Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

The Next ‘New Big Thing’?

Reader Asks Me To Guess The Future — NBD

“Tech Paul,
I am going to comment, after this paragraph, on my interesting experiences with my new GPS toy. But, before I go to that, I have a question, over which I am puzzling.

Background:  All or most of the most fascinating new technologically-oriented new toys/tools of the last half century have been things so new in concept that it could hardly have been possible for most people to have anticipated them. To take just my latest toy, if fifteen years ago someone had asked me to dream up a new gadget that I would like to have invented, perfected, and given to me to play with, it would hardly have occurred to me to ask for something like a GPS to set on the dashboard of my car. If I had, somehow!, thunk up such a thing, I would have dismissed it, on the grounds that it would be technologically so impossible as to be, for all practical purposes, beyond the realm of possibility.

(But a similar case could be argued with regard to penicillin, the home computer, the Internet, e-mail, cell phones (in both the phone-only and do-everything versions), iPods, satellite radio, the various digital book-read devices, and some of the stuff coming with the emerging nano-technology.)

Now: Regarding my new GPS toy, I am using it at every opportunity, but there are at least two things about this GPS unit which continue to amaze me, as I play with it. First of all, in this little GPS unit, the size of a paperback book, there is an amazing amount of information. Down to pretty much every street in every city-town-village in the country, and what are valid street numbers on every one of those streets. And every highway, and every junction, and so on. Surely there must be many, many gigabytes of data packed into this small box. And an auxiliary amazement is that all this can be bought for $120!

My wife and the granddaughters are bemused by my new toy, but they don’t have the background to be awed by the level of technological achievement represented by this little toy. Like multi-function cell phones and all the other modern marvels, this is just part of how the world is. Especially the granddaughters really can not imagine what life was like when we were growing up on the farm with no electricity, only a hand-crank telephone, and with such a thing as television as not even imagined. So I just had to discuss this new technological marvel called a GPS with somebody who is a bit more into the technological side of the world of technology than they are. So thank you for tolerating my enthusiastic blathering.

Q: My question is this — what do you envision might be the next “new big thing” which ordinary mortals like me do not even conceive of as an interesting and useful possibility? something which, once it was here and available, would be as fascinating and as useful as the newly-emerged GPS is now?”

U.S.S. Enterprise (starship)

Starship Enterprise - Original Series

Thank you for writing, and allowing me to share this letter with my readers. It is a good question you have posed.
A: All you have to do is look at Star Trek for the answer(s). Whether levitation, or a “Universal translator”, or “cloaking” device (invisibility), or plasma rifle, or exceeding the speed of light (or just solar system – to – solar system travel), or “tractor beam”, or needle-less hypodermic ‘shots’ (oh, wait..), or “hologram room” makes it out of the laboratories first.. I don’t know. But the Next Big Thing that I’m waiting for is … teleportation.

How about you Tech — for Everyone readers. What do you think the next technological marvel (quantum leap) will be? Click on the “comments” link, and let us know.

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved. post to jaanix

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February 26, 2009 - Posted by | tech | , , , , , ,

10 Comments »

  1. What a great question!

    Just realizing that we can even ask the question – speaks volumes about the current high level we have achieved in technology. What a great time to be alive!

    Thanks for a great read.

    Like

    Comment by Bill Mullins | February 26, 2009 | Reply

  2. But, Mr. Mullins.. you didn’t answer the question! (And I’d sure like to know your prediction. You’re quite aware of tech’s evolution; what do you see as ‘next’?)

    Like

    Comment by techpaul | February 26, 2009 | Reply

  3. OK, OK – here goes, I’m putting on my “all seeing hat”. Seriously though, I see the next “breath taking” technologies appearing in health care.

    We have only just touched the surface in the development of CPU controlled artificial body parts (arms, legs, eyes, etc), which in some cases, outperform the real thing.

    My apologies to Steve Austin, but Steve – you weren’t nothin dude! 6 Million! Ha!.

    Like

    Comment by Bill Mullins | February 26, 2009 | Reply

    • Well, sir, they already have robotic “arms” on assembly lines, and SRI International has developed a robotic surgeon (allowing a doctor to perform surgery miles away from the patient) .. but I believe you are referring to a “smart” prosthesis. Good one.
      I hate to confess, I watched The 6 Million Dollar Man … and would sometimes move in slo-mo and make the “bionic” sound. (I was kinda dorky back then. Now, I’m Cary Grant.)

      The author of the letter included several guesses himself (deleted for space reasons) one of which is along similar lines — “Continuous health-condition monitors for at-danger patients living at home, cared for by family, but being continuously monitored at their local hospital, even in the middle of the night when their family care-givers may be asleep. I understand that some of those monitor systems will continuously check a dozen items (breathing rate, blood pressure, blood oxygen level, and so on), with virtually no discomfort to the patient. While avoiding the high cost of being in a hospital bed.”

      Like

      Comment by techpaul | February 26, 2009 | Reply

  4. TechPaul,

    What an interesting topic to stimulate the void between my ears… I think that the next virtual wonder is going to be the beginnings of virtual recognition. With nanotech I can see a chip being made available that virtually will be an identifier for each person (sort of like a virtual social security number). They have already experimented with these chips being embedded under the skin. With this technology personal information could be uploaded to the chip. For example, you pull up to get gas in your car and the pump knows who you are and your payment method, etc… OR you approach your house and your lights come on and the door unlocks… You go to the Doctor and your medical history is automatically available…

    Rick

    Like

    Comment by whatsonmypc | February 27, 2009 | Reply

    • Rick,
      I wake up and fix myself my morning coffee, and I check my e-mail, and I check my Comments. It’s my morning routine. And so I am starting my day thinking about sub-dermal ID chips.

      As you know, I am a huge fan of “Tech”, but I am also a fan of privacy and individual liberty. I am tremendously concerned by the aspects of “tech” that is generally referred to as “Big Brother”, and the idea of embedding “chips” in citizens appalls me.

      I understand that you have a background in law enforcement. I also understand that such a chip is simply a tool, and that tools can be used for good and bad (for instance, a screwdriver makes a nice weapon, and a pistol (butt) can crack open walnuts like nothing else). And so I concede that such a chip may have many good and wonderful purposes… such as providing the location of a kidnapped child. But.

      The Chinese have made an art form (and quite lucrative business) out of hiding “surveillance cams” (webcams) in clocks, soup cans and other common supermarket items, park benches and street signs and mailboxes, etc., and they are working very hard at perfecting facial recognition software. Their goal is to be able to automatically track “criminals” (students/subversives/non-Communists) EVERYWHERE they go (including toilet stalls) and see who they talk to (and then follow those people – rinse, lather, repeat). They are working towards 100% coverage, and at the time of the Olympics, proudly announced that they had done so in several urban areas.
      It’s not just the Chinese — London proudly boasts of the most cameras.

      I understand that “privacy” is now an arcane idea (a thing much like the dodo bird and the T-rex), and that we’re perfectly willing to allow GPS to track us via our OnStar and cell phones.. but so far, here, those things are optional (and most have Off switches). A chip .. yeah. I’m sure it’s coming. We already have them for our pets.

      Like

      Comment by techpaul | February 27, 2009 | Reply

  5. TechPaul,

    Paul,

    You know I read somewhere, actually a year or two ago, where this guy was actually embedding chips in his arm (for experimentation). Supposedly he could get in range of his house, and after being recognized, the house prepared for his arrival (lights on, door open, music on, etc…). You are so right, it is a technology that has its’ “bads” and its’ “goods”… To me, this sort of technology scares the daylights out of me… I can see it now, “didn’t pay your taxes” and the government (wirelessly) downloads an irritant of some type into your “sub-dermal chip” that vibrates or shocks until they get there money (LOL)…

    Rick

    Like

    Comment by whatsonmypc | February 27, 2009 | Reply

    • It is when we are a “currency-less” society that I see the real problems. Your chip will radiate “DEAD BEAT/SCOFFLAW” to all the ‘pay points’, and your ATM will deny you.
      Pay that child support/alimony/parking ticket, or no “BEEP” Transaction approved. You won’t eat, be able to buy gas..

      Like

      Comment by techpaul | February 27, 2009 | Reply

  6. Well, as Paul has pointed out any number of times – people are “sheeple”, and I couldn’t agree more.

    While it’s true that technology is, in most cases, neutral, we are of an age where we have seen technology misused many times by one regime, or another.

    We, as a society, have long since given up on privacy. The events following 911 were used as a club to overcome any objections, from civil liberty watchdogs, as both our physical (look at airport body scanners), and cyber privacy rights, were gutted.

    In speaking with young people I find they have little conception of privacy as we know (knew), it. The massive restrictions on privacy are a “non starter” with younger people – they just don’t know what the fuss is all about.

    Where am I going with this?

    Here: Chip implantation is coming, and I suspect it will be accepted by most people, based on a government reinforced perception, that our security will be enhanced. Amazing what people will do in the misguided belief that it’s all about “patriotism.

    To paraphrase Thomas Jefferson – He who gives up freedom for security, deserves neither.

    Amen to that!

    Like

    Comment by Bill Mullins | February 27, 2009 | Reply

    • Thomas Jefferson quotes? My.. this is turning out to be an interesting day!

      I believe, though, that the writer of the question was referring to any scientific “breakthrough” that would be almost entirely ‘miraculous’ and for the betterment of Man.. such as some people may see a cure for cancer (or the Common Cold) .. or a “magic power source” that would solve the world’s energy/environmental problems.

      For a historical example, one might look at NASA and Man’s exploration of space. While walking on the moon may not be so ‘miraculous’, the technological innovations that got us there are still paying dividends.. giving us velcro, and Tang, for example.

      Like

      Comment by techpaul | February 27, 2009 | Reply


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