Future capabilities and expectations need to be qualified with key metrics and prices

Jamais Cascio had a piece from early in 2012 about how the major components of “visions” of the technological future have not changed.

The items on the list are –

Molecular nanotechnology
Artificial intelligence and robots galore
3D printers
Augmented reality
Ultra-high speed mobile networks
Synthetic biology
Life extension
Space colonies

The problem is that there is no key metrics qualified, amounts or ranges, prices or adoption levels to this list.

You could have human flight on this list and you could say that has not changed for centuries, even after lighter than air human travel started in 1783 and heavier than air travel started in 1903. Is there any difference between the 12 second flight in 1903 with some of the later developments ? Of course there is. Metrics and capabilities matter.

Ultra-high speed mobile network over the last 20 years has gone from tens of kilobits per second to tens of megabits per second on some mobile networks (mainly in asia and europe). Speeds for some high cost mobile links can get to tens of gbps now. There will be multi terabit per second links in the 20-50 year timeframe (2032-2062) that was mentioned in the Cascio article.

The original date range of consideration is quite wide and was not anchored to specific dates. When Cascio discussed the lack of change over the last 20 years then whoever was predicting in 1992 for 20-50 years then would need to true up the predictions against what happened in the 20 years.

1 gigabit per second (peak) from LTE advanced is starting to be deployed in 2013 and there is multi-gigabit per second wifi (802.11ac and 802.11ad) being deployed and will enable millions of hotspots to offload some data traffic. (2 million hotspots in 2012 and 4 million in 2014). There is also a twist dimension encoding that will enable wireless transmission speeds to go to multi-terabit speeds. Petabit speeds will be enabled over the ten years for optical network fiber backbones.

Molecular nanotechnology – we have DNA origami and DNA nanotechnology but mainly in the lab

Artificial intelligence and robots galore – there is commercialization of voice recognition (SIRI and Google Voice) and IBM is commercializing Watson.

3D printers – Additive manufacturing is a multi-billion dollar business

Augmented reality – There has been a very modest amount of commercialization of augmented reality but it appear set to pick up speed with Google Glass.

Ultra-high speed mobile networks – We have some 4G deployments

Synthetic biology – There has already been commercialization of synthetic biology for fuels, drugs, cosmetics, materials and other applications.

Life extension – Over 20 years, life expectancy increased by about 4 to 5 years.

Space colonies – There were no space colonies established over the last 20 years. There is some progress in cost reduction for launches.

Wireless generations illustrate a partial aspect of developments in mobile speed and the need for qualifying the key characteristics.

2G phones use digital networks. Going all-digital allowed for the introduction of digital data services, such as SMS and email. 2G networks and their digital nature also made it more difficult to eavesdrop on mobile phone calls.

3G networks are an in between standard. 3G is seen more as pre4G instead of a standard of its own. The advantage 3G networks have over 2G networks is speed. 3G networks are built to handle the needs of today’s wireless users. This standard of wireless networks increases the speed of internet browsing, picture and video messaging, and handheld GPS use.

4G (AKA Beyond 3G) is like the other generations in that its advantage lies in promised increased speeds in data transmission. The supposed speeds for 4G will be between 100 Mbit/s and 1 Gbit/s.

The expectation is for 10 Gigabit per second speed to be deployed with millimeter wireless.

New vision from the last 10-15 years – from the Mundane Singularity

Nextbigfuture first considered technologies that were mainly not artificial intelligence, molecular nanotechnology or nuclear fusion with my 2008 article on the Mundane Singularity. This enabled a focus on technologies that were picking up financial impact and were on the verge of commercial deployment or were gaining momentum.

I have updated the list of technologies over the last five years.

A Mundane Singularity could bring about a large amount of
1. Economic abundance
2. Radical life extension
3. Physical and Cognitive enhancement
4. Blood Stream Robots
5. Supermaterials
6. Open Access to space
7. Pollution elimination
8. Computer Advancement
9. Shape changing functional devices like utility fog

The list of technologies and policies that I believe play a major part in achieving those things over then next 20 years are

1. Pro-growth Policies
2. Energy Efficiency – superconductors, thermoelectrics, improved grid
3. Energy Revolution – Mass produced fission, fusion, and maybe cold fusion
4. Additive manufacturing
5. Not so mundane – neuromorphic chips, quantum computers, photonics
6. Automated transportation (leading to robotic cars and planes)
7. Urbanization MegaCities
8. Urbanization Broad Group skyscrapers, Tata flat packed buildings
9. Robotics
10. Hyperbroadband
11. Supermaterials
12. Improve medicine and public health
13. Space
14. Synthetic biology and recombineering
15. Sensors everywhere
16. Education transformed and accelerated innovation
17. Supersmartphones, exoskeletons and wearable systems
18. Memristors and other significant computing and electronic improvements.

The Mundane Singularity still has a normal adoption and deployment cycle. So the impact will increase over time. ie. More robots in 2020 and still more in 2025 and 2030.

I have some specific ranges and types of robots that I am expecting by different date ranges. I will add and update this and the amount of commercial penetration for Broad Group skyscrapers.

There is a clearer view of exactly how robotics and new automation will impact society.

In order to get precision around what will happen, there has to be a detailed analysis of the economics and capabilities of the tools and how they can be adopted for economic utilization.

The list of Mundane Singularity articles is under the mundane singularity tag.

Jamais also talked about the need for more accurate sociological and political predictions.

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita is a math professor who uses game theory to make accurate political predictions.

The basic method is to identify and analyze all of the players interested in some political or sociological outcome and determine how strongly they will commit to acting to bringing their desired outcome.

Nextbigfuture has also analyzed the big impact of the rise of China and other countries in detail. I have made a precise trending out 20 years. I have updated it and the forecast has been accurate for the last 7 years. Again the predictions involve numbers and amounts.

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