Society / Technology

State of the Future Roundup – April

The future, being what it is, has a tendency to become the present.  And so it is that although this blog is just half a year old, many things have changed since I last discussed them.  Here’s a quick look at the state of the future as it stands today.

Long-exposure picture of nighttime traffic

Courtesy flickr/soschilds

Driverless Cars and the Law

Back in January, we looked at automated (driverless) cars and issues of responsibility.  At the time, only Nevada had passed any related legislation.  But now, legislatures in 5 more states, including heavily populated California and Florida, are laying the legal groundwork for allowing and regulating automated vehicles.  Although liability is still a major concern, this is a crucial step toward widespread adoption of this technology.  One day, you’ll land at SFO and the cab that picks you up will drive itself.  Instead of a cabbie, you’ll get a tap-to-pay device and a programmable GPS.

Google Glasses… Someday

Perhaps you’ve seen Google’s “Project Glass” video now taking the internet by storm (it’s embedded below if you haven’t).  The video shows off some of the incredible potential of true augmented reality.  I last discussed augmented reality in depth just 6 weeks ago.  At the time, I noted that the major obstacle to useful augmented reality was a smartphone’s tiny screen.  I mean, what good is a parallel digital dimension if you can only peer at it through a 2-inch window?  Well, if Google’s got anything to say about it, we’ll soon be able to add digital information to our entire visual field.  Now, just to be clear, this is not a demonstration of an existing device, as AR experts have attested.  Think of it more like a conceptual illustration, akin to that “fake” iPhone 5 video.  I admit it bothers me when influential people or companies seem happy to stir up hype without offering any objective facts.  But there’s also great value in offering people an inspiring vision of the future, and the Project Glass video certainly does that.

Surveillance Gets Smarter

Back in November, I looked at some common concerns about surveillance systems.  I wasn’t particularly worried about the boom in surveillance recording at the time, and one of the reasons I cited was that it’d be too hard to cross-reference the footage with other personal data.  Well, I should probably scratch that one off the list. Mashable just reported on facial-recognition software that can distinguish among 36 million faces in less than a second.  As long as your face is on file somewhere, you could be recognized anywhere there’s a camera.  Hardly a comforting thought.

Urbanization As Opportunity

Finally, Scientific American reports here that most major cities are unprepared for a big population boom.  Last year, I looked at the global trend toward urbanization, which I believe is necessary to sustain the surging world population.  As the article points out, it’s not enough that people move to cities; those cities need to plan for this growth, and they seem to have their work cut out for them.  On the other hand, if we plan wisely and invest appropriately, this is a great chance to implement cutting-edge solutions ahead of time.  For example, I’ve written about the advantages of smart green energy grids and distributed power generation.  I also noted the awesome power of networked devices to make cities more flexible and responsive.  Here’s to hoping the cities of tomorrow are not just bigger, but smarter, than today’s.

And that wraps up today’s update!  I’ll be back with a regular post next week, when we’ll take a break from all the tech talk, and look at the future through a very different lens.  Until then, be well, and thanks for reading.

One thought on “State of the Future Roundup – April

  1. Stumbled across this by accident trying to search exactly these type of discussions! Wonderful read. Please don’t give up on these chats because there is many lurkers who can appreciate this deep thought material, not much out there as it is. Thanks mate!

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