November 3, 2010

The most significant technological developments of the next 20 years

Mondolithic Studios
I was recently interviewed by Christian Nesheim of the I Look Forward To blog who asked: "What will be the single most significant technological development of the next 20 years?" To which I responded:
Interface technologies that bridge the gap between the human brain and the internet. In twenty years, our interaction with the web will be so seamless that it will be considered an exosomatic organ. Implications include ubiquitous access to all knowledge stores on the net and "techlepathy.
Indeed, it seems that with each passing year we are increasingly closing the gap. As amazing as our computers and hand-held devices are today, I already consider them clunky and even anachronistic relative to what I see coming down the pipes. As it stands, if I want to communicate with somebody or look something up, I have to go to my computer, launch a web browser, do a search, blah, blah, blah. It's tedious and boring—but most of all it's a waste of time.

In the future I'm imagining, this gap—the delay between needing something on the internet and actually getting it—as being seamless. Such a development will be the result of ongoing miniaturization of technologies, ubiquitous computing and more sophisticated interface devices, namely language user interfaces (LUI's) and even neural user interfaces (NUI's).

And once we're at the NUI phase we will have accomplished a rather remarkable thing: The unimpeded connection of the brain with the internet. At this stage, we will be able to navigate the Web and communicate with others through our subvocal commands and even our thoughts alone. When this happens, the internet will become less an external resource than an exosomatic organ. It'll be like an extension of our brain.

The internet is already very much like this, but as mentioned, the process of interacting with it is still rather primitive. Once we can access the Web in such an on-demand fashion, the speed with which we can access data and communicate with others will likely result in giant leap in terms of human capacities and performance. I suspect that collective IQs will rise dramatically, collaborative efforts will increase in scale and potency, and social networking will evolve to a new level. This might even usher in the much speculated age of the global mind in which we will have ubiquitous access to a chorus of friends, thinkers, and specialized groups.

A concern about all of this is that, given such a possibility, we will still be working with our limited paleolithic brains. It's an open question as to whether or not our minds will be able to handle all this busyness. I suspect that, in order to make sense of it all, we will have to employ sophisticated filtering, automated workflows, virtual agents, and ongoing data analytics. And this is before we get involved with actual cognitive enhancement—so there is hope.

Be sure to read the rest of the I Look Forward To article in which other futurists are interviewed, including David Pearce, Michael Anissimov, Phil Bowermaster, and Aaron Saenz.


ZarPaulus said...

Collective IQs? Have you been on a message board lately?

byrev said...

Quantum computer ... this will be the most important step of mankind. It represents a step towards ascension, with repercussions beyond our imagination !