According to Ray Kuzweil's The Law of Accelerating Returns" "People tend to overestimate what can be achieved in the short term (because we tend to leave out necessary details), but underestimate what can be achieved in the long term (because the exponential growth is ignored)."

This concept, which I came across an unknown number of years ago via a no-longer-remembered source, has nonetheless stuck with me, right up there with "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" (George Santayana) and "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation" (Henry David Thoreau).

Please keep the quote in mind as you read the prose that follows. As part of its 60-year anniversary celebration, EDN asked me to prognosticate on how I thought ten consumer-related tech topics of my choice might evolve (including, potentially, perish) over the next 60 years. I came up with a mix of both overarching themes and specific technologies and products, which I have alphabetically (not priority) ordered in the following paragraphs and present for your perusal (and potential bemusement). As always, civil feedback is welcomed!

Artificial intelligence

IBM-Watson-AI

AI has long been covered in science fiction, as well as being the bailiwick of academia and R&D labs for more than half a century. Recently, however, practical implementations have exploded in both conferences and the marketplace, as well as the public consciousness. Witness, for example, Google's AI expertise both in beating human Go grand masters and creating visual 'masterpieces' (coincidentally, by the way, previously-quoted Ray Kurzweil is now a Google employee). Facebook's AI team is now able to accurately recognize and label the people in images you upload to the service, while Microsoft's AI object-identification expertise is more generalised but no less impressive (PDF). And its pattern-discerning capabilities aren't restricted to image data inputs; speech (and speaker) recognition is among its varied additional skills.

These and other well-known tech behemoths (Apple, Baidu, Yahoo, etc), along with countless smaller startups, are pushing the fundamental technology forward quite rapidly of late. Progress will inevitably continue to follow the exponential-growth curve that Kurzweil alluded to. It's enabled by several key factors; the burgeoning on-chip core counts and other performance metrics of CPUs, the similar (if not more significant) acceleration trends of GPUs, FPGAs, DSPs, dedication-function cores and other coprocessors, and the dramatically increasing capacities and decreasing costs of both RAM and nonvolatile storage.

Its impact on the consumer technology sector will be pervasive, influencing many of the products I'll discuss in upcoming sections, along with others. It'll act as an assistant to some humans' jobs; I'm particularly excited, for example, at its potential to discern potential issues in X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, and the like, which human eyes might not notice, as well as to make diagnosis recommendations. And, like other technologies before it (albeit perhaps more significantly than in the past), it'll replace humans in other jobs.

Also see:

  1. Artificial Intelligence
  2. Autonomous transportation
  3. Computers
  4. Global warming effects
  5. Mobile electronics devices
  6. Politics and privacy
  7. Population aging
  8. Rich user interfaces
  9. Virtual Reality
  10. Wired and wireless broadband