Disappointment in the Future

by Eliezer Yudkowsky 3 min read1st Dec 200826 comments


This seems worth posting around now...  As I've previously observed, futuristic visions are produced as entertainment, sold today and consumed today.  A TV station interviewing an economic or diplomatic pundit doesn't bother to show what that pundit predicted three years ago and how the predictions turned out.  Why would they?  Futurism Isn't About Prediction.

But someone on the ImmInst forum actually went and compiled a list of Ray Kurzweil's predictions in 1999 for the years 2000-2009.  We're not out of 2009 yet, but right now it's not looking good...

· Individuals primarily use portable computers
· Portable computers have dramatically become lighter and thinner
· Personal computers are available in a wide range of sizes and shapes, and are commonly embedded in clothing and jewelry, like wrist watches, rings, earrings and other body ornaments
· Computers with a high-resolution visual interface range from rings and pins and credit cards up to the size of a thin book. People typically have at least a dozen computers on and around their bodies, which are networked, using body LANS (local area networks)
· These computers monitor body functions, provide automated identity to conduct financial transactions and allow entry into secure areas. They also provide directions for navigation, and a variety of other services.
· Most portable computers do not have keyboards

· Rotating memories such as Hard Drives, CD roms, and DVDs are on their way out.
· Most users have servers on their homes and offices where they keep large stores of digital objects, including, among other things, virtual reality environments, although these are still on an early stage
· Cables are disappearing,
· The majority of texts is created using continuous speech recognition, or CSR (dictation software). CSRs are very accurate, far more than the human transcriptionists, who were used up until a few years ago.
· Books, magazines, and newspapers are now routinely read on displays that are the size of small books
· Computer displays built into eyeglasses are also used. These specialized glasses allow the users to see the normal environment while creating a virtual image that appears to hover in front of the viewer.
· Computers routinely include moving picture image cameras and are able to reliably identify their owners from their faces
· Three dimensional chips are commonly used
· Students from all ages have a portable computer, very thin and soft, weighting less than 1 pound. They interact with their computers primarily by voice and by pointing with a device that looks like a pencil. Keybords still exist but most textual language is created by speaking.
· Intelligent courseware has emerged as a common means of learning, recent controversial studies have shown that students can learn basic skills such as reading and math just as readily with interactive learning software as with human teachers.
· Schools are increasingly relying on software approaches. Many children learn to read on their own using personal computers before entering grade school.
· Persons with disabilities are rapidly overcoming their handicaps through intelligent technology
· Students with reading disabilities routinely use print to speech reading systems
· Print to speech reading machines for the blind are now very small, inexpensive, palm-size devices that can read books.
· Useful navigation systems have finally been developed to assist blind people in moving and avoiding obstacles. Those systems use GPS technology. The blind person communicates with his navigation system by voice.
· Deaf persons commonly use portable speech-to-text listening machines which display a real time transcription of what people are saying. The deaf user has the choice of either reading the transcribed speech as displayed text or watching an animated person gesturing in sign language.
· Listening machines cal also translate what is being said into another language in real-time, so they are commonly used by hearing people as well.
· There is a growing perception that the primary disabilities of blindness, deafness, and physical impairment do not necessarily. Disabled persons routinely describe their disabilities as mere inconveniences.
· In communications, translate telephone technology is commonly used. This allow you to speak in English, while your Japanese friend hears you in Japanese, and vice-versa.
· Telephones are primarily wireless and include high resolution moving images.
· Heptic technologies are emerging. They allow people to touch and feel objects and other persons at a distance. These force-feedback devices are wildly used in games and in training simulation systems. Interactive games routinely include all encompassing all visual and auditory environments.
· The 1999 chat rooms have been replaced with virtual environments.
· At least half of all transactions are conducted online
· Intelligent routes are in use, primarily for long distance travel. Once your car’s computer’s guiding system locks on to the control sensors on one of these highways, you can sit back, and relax.
· There is a growing neo-luditte movement.

Now, just to be clear, I don't want you to look at all that and think, "Gee, the future goes more slowly than expected - technological progress must be naturally slow."

More like, "Where are you pulling all these burdensome details from, anyway?"

If you looked at all that and said, "Ha ha, how wrong; now I have my own amazing prediction for what the future will be like, it won't be like that," then you're really missing the whole "you have to work a whole lot harder to produce veridical beliefs about the future, and often the info you want is simply not obtainable" business.