IBM will formally unveil its "Five in Five List" on Dec. 29, highlighting innovations to supposedly change the way we work and play during the next five years. But would these changes actually make our lives better? Or complicate them even further?
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The list, based on market and societal trends as well as emerging technologies from IBM labs, features these predictions:
- You'll be able to talk to friends via a holographic image -- sort of like Princess Leia's appearance in the first "Stars Wars" movie, released way back in 1977. ("Please help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi.")
- Computer sensors in everyday devices will funnel important environmental information, useful for dealing with the aftermath of an earthquake, for example.
- Commutes will be personalized via "adaptive traffic systems" and information access.
- Computers will help energize cities, with heat generated in data centers channeled to warm up other places.
- Batteries will breathe air to power devices, storing energy and lasting much longer, as well as powering everything from the electric grid to consumer devices. Also, some devices may no longer need batteries, instead using static or kinetic electricity directly.
Hmm. I'm not sure about that future. Let me explain, one by one.
3D holographic appearances. The 3D holographic vision carries with it some interesting possibilities. A guy could find himself attracted to a girl he sees in a bar and would like to meet her. He approaches her, but -- like the old Zombies song -- she's not there. If somebody showed up at my house as a 3D image, my grammar-school-age kids probably wouldn't sleep for weeks, which means I wouldn't get to, either.
3D holograms might be good for watching pro football games -- until team owners discover their stadiums are empty, with fans bypassing $100 tickets, $40 parking, and $8 beers for the at-home 3D presentation from some satellite TV company.
Saving the planet with sensors. This stuff gives me the willies, sparking fear of overuse of technology. Supposedly, the information could be put to work for all kinds of purposes, such as saving endangered species, tracking invasive plants, and fighting global warming (or is it called "climate change" this week?). Somehow, I fear misappropriation of this massive amount of information, with governments using it to overregulate multiple aspects of our lives, kind of in the same vein of San Francisco banning McDonald's toy-laden Happy Meals because they have too much fat instead of letting parents decide this for themselves.