especially if the increased wealth didn’t stay at the very top. Increases in productivity could mean that we all live better.

    But I couldn’t help but notice how slow everything was. I can do things quickly with a mouse or keyboard. Many of the things in those videos looked neat, but could they be used at any speed? I think I’d be frustrated if I actually tried to get something done using those methods, rather than just idly playing with them.

    1. I have to admit that learning to use touch with my iPad shows that it’s a viable human-machine interface. But I miss touch typing, which is much quicker. However, if they perfect Seri talking and touching might proved to be a winning combination.

      I did find these two futures sterile. And I’m not sure technology is right for education – but I’ll have to think about it though. What do we want kids to learn in schools? Is it to prepare them for the world of work, or to do we want them to reach their highest level of personal potential? Are we adapting to machine, or are the machines adapting to us? I just don’t know.

      I hear from teachers that kids can’t do multiplication in their heads because they were given calculators in school. How important is it for us to do stuff on our own without machines? I certainly wouldn’t want to be writing my blogs with pencil and paper. I’m listening to music as I write this and it’s coming from Rdio from an online library of millions of songs. But is that any more valuable than when I was a kid and had just 50 albums because those were the ones I worked for and bought myself?

      In terms of human potential and the value of life is a life with machines any different or more valuable than a life with cows, or trucks, or math symbols?

      1. I agree, Jim. Kids doing multiplication in their heads is just rote memorization. It’s only of value if it’s useful. And these days, I’d say that it’s becoming less and less useful.

        But it’s like giving up the teaching of Latin and Greek. There will be a lot of people who object just because that’s what they were taught.

        In both cases, it’s not that these things have no value at all, but just that other things could be taught which have more value these days.

        1. Actually Bill, I was thinking a certain amount of rote learning is good for kids. It’s like exercise for the brain – rote learning is like strength training for brain muscles.

          We only have so much time to cram crap into kid’s head as it is, so maybe Greek and Latin aren’t of value anymore. But I don’t know. Maybe a classical education with no technology is a great way to prepare people for a life with technology.

          To me education is catching children up with everything that’s happened from the big bang until now so when they are grown we can assume they know the basics of how we got here.

          I would say keep technology away from kids until high school. They’ll get plenty of it at home.

      2. No, I think you are falling into the trap you mentioned by keeping technology out of the schools you are stacking the deck against the less advantaged children. The kids with money will learn how to use the latest doo hickeys and the kids without will be at even more of a disadvantage comes High school.

        I agree that rote memorization isn’t useful in and of itself. Like my dad tells me how he had to memorize poems in school. However memorizing the multiplication tables is actually very important. I think it’s a very good thing that I learned those at a young age. Just because we have calculators doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still have to learn some stuff especially math because lots of math is foundational. In other words if you skip teaching them some higher math will be much more difficult.

        Latin: it would proably be worth spending a semester on but Spanish and Chinese would be much more useful. I wish I’d learned more about languages earlier than junior-high, by then it never sunk in the way it should have.

        The one that really confuses me though is why French is still taught in American schools. I mean there is nothing wrong with it, but how often is French used in the business world today outside of France and Quebec?

  2. Well I thought the two videos were rather different, I mean the technologies shown in both of them were similar, but I found the top one to be an ineffective ad while the bottom one was more effective. In the 2009 ad I didn’t really understand what the people were doing, what devices they were using, what they were doing with them. In the second ad I at least understood that a woman was making a hotel reservation, then two guys were designing something they needed a water pump for and then a girl got long distance help from her mom for a bake sale.

    But I didn’t like either of these visions of the future. They scared me a little. The future looked so impersonal and I didn’t see the point of using all this technology.

    In the 2009 video one guy is using his phone to help him get around in the airport. Whenever I try and use technology it only half works or only works after at least some fiddling. So most likely the reality of using your phone to interface with an airport’s directional system would take so long to set up that it would be easier to just follow conventional sign.

    Also everything used touch screens. The phones in the video looked like they had no buttons at all except touch screens. Every touch screen I’ve ever used was difficult to navigate and awkward to use so I’m stilling hoping everyone is wrong and we end up using some other technology.

    Oh and then there was how easy it is to put files on one device into another or the guy donated money to charity with like two clicks. Didn’t this seem dangerous. If someone steals your phone they can transfer your files and give all your money away in two seconds flat.

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