The journey of computers from their inception to the present day is a fascinating one. It started with machines which were larger and heavier than most mountains. The scaling down in size was as a result of the exponential rise in the number of transistors per chip. This phase of rapid progress took the computer from the horrid air-conditioned rooms of mad scientists to the bedrooms of “ordinary people”. Companies like Microsoft, Apple, Intel, etc. jumped in on this shift by introducing consumer-faced products to the market. Mass adoption of PC’s in the late 80’s and early 90’s led to the birth of the Internet. The new PC motto was to be smaller, thinner, more powerful and more efficient than the competitor. All of this eventually paved the way to handheld PC’s which later became what we know today as smartphones. This journey will not end anytime soon and will likely culminate in an invisible and omnipresent computer continuum.
Mass adoption of PC’s in the late 80’s and early 90’s led to the birth of the Internet. The new PC motto was to be smaller, thinner, more powerful and more efficient than the competitor. All of this eventually paved the way to handheld PC’s which later became what we know today as smartphones. This journey will not end anytime soon and will likely culminate in an invisible and omnipresent computer continuum.
Implications of this is a reality in which “they are not there, yet they are there.” computers. How in the world will we end up with something like those?., You may ask. To answer this question, we have to look at this continuum from different angles.
First should be from the perspective of the size of devices. The world today is moving to the cloud and internet speeds are getting better worldwide. More and more of the data will be on the cloud than being on the actual device. This will eventually eradicate the need for having storage inside your device. That reality is not far fetched either, with devices capable of accessing all the required data from the cloud and has little to no inbuilt storage. Even if storage devices don’t vanish, they will get incredibly smaller thanks to revolutionary technologies like DNA storage. With storage gone, devices will indeed shrink. Then comes the case of having a screen of its own. This too will change in the next 7-12 years, Microsoft, for example, has filed two patents. One for a curved image sensor that has better resolution and also negates much of the flaws of a traditional sensor and the other for displays the size of eyeglasses that has near life-like resolution and field of view. All these points towards the shrinking and inevitable disappearance of devices as we know them.
Another angle should be the AI paradigm. AI’s are improving at a breakneck pace, with each day giving us a new capability or a new AI. Seeing this rapid progress makes me think “how close are we to the emoting AI of the 2013 Sci-Fi drama “HER”. The system, given life by the sublime Scarlet Johannsson is more lifelike than any we have seen so far. These AI’s will be the key in us arriving at a juncture in time, where hundreds of computers will be waiting for you, camouflaged into your surroundings better than a chameleon adapts to its surroundings, silently humming the mantra “your wish is my command.”. This reality will be enticing in one respect and is genuinely scary from the other.
The third one will be about the feeling of seamlessness, feeling one with the environment, not having to reach out for buttons or to be inside the tangled mess of cables. These devices won’t even bother you physically they will be like Aladdin’s genie, you can summon these when needed and be kept out of your way when not needed. This also relates to the scary aspect I mentioned earlier; The seamlessness comes at the expense of having to endure the vast number of sensors that are tracking everything you are doing. It will be like having a register for your life, akin to the dreaded one at your office. Your every movement recorded then used to give you what you need. Imagine the wall of your cabin at the office showing everything you have to do today the moment you enter the office or having your health report delivered to you every day. The possibilities are endless and genuinely infinite.
Beauty or the Beast?
The future will be beautiful; you will be free of the burden of carrying devices. The social network giants are well-positioned to leverage such an opportunity. They already know all about your social persona and are using them at this moment to give you personalized…….(fill in the blanks as the feeling differs from person to person.). As computers slowly fade away to the background, our identities, what we are as individuals, our darkest secrets, will move up (literally) to the cloud. In that world, you should fear the same people whom you have entrusted your entire “self” with.
Whether we will want such a future is up for debate, and it should be, as such a transition will affect humanity as a whole as opposed to a relatively smaller group of people. This kind of border less computing, where the line between you and machines becomes so thin that it’s barely visible. Let’s hope that we as a race don’t make the same mistake we made when we transitioned to the present, extremely social world.
The genie is infinitely useful but dangerous at an even larger scale. Let’s see if it will be a tamed beast or the ugly Medusa that is the stuff of nightmares.