Monday, September 2, 2013

The future of technology?

Can you predict the future? Even Jedi Master Yoda could not, claiming it was "Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future."

But in shaping our own future, we can imagine what promise the future might hold, then work to achieve it. In technology, we are the drivers of future progression. In campus technology, we are the ones who help shape what is to come. Our job as campus technology stewards, therefore, is to find the new technology that can best benefit our campus, and work to make it happen.

Start with this exercise: In your mind, what will technology look like in the next year? That may be somewhat easy to figure out, as one year isn't that great a time, so you can imagine an iterative improvement from today's technology. It's probably safe to estimate that next year's technology will continue to thrive on wireless and mobile devices. But will Google Glass, Apple's rumored "iWatch," or some other "wearable" technology become dominant?

What about five years from now? How will technology inherit the future? What devices will we use at that time? The convergence of mobile devices and laptops seems likely. Some vendors have experimented in this space, with mixed success. It seems a matter of time until someone strikes the right balance, and this new device becomes the next "must-have" technology that displaces even the iPad.

While the market seems unwilling to adopt this device today, we may in five years consider it obvious that our computer fits in our pocket, as a phone, ready to be docked to a keyboard and monitor for more traditional "desktop" computing.

Now consider ten years from now. What is the shape of that technology horizon? While we may not be able to describe that future with great accuracy, we can make informed guesses. Turn your mind to what's possible and work to bring that imagined technology into reality.

Maybe you find it impossible to imagine the shape of technology ten years in our future. But in 1993 and 1994, AT&T did just that in their series of "You Will" television ads:

The video is three and a half minutes long, but worth watching to see an informed vision of the future—from an era when all movies were on VHS tape, phones had cords, offices ran Windows 3.11 for Workgroups, Apple computers were plain beige boxes (and Steve Jobs didn't work there), no one yet knew what a "web browser" was, and few people had heard of "email." Yet AT&T considered what the future might bring, and released this visionary ad campaign designed to bring customers into their version of the future. AT&T's ads introduced us to concepts such as electronic books, car navigation, video calls and video conferences, online education, online shopping, streaming instant video, digital music, Apple's Siri, wearable computers, and more.

Of course, AT&T envisioned dedicated devices to do each of these tasks. In 1993, AT&T couldn't have predicted the smartphone innovation, enabling you to do everything from a mobile device that you carry in your pocket. Your mobile phone also happens to support electronic books, GPS, video chat, and mlearning. You probably also use apps on your phone to shop, stream videos from Netflix or Hulu or YouTube, listen to music, and search for things. And on the side, most people are busy sharing pics on Instagram, updating Facebook, tweeting their dinner, and taking photos of their cats.

What's your vision of the future of technology?

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