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Musing #2: Computing by 2062

Ever since Charles Babbage set the proverbial cog in the machine in motion, the juggernaut of computing has steam rolled over the human imagination. One may view a point in time as the launch pad of colossal advancement or the precipice of destruction. History is a great teacher but that would seldom hold true for computing where a spark can ignite an explosion of technological advancement leaving behind well accepted beliefs.

Peering into the next half century of computing is therefore in essence a leap of faith. However, there are lessons learnt over the past half century which lend a view of the path towards the future, though not the destination itself. One irrefutable observation that comes out of it is that computing has become immensely personal over the years to the point where the difference between the human and the machine is only skin deep. The future thus entails that the touch of the skin should no longer be a barrier.

There is no denying the fact that computing has been modelled in part on the human anatomy because humans visualise machines as such. Thus, it is apt that the future of computer processing should involve the amalgamation of an organic mind with an inorganic one. In the future, a synaptic transmission would not be limited to the human mind but would extend to a computer capable of augmenting the human mind. Processing of functions beyond the physical realm would thus be passed on to a more capable mind networked to numerous others dissipating the most pertinent real time information for the human mind to act upon. Information can be visualised without the need for a display device, to the extent that it is meant for one’s eyes only. Silicon computing of today would seem quaint in comparison to quantum and probabilistic computing of the future.

Networking begets a means to transmit information and undeniably the future is wireless. Light has proven itself to be the fastest and efficient means of transmission as the fibre optic cables of today would testify. However, future transmissions would have to done wirelessly using the power of photons. Networking would have to instantaneous and lossless to accommodate the flawless transmission of heileybytes of data. Monstrous computations would literally require a new dimension in storage. The future of storage would be in 3-D, be it in the form of DNA or holographic storage.

The mention of wireless brings into focus another one of today’s limitation; the need to be constantly wired up to a power source. Necessity would demand that computing should be omnipresent and with necessity being the mother of invention, battery packs of yore would be resigned to history books. While seeds have already been sown in the form of resonant magnetic induction, contactless energy transfer through electromagnetic waves would lead the way in 2062.

It is certainly hard to think of computing as isolated silos in the future and the growing influence of cloud computing indicates that history would repeat itself with centralised computing being once again the way forward. It isn’t hard to think of computing as a utility, much like water and electricity today. The all-important question of privacy will easily be addressed with the mind hooked up to the grid all the time. The signature of the mind will certainly be more unique than DNA forensics of today.

Coming to the software aspect of computing, it would be untenable to have multiple platforms working discordantly to achieve the same task. To that end, the operating systems of the future wouldn’t be any more than an interface towards accessing the computing hardware. A glimpse of this is already visible in the browsers of today which are able to execute tasks across platforms using JavaScript and HTML5. In this day and age, with the browser becoming the window to the world, it is quite predictable that the future wouldn’t be too different.

A key aspect to computing is programming. While it remains a specialised task today, the continual simplification of computing demands that it shouldn’t be the case in the future. Gone will be the need to follow syntax with semantics leading the way. Thoughts alone will be capable of mapping out the flow towards attaining the desired result. Consumption as well as creation would be equally accessible.

Thus, it would take a brave person to visualise computing to be not too different 50 years hence and it would take a braver person still to not acknowledge that it would be more personal, simplified and commoditized. Computing would certainly usher in a brave new world by 2062.

A cringe-worthy read it may be but none-the-less it is one I wrote back in 2012 looking at 50 years hence. Can’t really say I am prescient for it seems a re-hash of existing ideas.

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