Ten years ago, there was no YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter. Internet socializing was for techies and hackers, and Amazon stock was trading at $24 a share because shopping online was still an unproven concept -- who knew if the mint in-the-box Boba Fett you ordered would ever show up? Steve Jobs was about to drop a bomb called iTunes on the music industry, but most of us had barely heard of MP3 players. The idea that newspapers, books, music, movies, and TV shows would soon be available digitally and on demand, from mobile devices light years away from our flip-phones, would have been inconceivable.
Well, guess what? Technology develops at an exponential rate, which means the changes coming in the next 10 years will make the last decade look like the Mesozoic Era.
So what will our world look like 10 years from now? Will we finally have the flying cars and mechanical maids The Jetsons promised us?
Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman and former CEO of Google, has some possible answers in his new book The New Digital Age, coming out April 23. He predicts that technology is about to transform how we socialize, do business, raise our kids, and run our countries. Some of the changes will be scary and might exacerbate weaknesses in domestic and international security. Other changes will fulfill the utopian fever dreams of generations of sci-fi nerds.
Here's the book trailer:
Here are Eric Schmidt's three biggest predictions:
1. Billions of People Are Coming Online
Today, the majority of the world's population still has little or no access to the Internet. Schmidt says that's about to change. Networks are going to become cheaper and more ubiquitous, so everyone will receive better and more convenient access to the Internet. The speed and computing power of Web-accessing devices will likewise accelerate.
Since most new participants will be in countries like China, India, Pakistan, Iran, Ethiopia, and Egypt, where education can be limited and governments oppressive, in one generation these people will likely leap from little to no unfiltered information to the wide-open floodgates of global interconnectivity.
How will this affect the business, politics, and daily lives of these people? How will it alter our own international relations? For example, Twitter has been a valuable tool in coordinating revolutionaries' efforts and getting the word out about large-scale violence, extreme weather, and other dramatic events.
Schmidt cautions that technological advances simultaneously increase the power of dictators and autocrats. After all, an advanced toy becomes a weapon in the wrong hands. So who becomes more dominant -- the citizen or the state? Based on what has happened so far, freedom of information and communication is more powerful than an increased ability to monitor and record.
2. Virtual Reality Will Become More Commonplace
Science-fiction is about to become science-fact: Schmidt promises futuristic wonders like driverless cars, thought-controlled robotic motion, artificial intelligence, and fully integrated augmented reality. This is starting to sound like The Matrix. Whoa.
Forget 3D TV; a fully tactile, extreme, and immersive virtual reality is the future of entertainment. I'm sure you've heard the buzz about Google Glass. This is virtual reality in its infancy. Ten years from now, virtual reality could transform our movies, video games, vacations, extreme sports, and more practical endeavors like training and education into a virtual world that is more intense, more creative, and far less restrictive than plain old reality.
3. Online Identities Will Become Less Anonymous and More Valuable
The relative anonymity on blogs and online message boards won't last. Schmidt notes, "Trails we leave remain engraved online in perpetuity. And because what we post, email, text, and share online shapes the virtual identities of others, new forms of collective responsibility will have to come into effect." No longer can we flame and slander with impunity, protected by the mask of "SarCastro" or "JeanLucPicard."
Schmidt predicts that our online identities will become more concrete and verifiable, meaning we will be more responsible for what we say and do online, for better and for worse. He says, "Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results. The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance."
This means we'll have to continue to educate our children on the perils of the Internet and online interaction, particularly if their online preferences and actions are logged from an early age. And as online identities become more concrete, they become more valuable, so Schmidt anticipates we'll see a rise in identity theft and even "identity hostage-taking," as thieves continue to do what they've always done: counterfeit and steal.
On the plus side, crime and corruption will be harder to hide, and the online environment will become a more genuine place, with fewer trolls and more people who actually think before they type.
The Next 10 Years of Technological Development
Everybody wants a glimpse into the future because the unknown is exciting and scary. Though advances in technology bring changes and challenges, that's what helps us develop as human beings -- technology accelerates, forcing us to accelerate our own growth to keep pace. Who knows exactly what the future holds in store for us, but as long as we're doing and being our best, we shouldn't have too much to worry about.
The trailer is the copyright of The Draw Shop.