Posted by: nickgerlich | February 4, 2008

7 Squared

There is one day each year that causes me to stop dead in my tracks and reflect. Today is that day. On this day a long, long time ago, I landed on Planet Earth. It was the Day After the Day The Music Died (and you have to be old to know what that is even about).

The older I get, the more I reflect. I suppose that’s what happens when you start to get old. It is sobering when you realize your past is probably longer than your future. Those AARP mailings are starting to get to me, for sure. In one year, I’ll be able to join the legions of the 50+ and start saving 20% on almost everything. Woo hoo.

Future CityLast year my reflection was retro, as I looked back on my childhood home in suburban Chicago and all that had changed in my life thus far (Google Earth is a great tool for doing fly-by secret visits to the past). But this time instead of looking back, I am going to look forward anyway, in spite of one never knowing if they will be there. A good sub-title for this blog would thus be I Predict: 2026, for that is when I think I will retire. I am currently in my 19th year at WT, so 18 more years would put me at 67, with 37 years of service. If Social Security is still around, I should be able to score some gas money for the RV.

Otherwise, I may have to keep teaching. You can send your kids to me by then.

While much has changed, especially in my first 19 years at WT, my hunch is that the rate of change will only accelerate. So buckle your safety belts and come along with me for a ride into the future…a future I think will include, but is not limited to, the following prognostications. I have limited myself to just the tech side of life, mainly because it pertains to the stuff I teach. And just to be on the safe side, I bet all of my predictions will come true long before 2026. Some are right around the corner.

  • Cell phone service will be free or have only a nominal charge. Google will forever change the industry with its version of phones, which will, of course, be advertising-driven.
  • We will live in a high-speed wifi bubble, certainly in every city over 10,000 people, and hopefully even out into the hinterlands. Our iPhones (version 12.3) will always have a blistering download speed, our Amazon Kindles and laptops will never be in need of a signal.
  • We will live under a constant data cloud, always able to access our images and documents no matter where we are. This will make flash drives and all hard drives obsolete, because we will not need to store anything at home or on a laptop. In fact, our desktop and laptop computers will really just be access points to the internet, where we will then retrieve our files.
  • E-Commerce will be equally ubiquitous, and every device we carry will be capable of making purchases. Impulse shopping will reach never-before possible peaks, as we will only be one click away from shopping at any given time via a multitude of devices.
  • Built-in retinal scanners will help cure the identity theft problem. If you don’t have the right eyeball, you won’t get access or be able to shop.
  • LCD screens will be everywhere, because they will be cheaper than CRT sets ever were. Already advertisers are experimenting with LCD billboards; stadiums have installed large LCDs.
  • We will buy all of our media digitally. No more will we need CDs, DVDs, or software. Everything will be a la carte. And our daughters will wonder what in the world I was thinking when I bought all those clunky discs. (1400+ CDs and 300+ DVDs as of 2008)
  • RFID chips will be everywhere, but we will probably never actually see one. Special readers like the one Accenture tested a couple of years ago inside a Blackberry unit will allow anyone to scan you and what you are wearing. And if they like what they see, they will be able to jump to a shopping portal to buy the exact same item. Scary, eh?
  • We will probably all wear some kind of GPS device that serves as navigational aid, as well as a first alert system for weather news. Devices like this have just emerged, but I suspect they will drop in price like a Timex Indiglo watch. We will never get lost, nor get stuck in a hail storm.
  • In-motion satellite TV will be standard equipment in all vehicles. Furthermore, the connection will be two-way, allowing for email, web browsing, and all the fun stuff we do with all the other devices we will be carrying.
  • Online classes will be so much the norm that we will shut down the university campus and just move into a TV studio. That is all we will need anyway, with a combination of synchronous and asynchronous audio- and video podcasts. Built-in webcams in every device will allow for real-time office hours and consultations from afar, as well as video conference calls.

I am sure there is more to be said, but my eyesight isn’t what it once was. I just can’t see very far anymore. And as much as I stress viewing life through the windshield, sometimes it feels like the best vision I have is the reflection off the rearview mirror.

Dr “I Can See Nearly Now” Gerlich

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