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  1.  (2320.1)
    Here's a game for the Mad Science crowd.

    What technological and social changes can reasonably be expected to manifest in the next five years?

    Describe a piece of the "almost certain" near future as best you can.

    Go.

    -- W
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      CommentAuthorLinsterg
    • CommentTimeMay 21st 2008 edited
     (2320.2)
    Flexible display screens in consumer electronics; U.S. FDA approval for omega-3 fatty acid-rich, genetically-modified pork products; full-body-articulated wiimotes.

    Update: Sorry, "FDA" is the "Food and Drug Administration". It has regulatory authority over the obvious.
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      CommentAuthorAriana
    • CommentTimeMay 21st 2008 edited
     (2320.3)
    Something I'm not precisely certain why does not exist just yet:

    Take your Asus EEE, just as a base. Only, make it a half an inch again as thick by folding a second monitor onto the unit. Now you've got a triptych of two smallish screens and a small-but-usable keyboard. So loosen the hinge on the base/keyboard a little to allow it to fold back, add in the iPhone's ability to understand orientation, and suddenly you've got a dual-monitor mini-pc that can be turned sideways for standard broadsheet/magazine/comic/book format reading while you're sitting on the subway. While you're at it, go ahead and make one or both of those monitors a touch screen (and don't worry overmuch about adding size onto this thing, again, see again the iPhone) so you can turn pages when it's in book format. And, actually, y'know what? Let's make that keyboard a snap off (retractable-wire so we can save energy/space) unit so that when we get where we're going and want to take notes, we can unhook it from it's monitors, prop them up on the table (like a hardback book without pages to flip closed), select "One page of book, one notebook page" and take notes/copypaste as we're reading. Or book/web so we can simulblog, or look up references to material that's been linked in the book, or is hyperlinked in the version of today's paper/magazine that auto-downloaded this morning before we woke up.

    And let's plug our phone into one of the jacks in the side of the mini workstation so that if we get an incoming call we can hit the "accept videocall" button and wire it through the included camera on the edge of the screen. Or "connect to remote computer" -- if we've called in sick that day and don't feel like letting the boss see we're at a coffee shop -- and the second monitor will connect to the boss' work machine so she can highlight the important items you need to grab and drag to your own desktop to work on later.

    But, again, there's no reason for this to be a five years from now machine, as everything exists to make it work right now.

    (And god help me I hope someone else replies to this thread soon because I can do this all day -- this isn't even future-tracking, it's just the set-up I decided I wanted this morning. Because teensy wearable/embeddable/lens tech is very nice and future-y, but I am a blind old woman that likes things large enough to see without filling my full field of vision. And we're making headway on lens/glasses tech, but we're a ways off from anyone thinking about adding in eye-tracking so you can "look away" from what's being projected onto your eyes. And as someone that a) wears contacts every day and b) has her computer freeze on here every now and again, I think I'm qualified to say that having my browser "stuck" in front of my left eye for five minutes while it tries to shut down is not going to make me thrilled to be living in teh future.

    Which may be my comment on where the future is going to be in five years -- we're going to find the sweet spot between "novelty tiny" and "too big to carry around" for a lot more things, and settle into usable form factors for more portable tech. And, of course, modular tech, which we're already working on. And, for fuck's sake, more pervasive, dependable, and accessible wireless so that it's all usable during our travels or commutes. Because if we don't start finding ways to make traveling with our technology more viable (even if it's a quick trip) then the generation that's jacking in is going to start going physically static, or hobbling together more inventive lo-fi set-ups (which will be things of their own beauty, of course). You know what I'm doing right now? Parenthetically ranting. Closing window _now_.)
    •  
      CommentAuthorwilliac
    • CommentTimeMay 21st 2008
     (2320.4)
    The next OLPC takes a surprising step in just that direction. LINK
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      CommentAuthorAriana
    • CommentTimeMay 21st 2008 edited
     (2320.5)
    The next OLPC takes a surprising step in just that direction.
    Haha, awesome! That's why I'm a mechanic, not an inventor, y'see.

    ...Holy crap is that article from today? Fucking speedy future.
    • CommentAuthorC_Murphy
    • CommentTimeMay 21st 2008
     (2320.6)
    Best guess as to something big that'll happen soon-ish, if not in the next five years, that's small but really changes things-

    Combine some of the following - a small transparent or semi-transparent display screen inside a non-bulky glasses like headset, a decent wireless internet connection, voice command software (and a little further down the road, subvocal voice command), and a bluetooth-like headset. Once you get fairly easy and effortless constant access to a) the internet or b)communication with anyone, anywhere, anytime, how easy is it going to be to step away from that? How many people are going to have a real hard time doing it?

    The key that'll really shift things is making all the working parts almost entirely hands-free (maybe a minimal hand involvement, like a ring or something on your finger acting like a wireless mouse) and barely noticeable. There'll be a moment when you'll be having a conversation with someone who keeps zoning out and you realize it's because he's reading a news site or blog on his glasses or bringing up an internet radio station or something. So what happens when that's widespread? How big a problem is it going to be when the second any of us are bored with whatever it is we're doing or whoever it is we're interacting with we can instantly and discretely stop paying attention to it and start browsing the web, and nobody'll notice but us?
    •  
      CommentAuthorhowyadoin
    • CommentTimeMay 21st 2008
     (2320.7)
    Jesus, I'll be 50 in 5 years.

    Hopefully they'll have made major strides in the area of antidepressants.
  2.  (2320.8)
    The next OLPC takes a surprising step in just that direction.


    Ah. That made my day. Amazing.

    God, I would love to create/design interactive comics for something like that - so in my wheelhouse.


    5 years later:
    We'll be growing organs by then, so I'd figure that we're going to need something approaching a rapidly evolving/radically different economic structure as money isn't going to be used the same way if everyone is living 50 years longer. Using a current 'financially responsible,' 'saving for retirement' model, you'd have to start saving at, what, 20 to survive retirement at even an advanced age of 80 or 90?

    Obviously, I can't get over this 1 million percent inflation thing in Zimbabwe...
    •  
      CommentAuthorJacen
    • CommentTimeMay 21st 2008
     (2320.9)
    Something I was thinking about the other day...Greenpunk or Eco

    We have a whole generation of ecologically minded kids growing up in the inconvenient truth world who are going to need something to rebel against as teens. I see angst filled, self righteous eco kids kicking the shit out of SUV drivers and taking ecoterrorism to a street level. I expect some sort of crappy music and fashion subculture to pop up around this "movement" giving it a commercial but short life span.

    And for bonus points, I'm thinking big name video game designers will be the new super celebrities. Guys like Miyomoto are already as big as Spielberg in some circles but this trend will explode over the coming years. Games have replaced movies in the consciousness of todays youth.
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      CommentAuthorstsparky
    • CommentTimeMay 21st 2008 edited
     (2320.10)
    I'm expecting SCOP any day now. It has to be healthier and cheaper than meat at pennies of the cost of tofu. And space vegetables.

    Urban centers near the oceans need to step up a build large scale desalination plants, ones where the by-products are also used.

    What I want to see here in the states is a infrastructure program that first rebuilds our highways with labor from anyone who wants a job and a living wage. We could re-kickstart an old industry using brains. American steel, and concrete. As we do that - we need someone who'll using Federal land - build maglev high speed trains for interstate transport and shipment of goods. We need elevated trains or monorails for city use. Subways cost too much as is.
  3.  (2320.11)
    LEED Certification is going to become mandatory in state and federal building and likely going to be highly recommended (using tax breaks) or a matter of law in residential and commercial building.

    LEED is a step in the right direction for green construction, but it's one size fits all. In Vegas they were only able to get Bronze level certification because they didn't put in the tip-top rainwater systems. In a climate that gets 2-3 inches of rain a year? LEED will likely splinter up, get shaked and baked for individual areas, but green construction is going to be the norm, not a luxury.

    This is going to be a huge boon to alternative energy and recycling/reclamation tech. Even with all the hand-wringing green is still boutique. Making roof gardens and solar panels part and parcel of construction? Venture capitalists are salivating already, that will make them froth.

    Along the lines of personal tech you're going to see more and more awareness of vampire power. The US economy tanking has people paying closer attention to energy waste. God, I hope we can see standby switches become standard for socets. If not how about affordable after market or power strips.

    If gas prices continue their ascent (and why the fuck not) you're going to see one or more of the US automakers tank for good. There are sales on SUVs and trucks that aren't just cutting into dealer profits, they' must be operating at a loss. Big, wasteful and slow. Pinning all their hopes on Hybrid SUVs which are ridiculously priced and still barely get anything approaching decent gas mileage. It's FAIL all across the board.

    Did you know Toyota can change it's auto manufacturing assembly line to a new model in a matter of 4-6 weeks? US manufacturers are so fucking proud they can do that in 6 months. You're going to see more and more smaller and smaller in the US when it comes to cars. Smart car is here now and there's a goddamn waiting list. The prius is an ugly shit, something cheap that sips gas and looks pretty is going to blow the doors off the US car market. And it's going to come from Japan.
    • CommentAuthorStefanJ
    • CommentTimeMay 21st 2008
     (2320.12)
    Lots products -- some goofy, some practical -- to deal with soaring energy costs.

    Really small cars, by a whole bunch of new entrants as Detroit thrashes and downsizes. Some will be utter crap; some will be cunningly designed urban transport vehicles.

    Desktop computers become a specialty item as laptops and handhelds incorporate pretty damn much of everything.

    A new class of plasticware that sells on being biologically inert. No endocrine disruptors or the like.

    Tooth implants. You have to go to Thailand to get them.
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      CommentAuthorstsparky
    • CommentTimeMay 21st 2008
     (2320.13)
    @orwellseyes: Pretty doesn't always cut it. The Prius people claim they get their car to go 170mph. I can almost drive one comfortably unlike most cars its' ilk.

    And what do you think of this for a start at urban sustainable housing?
    • CommentAuthorKosmopolit
    • CommentTimeMay 21st 2008
     (2320.14)
    1. Grid-scale energy storage - probably in redox batteries but possibly via flywheels or lithium batteries - no more baseload and peak power plants. The cost of electricity comes down and a bunch of companies than run small p[owerplants specifically ot meet peak demand go bust.

    No more black-outs either.

    This also means problems with the intermittent nature of solar and wind power go away.

    2. Wind power becomes cheaper than coal-fired electricity. Solar power becomes almost as cheap as coal-fired electricity. New houses come with built-in thin film PV cells as standard.

    3. Hybrids and battery -powered cars make up 20% of world car sales and the only thing keeping their market share that low is the delay in building new factories. GM, Ford and Chrysler declare bankruptcy or are taken over. Nissan. Tata and a bunch of companies you've never heard of join Toyoata as the new giants of the automotive world.
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      CommentAuthorAlan Tyson
    • CommentTimeMay 21st 2008 edited
     (2320.15)
    Fuel cell technology becomes the new black, especially in the automotive industry. Oil companies either wake up and convert to producing these, or they are quickly bought out by rapidly-rising new energy companies.

    As information storage gets smaller and smaller, today's desktop-size hard drives can be shrunk to the size of a flash drive, including operating system. We see a revolution in "physical" data transference, as you could conceivably carry your entire computer around on a necklace - you'd just have to plug it into a "shell" computer. Maybe not in five years, but maybe in ten, we see the emergence of public computer terminals in places like coffee shops and youth centers, where people can access their home computer from anywhere. One step closer along the road to ubiquitous connectivity.

    Surveillance and security gets even scarier. Postage-stamp-size cameras become the norm. Webcams will be hacked constantly, allowing someone to look around your bedroom or den without you ever knowing it. The counter-culture responds - mirrorshades come back, as do hoodies and baggy clothes. Sixteen-year-old kids shave their heads bald to keep from leaving hair traces, and they start wearing gloves.

    Several Hollywood production companies go down as the constant blockbuster race reveals itself to be a bubble that pops in everyone's face as the viewing public just gets so burnt out. Movie theaters either evolve or die. Paid-for downloads become standard, rather than physical distribution, for movies as well as entire seasons of television shows. We are seeing this happen already - Hollywood just needs to wake up and smell the torrents.

    The first generation of mass-produced humanoid autonomous robots are put on the market, for a ridiculous amount of money. They will remain curiosities, however, until someone invents an interesting use for them.
    • CommentAuthorKosmopolit
    • CommentTimeMay 21st 2008
     (2320.16)
    "They will remain curiosities, however, until someone invents an interesting use for them."

    Besides fucking them, you mean?
    •  
      CommentAuthorAlan Tyson
    • CommentTimeMay 21st 2008 edited
     (2320.17)
    I was thinking robot nannies, myself.
  4.  (2320.18)
    Pretty doesn't always cut it. The Prius people claim they get their car to go 170mph. I can almost drive one comfortably unlike most cars its' ilk.

    It's a fucking offensive car to me. It's as if they looked at a century of auto design and said "Hey, that edsel had some class..." Smart cars, Minis, Yaris', these work from a design point of view. The real problem with the Prius is you're supposed to be driving the future and all the design interior and exterior feels straight out of '99. Quiet car though.


    And what do you think of this for a start at urban sustainable housing?

    Again, ugly. Green doesn't have to be boxy and look like Frank Gehry's been at it. But that's just picking at it, sorry. The problem I see right off that bat is they're trying to put enviornmental tech on a home like it's an ornament. That great room? Terrible waste of heat and air conditioning, it's California so more of the latter I'd wager though it can get cold in the evening. Smaller rooms work better for controlling tempature. Roof decks? A green roof with rain reclamation would work better and cut down on the heat island effect. This bit "Solar electricity generation with state-of-the-art translucent modules" I'd be curious in hearing more about. The space alotted for solar panels is pretty small on the floor plans.

    The Museum of Science and Industry here in Chicago built a green house. It's still kind of funny looking. The thing I like best is the use of the roof and plant life as part of the house's planning. The tech is great too, keeping the house costs way down. Another great thing, this is a prefab home for under 500K. All that great enviornmental science in home that isn't completely out of reach in price.

    In five years that cost could be cut a 1/3rd.
    •  
      CommentAuthorAlan Tyson
    • CommentTimeMay 21st 2008
     (2320.19)
    This becomes the hot new date-rape drug.

    *Shudder*
    •  
      CommentAuthorCyman
    • CommentTimeMay 21st 2008
     (2320.20)
    You know in gyms where people run on bikes and lift weights and all that energy goes to nothing?

    I would be amazed if I was the first to notice, but seriously, a big gym full of exercise bikes? Hook that shit up to a generator and power your own building. I'm seeing complex contraptions to replace the bench press etc. and solar panels on every house and car. Solar iPods? Why not?

    There's a Korean company right now working on a smaller, more accessible solar panel that will cut the price by like 60% for the average consumer. I don't know where I read about this, I'll try to find a link if anyone cares. It should be out this year.