Where We’re Going, We Don’t Need Roads

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.–Arthur C. Clarke

For blog post 3, we’ve been asked to discuss where we think mobile tech will head in the future. That’s pretty open-ended. As a bonus, I’ve added some “Life Tips” to this post–I just know you can’t wait to hear my advice (btw, I refuse to call them “Life Hacks”–using bread clips to sort your connector cables is NOT A F’N LIFE HACK, it is a neat trick, common sense even [/pet peeve rant]. Depending on how far one goes into the future, mobile tech will seem as magical to us as our cell phones would to the Spanish Inquisitioners.
spanish inquisition

In the shorter term, it shouldn’t be magical, but  let’s hope it ends up looking more like this …fashionable_wear
… than this


It's all the rage, they said. Everyone will look like this, they said.

To keep myself from running along flights of fancy, I’ll restrict my thoughts of the future to the next few years—civilization, as we know it, should still be around then (no guarantees though).

First, to understand where the future might lead one must know the past (Life Tip 1: Study history. You’d be surprised at how many “new” ideas and policies and social outlooks already happened–and you’ll recognize the pitfalls that await societies that pursue them, which means you’ll be the proverbial one-eyed man in the kingdom of the blind , although contrary to Erasmus the one-eyed man is more often stoned than made king, so get a good on-line alias).

Brief (cherry-picked) History of the Mobile Phone

Dr. Martin Cooper (no relation to Dr. Sheldon Cooper outside of both being exceptionally intelligent) is considered the inventor of the first portable cellular phone


Brought out in 1973 it cost several thousand dollars, and needed to be charged for many hours so it could last 35 minutes. He may have been inspired by the shoe phone from Get Smart (1965-1970). Or not.

Four years later phones go public in Chicago with 2000 customers, although only 23 simultaneous conversations in any 5 mile range were allowed by the FCC (Life Tip 2: bureaucracies and their rules are habitually 20-40 years behind the times, so best just mock them to help them catch up—again, an alias, or John Oliver, may be useful here). By 2010 there were more than 60 million customers with cellular phone. Over a 25 year period the market went from $3 million to $30 billion per year.

With such an astonishing leap forward in a relatively short period of time what the next 25 years will bring is somewhat unpredictable. I suspect there will be DIY (do-it-yourself) phones. The push now is to bring out devices that allow customers to manipulate or engineer them. Instead of throwing out a phone that needs upgrading or repairing, keep the phone but add the components you need.
Joshua Bell, anthropologist at the Natural History Museum, says we’ll all be hackers in a sense and able to make changes to our own technology instead of merely purchasing new models”. He goes on, “Open-source is the only way to have a redemptive future with our technology….by becoming part of technology itself, we’ll fear it less…and as a result, we’ll also push boundaries of what it means to be interconnected, alive and human”.

Peachy. A possible strawman argument and a word salad. What does a “redemptive future” entail? How do you push boundaries of being “alive”? What do those even mean? What is “being human”, aside from a good UK show and a terrible US version? To be fair, Bell does give some solid examples so he’s pretty good compared to many company speakers (Life Tip 3: Anyone who talks using euphemisms, buzzwords, and “word salad” is wasting your time. Jettison them, which may mean skipping meetings; if you can’t do that, then interrupt them every few sentences and ask “What does that mean? Could you give an example?”. Force them to communicate. And don’t send them Christmas cards).

Maybe it means something like this: In 2015, high-speed near-field networking will be common place in computers and computer peripherals so mobile devices will be control hubs for items from tvs to jogging trackers to patient monitors to factory equipment.

In 2016, environmental sensors-on-a-chip become cost-effective, allowing temperature, chemical, and other environmental measurements to be taken on consumer-grade mobile devices, opening up new medical and industrial uses.

By 2017 LTE and better “4G” cellular technology penetrate most North American urban and suburban centers, increasing available bandwidth for mobile devices and thus accessibility of Web-based and cloud-based services. Mobile devices will dock to monitors, storage, networks, and input devices automatically so the only computer you need is the one you have in your pocket. Instead of a library or office with multiple desktops or laptops, there will just be docking ports for your phone, which will connect to a keyboard and large screen (given that public libraries sometimes still have computers from 10 years ago, this tech may take a while to show up there).

Around this time, cell phones will be used in place of credit cards. It’s already in Japan, and there seems to be a 2 to 5 year lag before the same tech is accepted here. Improved security and biometrics (e.g. holding your phone to your ear results in an ear canal scan; if it isn’t your ear canal, the phone will not work) will be added so the phone will be more secure for financial transactions. The biggest hitch might be from merchants who will (understandably) not want to pay the extra expense of installing the phone readers.

By 2020, miniaturization and image-projection technologies, coupled with previous 3D gesture technologies, allow mobile devices to be wearable components that combine wirelessly with each other and other nearby devices to provide a less obtrusive mobile computing environment, sort of a cloud computing or Skynet idea. Real-time monitoring of your blood pressure, blood sugar, and other vital signs will be available. The whole system goes on-line August 4th, 2019. Skynet begins to learn at a geometric rate. It becomes self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time, August 29th.
Naturally, this is a wish list guess work (except for annihilation of the human race part—Life Tip 4: Have an escape plan ready, just in case), and may not come to pass. If things like DIY phones do not come to pass, what do you think the biggest obstacles will be? Tech problems? Market problems? Conglomerates who will resist the change as it impacts their bottom line? Politics?

In the long term I think we’ll be so connected in other ways we won’t need roads mobile devices, and to us now it may well seem like magic.


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