“Just A Spoonful of Musings Helps Reality Go Down…”

Before I even begin, I just want to clarify that yes, it was my intention to have that Mary Poppins tune stuck in your head.

Over the past few days, I’ve been thinking about technological advancements and the rate at which progress is taking place. It’s a topic that has been the subject of countless conversations, from late-night musings to NASA-level think tank discussions. Just look at Moore’s Law. In a nutshell, it is the observation that the number of transistors per square inch on integrated circuits had doubled every year up until the early 1970’s (when the law came to be). Tech is becoming more complex, more powerful, and more…small.

I kept thinking, and I decided to try and come up with as many predictions as possible. These are my thoughts.

–Home telephones are going to cease to exist. I’m honestly surprised that they are still so common today, though one has to consider that the amount of time it’ll take for them to disappear is dependent on how well my generation adapts to a cellphone-centric home life.

–Speaking of homes, I think that the “next big thing,” one that has been hinted at by Wired, the New York Times, and many other publications, is home automation. Keep in mind that there was a made-for-TV Disney movie called Smart House (1999) that showed what could go WRONG when one’s home becomes sentient. However, when I think about our society’s impulse to make everything convenient and easy-to-use, from the creation of the refrigerator to the sharp rise (and fall) of the Roomba, I’m confident that gadgets like Nest will become as common in households as the thermostats they’re replacing. Let’s just hope that they don’t collectively rise against us.

–I miss traditional light bulbs, though I doubt that they’re ever going to return. I know, I know, that has nothing to do with “digital” America. But when you think about it, the warm, yellow glow from a desk-side lamp fitted with a now “old school” light bulb will be a forgotten experience, much like the dial tone from a ‘90s modem. It’s a funny case of sterilization and the need to make sure everything is green, energy efficient, and so on. When was the last time you saw that creamy tan color that was the official shade of 1990s tech? The incandescent bulb’s successor boils down to a cold, white, doctor’s office glow emanating from a weird glass corkscrew-shaped bulb, and it will never earn my love.

–I do NOT think that so-called “self-driving” cars will take off any time soon, though I know that companies like Google will continue to improve their vehicles and spread awareness of the virtues of hands-free cruising. Instead, I think that the more important technological advancement involves tweaking today’s care to improve safety. Back-up cameras are almost standard now in mid-range cars, but I’ve been driving a vehicle has a little gadget called “Adaptive Cruise Control” that automatically senses how far a car is in front of me and attempts to maintain both cruising speed and a pre-defined distance from them. There’s also those commercials demonstrating assisted parallel parking technologies (though I, personally, don’t understand how so many of my friends either refuse to or cannot parallel park). These tweaks will continue to make today’s generation of cars much, much safer while Google paves the way for the impending self-driving car master race.

–The amount of “Oh my gosh, that’s incredible!!!” statements that are uttered whenever a new cellphone is released has slowed down as of late, and innovation has mostly revolved around making everything both small and powerful. I can’t say for sure where the mobile industry is headed in terms of hardware simply because there have been so many failed ideas that had potential. Querty keyboards were all the rage until someone decided that a flat sheet of glass would be a solid idea, and now almost all smartphones lack more than one button on the front. There were also a few random “innovations,” like built-in projectors, curved glass, and the infamous Facebook phone (for the record, I think the Amazon phone that was just released will be a failure), but none of them caught on. In the next few years, I think the focus will be on perfecting the current designs, improving durability, and trying to eek out as much battery life as possible.

–In the wake of the whole NSA fiasco, I don’t think Google Glass is going to catch on as quickly as people thought. These days, EVERYONE’S considered a spy or a snooper, and I doubt that having a camera strapped to your face will alleviate the fears of the general public. Plus, they look dorky.

–I’m genuinely curious to see what the next music format will be. Vinyls, 8-Tracks, Cassettes, CDs, MP3s, streaming services…it’s gotten to the point where music has become a wholly intangible experience, a fact that I feel has driven the unexpected surge in vinyl sales in the 21st century. What the heck is going to come after streaming? Hit a button and the music is just pumped into your brain from a literal cloud?

–I repeat, Google Glass is dorky in an age where being “nerdy” is culturally acceptable. And that’s not a good thing.

–While the digitization of medical files and doctor’s notes is without a doubt extremely convenient, I can’t help but think about one particular nostalgic moment in my life. I had gone into the doctor’s office to get a physical done due to my status as a lacrosse player at the time, and I couldn’t remember if I was due for a shot or not. My doctor, who had been seeing me for visits my entire life, pulled out a blue folder and proceeded to skim over notes that had been taken since about 1991. Shots, vaccines, weird issues that had popped up during my childhood…my medical history was just sitting in my doctor’s open hands, complete with different colored inks that gradually faded over time. Sure, one can make the case that a digital filing system would be able to withstand things such as water damage and simple misplacement, but I’ll never forget the days when a little piece of paper could say so much about oneself.

–Finally, I think that mobile payments are finally going to become common methods of payment in ordinary stores. There are already a ton of vendors in and around Richmond utilizing the magic of Square to allow for shoppers to just swipe their credit cards and sign their names on phones and tablets. Granted, security is key when it comes to payments, and companies need to do a better job securing their systems (I’m looking at you, Target). But in time, I think that both people and companies will be more and more open to mobile forms of payment, a la the Starbucks app.

There are more musings in my brain’s pipeline, but I’ll keep those bottled up for a bit (just kidding, one more: why on Earth are misplaced-item detectors not prevalent? I’d love to have some app-activated noisemakers that I could attach to my keys and remote controls and whatnot). Now, Moore’s Law has been “scheduled” to soon become obsolete for many years now, but the fact that technology as a whole is improving at such rapid speeds has me excited for the prospects of things like speedier space exploration. I don’t talk about it much, but I’m a HUGE space-news junkie and salivate over pretty much any and all news related to SpaceX, rovers, etc. If there is a moon landing-scale space event that takes place during my lifetime, I’ll die happy. Until then, though, I’ll continue to enjoy my incandescent bulbs and physical doctor’s files until they become deemed “retro” by America’s youth.

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