Primal Nerd Rage: Why I’m an Optimist

Predicting a technology’s future is problematic due to competing technologies, converging technologies, trailing standards bodies, and occasionally poor legislation — and those are just the minor factors. The major factors are the multitude of gaps between new technologies, some unseen as of yet. Predicting how humans will creatively bridge these gaps and which methods will then become predominant can’t be done with reliability.

These holes and valleys in our technology are where many will profit in coming years since people are going demand they be bridged one way or another, sooner or later in this coming decade. If we talk about them a bit it could be sooner. If we talk about them a lot, then the economy could turn around very quickly for each of these verges or gaps is a goldmine for willing entrepreneurs. Nerds rage against these gaps — nerds get frustrated when they think things like “Why can’t I stream my latest Itunes songlist direct to my Car and phone for my next trip? Why must I either get an Ipod adapter, or burn a CD to get them to my car? Why can’t my phone play my Itunes songs period?” After stewing the past decade lots of little things like this have been bubbling around and stirring rage in nerd town, and I can tell you right now that they’ve had it with limits…

Jonathan Zittrain worries that the future will close down a bit, moving from the generative fabric of the open PC and the “Wild West” Web to the closed proprietary devices and walled garden appliances such as Ipods and wireless phones. I think there is weight to what Jonathan says, since at minimum there’s desire from “Big Content” to keep things captive in their walled gardens. It’s important to look at potential futures across all of these gaps – and how open or closed things will be. Will they be a blend of closed and open? Which are most likely to succeed very long term? Those are subjects for the coming year here, and I’ll be examining all in  future posts here since I’m changing this to a pure tech/science blog after having moved my political blogging over to Little Green Footballs pages.

Below are some of the questions leading to potentially bright or dim futures I’ll be covering this coming year just because it’s past time for new things in all of these areas:

Wireless in the home – there are all sorts of wireless gadgets and tech out there, but none of them really intermix and play well together. I can get proprietary devices that work over wireless G, N, or bluetooth, and I can get wireless home phones in the DECT 6.0 spectrum, I can get infra-red remotes for TV’s, Ipod docks, and picture frames, and I can get bluetooth keyboards, mice and headsets. There are wireless chips for my camera, and my printer does wireless networking. There isn’t an aggregated control interface or API manager for these devices however on home PC’s and wireless routers. Should there be a standard that braids all of these multiple modes into a single home wireless space that’s transparent to consumers? Should wireless hubs be plug and play, if so what’s best strategy to secure them?

The verge here is between devices and I/O — each device is creating their own I/O button pad, keyboard, display, etc. atm, but with wireless networking and the concept of flexible pixel, printer, game, and audio space wouldn’t it be better if that weather station or remote camera could interface wirelessly with your flat panel in any room? Why can’t your keyboard and mouse downstairs direct your doorway cam upstairs, or your laptop, or your bedroom TV?

What about video cams? Sensor chips for them have dramatically dropped in price while increasing in capability – you can get  video cams, panels, projectors, and software enough to outdo any television studio from ten years ago for under 20K — what changes will that drive? Telepresence, video conferencing? Will there be a green room booth with a changeable backdrop for phone calls in some offices or homes, or will most walls be fully dedicated to pixelspace in 20 years? Will custom designers create your perfect avatar based on your enhanced body and face so you can answer the video phone while you are unshaven or having a bad hair day with a near perfect appearance and mimicry of your actual features while you talk?

Streaming media vs Proprietary channels vs on Demand – is it past time to tear down cable tiers and broadcast times for shows?

Physical media: How much longer will the DVD in whatever form live? Will it be SDRAM chips that replace them, or will it be purely streams?

Sensors: when will there be universal API and xHTML style outputs for all of them – from weather devices to cameras to motion sensors to thermostats?

What’s the future of I/O channels and human computer command systems? The obvious thing driving the question is Kinect, but what other verges need better crossing for command and control systems within your office, home, car, town, or city? Will there be facial recognition systems that replace the need for password security? Will voice recognition and gestures replace mouse and keyboard? Will every room have it’s own gesture and facial recognition sensors, wifi I/O and infra red command blaster? Where are our WALDOs?

Home PC / Home Server / Home OS — with all of this happening, shouldn’t your “personal computer” or “PC” really be an HC? Should it be a personal computer, or should it be a home computer/server/controller? Further, will HC’s or Home Computers need some pseudo AI like that featured in the Ray Bradbury story “There Will Come Soft Rains”? Are you nerd enough that you cried when that house died?

One last thing while we are speculating wildly : where the heck is my flying car?

Let’s face it — us nerds are getting frustrated with the gaps, and there’s nothing better for making new things happen in the second decade of this new millennium than primal nerd rage against the machine.

*Primal Nerd Rage graphic copyright Bethesda Software