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The future is..

© October 2005 Anthony Lawrence

Sci-Fi Science blunders Hall of Infamy

I'm going to disagree a little bit though. In case you can't read the original, the major point made was that Hollywood thinks things are easier than they really are, and that the types of things we see happening in science fiction movies may never be possible.

Never is a long, long time.

There has never been a world wide shortage of nay sayers. No matter what the concept, there will always be experts who will say it (whatever "it" is) can never happen. Sometimes they are right, but more often they aren't.

At The dumbing down of technology, I used the example of a user trying to plug his cd equipped boom box into his computer to install software. That's similar to what the SF Blunders article noted:

In Red Planet, Val Kilmer was able to rip apart the Mars Sojourner
rover and hack together a solar powered digital voice modem. Later,
he was able to hook this hack into an almost as old Russian
sample-return probe and control it. Today, I've been struggling
with my digitizing tablet driver crashing on boot up. In the movies
and television, connecting computer hardware together seems so easy
and effortless. It seems to be just a matter of plugging in most
times, or at worst a quickly spliced-together cable. I work with
computers day in and day out, and let me tell you: getting computer
hardware to work together is hard.

But that doesn't mean it always will be. My TV, stereo, VCR, cd and dvd player all understand each other.. though I may sometimes struggle with the cables, the technology has become standardized so that these things can be easily spliced together. Given enough time, there will be a truly universal interface that is fast enough and verstaile enough to connect anything to anything. We're actually almost there now: any device capable of networking can "talk to" any other network device. Ethernet is too slow to connect anything and everything, but we know that will change.

Another area that almost certainly will change is general data storage. The SF Blunders article again:

Another assumption is omniscience: computers know everything. Every
scrap of information has been digitized and stored in the computer
in a format it can easily search, analyze, manipulate and use. In
Babylon 5, John Sheridan wants to find out some information so he
asks his second-in-command to do a computer search to find out
about someone who lived at a specific address in London, England
sometime during the 19th century with the name Sebastian ("last or
first"). It takes less than a day, mostly the communication lag
time. Did Earth digitize every scrap of paper humanity has ever
made into a computer, converted it into a searchable document and
made it available on a global network that anyone can access? That
would be very cool.

I think that last sentence needs a "will" instead of "would". Obviously some records are lost forever, and there will be the constant difficulty of distinguishing fact from fiction and dealing with scanning or transcription errors, but all of that will improve, and the more data available to work from, the more inferences can be made about missing data. We can already find out more about each other than we're all entirely comfortable with , and that's just going to grow and grow.

Part of the reason we see limitations is we tend to assume that what is now will remain as it is. The article says:

Voice recognition has made a big come back and is the basis of
several computer interfaces including IBM's wearable PC. There is
research into direct connections to our nervous system and brain
so we can just think what we want the computer to do. There are
some nifty experiments with alternative user interface devices,
like Virtual Reality gloves, and computers that can read our gestures
and eye movements, but they're still in the lab. Whatever happens,
I still think it would be a good idea to keep your keyboarding
skills up.

But before typewriters, it was a very good idea to have good cursive writing skills - if you could only print, you were at a disadvantage because cursive writing is quicker. Yet today, the only reason we still use that skill at all is to sign checks and legal documents: if we switched to some other form of legal "signature", we wouldn't teach that or need it at all. The day may come where we don't need keyboards either - typing may be as quaint and unusual as calligraphy.

Whatever the future of computers is, I'm sure that some of Hollywood's concepts will be dead on and others will be passed by because of even better ideas or entirely new technology. It is interesting to think about.

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Inexpensive and informative Apple related e-books:

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Take Control of IOS 11

Take Control of Preview

Photos: A Take Control Crash Course

More Articles by © Anthony Lawrence

Sun Oct 30 10:42:19 2005: 1257   Michael

That's an interesting link - thanks for giving it.

I liked his description of a film where Jeff Goldblum was able to write a virus for an alien spaceship in very short order. The aliens must've been using Mr. Gates's products. :-)

I went on to his "Hall of Infamy". That page -


- invokes horizontal scrolling in all the browsers I've got. Presumably, it doesn't in IE Win

And, as an aside, it's interesting to me that many programmers don't bother much with markup. I guess Markup languages are simple in essence (though tricky in use) and so of little interest to many people who like "real" code. Dave Winer has even described the notion of separating content and style through the use of CSS, of validating markup, and of testing in a range of user agents as an attempt to "smear ketchup on my tie".

Sun Oct 30 14:14:39 2005: 1258   TonyLawrence

Part of the problem with mark-up (css for web pages) is that it doesn't work as well as we might like. I use some css here, but the results vary widely between browsers and even the same browser on a different OS, which causes me to cut back to minimal usage.

Not that there's anything wrong with minimalism..


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If Linux can skate by the patent and copyright issues, its growth in the corporate world will continue no matter what business dislikes about the GPL. (Tony Lawrence)

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