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

Joyful 40th anniversary, PCMag! Moments like these connect with not only for nostalgia, but a glimpse back at what we got ideal, and what we bought wrong. I was the editor-in-main of Computer system Magazine for 14 yrs, and in the September 2001 issue , for the 20th anniversary of the IBM Personal computer, I manufactured some predictions(Opens in a new window) about technology and how I predicted it to glance 20 several years into the potential. So now is the excellent time for me to revisit those assertions and tally up my hits and misses. Let us just say I did not really have crystal-ball eyesight. But all in all, I did not fare too badly.

Miss out on: The Utmost Value of the Smartphone

“Electronic cameras will be ubiquitous, with just about absolutely everyone using computers to edit photographs and digital movie. Each and every organization will use the World-wide-web for communications, and internet expert services will start to get form this 12 months. Around the subsequent handful of several years, your calendar will be offered on the net and accessible wherever you are. You are going to be capable to share it with numerous persons.”

I was sort of appropriate, these points did materialize, but I failed to choose the prediction virtually significantly adequate. By 2011, electronic cameras and the Web have been without a doubt almost everywhere, and you could simply share information on the world wide web. But what I missed was how the smartphone would in essence consume the electronic digital camera market—and extra importantly, how it would turn out to be most people’s major computing product for its portability variable, in contrast to the Laptop on your desk. Apple launched the Apple iphone in 2007, with the Application Retailer subsequent the subsequent year. The rest is history.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max


Apple Iphone 13 Pro Max
(Molly Flores)

Strike: The Genesis of Cloud Computing

“The applications I actually want—real-time, precise voice recognition and translation—are continue to several years away, but they’re coming. In the up coming handful of decades, we are going to see developments in peer-to-peer computing not only for file sharing but also for harnessing all the computing energy we have out there to remedy major troubles.”

Yes, the strategy of what we now connect with “scale-out(Opens in a new window)” computing was now taking off. We experienced software package-as-a-services (SaaS) methods, which includes Salesforce—and based on how you seem at it, going as much back again as, say, ADP processing payroll on mainframes. Amazon World wide web Expert services introduced in 2002, and it quickly advanced into what we now get in touch with “cloud computing.”

These platforms originally started off as far more efficient means of managing conventional apps, but they also permit organizations gather, keep, and evaluate significant quantities of info in a price tag-helpful way. This enabled new purposes and new business models, accompanied by many execs and drawbacks. What I hadn’t recognized was just how crucial they would turn into as software program-progress platforms.

Neural Network


((Illustration: Weiquan Lin/Getty Visuals))

And it was the ability to coach deep neural networks with GPUs and generally, the skill to run these significant types in cloud architectures, that definitely enabled speech recognition and later, translation. Siri released in 2010 and Alexa in 2013, and considering the fact that then, these kinds of platforms have turn out to be a lot more and additional exact, with true-time translation vastly increasing in the earlier few decades.

Hit: Broadband Will become Massive

“The broadband and wireless revolutions are continue to in early levels, and the telecommunications current market is overbuilt. But I’m certain we are going to inevitably have excellent broadband and wireless purposes.”

This one’s a no-brainer, of course. If just about anything, as I talked about previously, I underestimated all the things we would be doing on smartphones. But it did choose yrs for web targeted traffic to catch up—and then exceed—what was designed in the dot.com period.

Hit: AI As a Double-Edged Sword

“I also acquire seriously the really true problems about where technological know-how is headed. I find some convenience in the gradual progress inside of the area of synthetic intelligence, but the strategies from folks like Ray Kurzweil and Vernor Vinge make me wonder.”

I was right to be concerned about the use of technological know-how, but I didn’t account for the AI explosion of the earlier ten years. Deep-discovering neural networks had been an academic backwater when I wrote this it would be a different 10 decades until eventually scientists started applying them on GPUs. When mixed with the huge amount of money of details we now have offered and the cloud infrastructure to take care of it, this technological know-how has brought new accuracy to picture recognition and voice recognition, and afterwards to all types of other applications.

Facial Recognition


(Illustration: imaginima/Getty Photos)

We’ve noticed a ton of utility from equipment-studying algorithms and the programs they’ve manufactured achievable, but we have also noticed plenty of occasions in which these apps have resulted in unintended or biased success, as very well as a great deal controversy about how they’ve been applied in the real globe. We are however grappling with these concerns, and you can find no close in sight.

Strike: Nanotechnology and Biotechnology

I feel that nanotechnology and biotechnology are extra fertile grounds for the two exhilaration and problem. For occasion, the controversy about bioengineered food presages more difficult debates to come.

We’ve viewed quite a few nanotechnology and biotechnology improvements in the past 20 years—mRNA vaccines for COVID-19 between them—along with numerous debates on these subject areas. A good deal of the progress has been slower than I may well have guessed, but let’s contact it a strike.

Suggested by Our Editors

SpaceX Starship SN15


SpaceX Starship SN15
(SpaceX)

Pass up: The Commercialization of House

I you should not consider that technology will evolve as effortlessly or immediately as some individuals forecast. Following the moon landing, folks imagined we might get started colonizing the planets. Perfectly, a quarter-century has handed considering that the final man walked on the moon, and no 1 is even conversing about likely again.

No 1 has walked on the moon due to the fact I wrote that, possibly. But we have viewed incredible development in commercial room applications—everything from satellite communications to GPS. I wouldn’t have predicted the advances startups these kinds of as SpaceX have offered rise to, which include lowering the charge of going to space, or that we might see “space tourism” in advance of any person could get back to the moon. These firms are now conversing about likely back again to the moon—and probably to Mars.


I realized there would be controversies, but I did not be expecting social networks to distribute so greatly and to turn into instruments of additional polarizing culture.

It’s often challenging to forecast how men and women will use know-how. In the end, no issue what the engineering is, people today will determine what is and is not useful for them. As I generally set it: Technological innovation variations swiftly. Men and women adjust slowly and gradually.

I knew there would be controversies, but I did not hope social networks to unfold so commonly and to become instruments of further more polarizing modern society. I hadn’t grasped the importance that these networks would play in commerce or in encouraging billions of folks to make and share their have quick films. And I wholly missed the emergence of a decentralized blockchain (first described by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008) and cryptocurrency.

Reward Strike: Technology Is Never Monotonous

The following 20 many years promise to be rather a experience. I wouldn’t miss it for anything at all.

I was certainly proper about that. This is to the following 20 many years!