In the going on 20 years that I have been floating around the our world of computers I have seen a lot amazing things in the growth of the machine that we now consider as one of life’s necessities rather than a luxury.
In a post today Robert Scoble (congrats to both you and Maryam on the addition to your family) in a moment of reflection with his son Patrick and fellow blogger Dave Winer wonder what we might be using for computers when his son Milan is 13 years old.
Besides suggesting that it would have 4 terrabytes of RAM and 1,000 terrabytes of disk space he suggests the following as well:
How about a mouse that works off of your brainwaves? How about a computer 10x more powerful than an iPhone that’s embedded onto your glasses? How about a petabyte hard drive? Or a printer that you could fit in your wallet so you could hand out pictures of your kids to friends who wanted them? I’ll be honest, I’m scared by the thought of embedding a computer into my body, but we’ll definitely see those. I’ve already met people who have RFID tags in their hands, which is mighty weird today but might become commonplace over the next decade or so. Imagine buying Starbucks just by waving your hand over the counter and not needing to carry credit cards.
This might be the world that he envisions for our computing future but I think it will take a lot longer than 13 years. Not because of hardware constriction because I have no problem seeing our ability to achieve even a portion of those ideas in even less time than Robert suggests.
The problem I see being is communication; or data sharing, between all the various devices. Even today we have WiFi; which would have to become ubiquitous, but only at the behest of the telecom giants. For what Robert sees, communication would have to become a global and transparent medium that was available without absolutely no downtime and access either freely available or priced in such away that every person would be able to afford it without thinking twice.
When it comes to data sharing we are facing another big hurdle because everyone is trying to protect their turf rather than understanding the need for a true common data ground. Whether it be a common file system shared by all OS platforms, or connection between the OS platforms is seamless and requires absolutely no input from the user the basic fact is that until data can be passed between every possible device without having to pay the OS tax of conversion what Robert see’s in 13 years won’t happen.
Even if all these things do manage to be dealt within the next 13 years there is one huge block to this utopian world of data sharing and that is human nature. Even now we are seeing people seriously question the whole idea of sharing our data in the social network and this is only a tiny fraction of what would be a part of Robert’s future computer world.
A lot more would have to change in our social fabric before computers make that jump to being human embeddable object for the everyday person. I know myself I would never even think of doing anything like wearing an RFID tag or trust a system envisioned by some of these bleeding edge types. As it it is people bitch about fears of MS phoning home or Google storing more and more data.
I know our computing world will change. It is inevitable that some of the things Robert sees will take place – I just don’t know about the timeframe or the enthusiastic adoption being something that will come at a cost many of us are willing to pay.
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