With the start of the New Year, it’s always a great time to look to our future, and since I’ve been so focused on my own, personal future lately, I thought it was time to write something new. I decided it would be fun to think about the future in general, and see where the path leads. But before we can look to the future, we need to reflect on our past. Confucius said of the future “If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed; if in terms of ten years, plant trees; if in terms of 100 years, teach the people.” Just what have we learned in the past 100 years when it comes to writing?
Looking back there is a pointed difference between the way we write today and the way our forefathers wrote. That’s not just the physical act but the way they spoke and put the pen to page. With the end of the Belle Époque period cut short due to World War I, the first thing that came to my mind was grammar and style of the writing. Prolific writers such as H.G. Wells, Henry James, George Bernard Shaw and Jack London were just hitting their stride when war was declared, which changed the mindset dramatically. Writers, most often, became reporters and journalists using the War and current events to shape their personal style during this time. And much like today, authors struggled with societal changes and used their writing to voice their opinions on the state of the world as they saw it.
At this period of history, there were no televisions or computers. Radio and movies were still in their infancy; reading was what people did for entertainment. Writing was a far different landscape than it is today. There were no word processing programs like Word, and spelling and grammar was left to the writers and editors to sort out. In fact, the first portable typewriter had just recently been invented in 1893 and it wouldn’t be until the 1950’s before a viable electric typewriter would make its way to the marketplace. In addition, pricing moved typewriters out of the reach of the common man making writing a hobby for the upper class. This held true for much of the past 100 years, moving us into the present day. With the advent of computers and the rapid increase of technology, writing has been moved from a hobby for the elite, to something anyone with time and the inclination can do.
Will this trend continue? I did a guest blog post on E-readers vs. Books and I can tell you this trend isn’t stopping anytime soon, in fact, it accelerates more with each passing year. Sure there are those of us that prefer the feel of a real book in their hands, but that number is dwindling. E-books are easier to manufacture and distribute, and the profit margin both to the author and publisher is greatly increased (75% for E-books vs. 40% for traditional printing). Add the fact that you can take a library worth of books on your vacation and it takes less space than a pair of pants and you can see that E-readers are a stepping stone for the future.
But what about the future? While the landscape has changed over the past 100 years, we are essentially the same; human and driven by the same basic needs as our forefathers. Will this change in 100 years? Probably not – it is, as it always has been, the same since the dawn of time. Aside from the technology used to create and distribute entertainment and the speed by which we access that entertainment, there’s not much difference. So what can we expect?
The natural progression of the human race has never slowed or faltered and will never fail. The first advancement on our horizon is a merging of man and machine. From nano-bots that can repair human cells to storing our memories like a flash drive, technology isn’t far from accomplishing these feats already. If you’re anything like me I just got a mental flash to the Cybermen from Doctor Who, but that’s not what I see happening. I see people living longer, living better and able to store their memories after they’ve gone. The diseases we fear the most will be a thing of the past as our computerized bodies repair themselves and fight off infections. Does this mean disease will cease to be? Absolutely not, in fact, we’ll have a whole new crop of diseases to worry about. With technology comes the inevitable failure of technologies.
Technology has always set the pace for humanities advancements, and there are many revolutions to take us into the next century. Most likely the first we will see will be Quantum Computers. This is something that has been in the works for years, and is currently estimating to hit the market in ten or fifteen years. As with all new technology, new security measures will have to be put in place to protect ourselves. But speaking of security, surveillance devices are getting smaller and smaller and smarter to boot. (Yikes! Skynet!) Pretty soon, the whole planet will be on web broadcast and we won’t be able to get away from all the eyes upon us.
But what if you do want to get away? Will vacations become virtual? What about colonizing the moon? These are both viable possibilities. With the LCROSS probe discovering significant ice on the lunar surface, the moon has become a launching pad for humanity’s exploration of the cosmos. Furthermore, no longer is space exploration limited to the few and the brave, with private companies throwing their hats into the ring, the sphere of human influence is ever increasing.
Next up, 3D printers have begun to alter our perceptions of reality, and this will only continue in the future. From car parts that will be molded on a 3D printer, to sending a 3D printer to another planet and having a human habitat ‘printed’ for our arrival. Appliances that work, self-clean, maintain and learn preferences for them self. Carpets will detect intruders and summon help if you fall. Lawn sensors will tell you which part of the yard needs to be fertilized or watered. The electric meter will monitor power consumption and help you take full benefit of off-peak rates.
While the west coast has embraced electric cars and alternative fuels, the rest of the country has yet to pick up this torch, meaning that it will probably be a very long time before we move away from our dependency on oil. Let’s face it, we love our cars. But vehicles that self-drive and interact with each other to avoid accidents are things we can look forward to. While it’s safe to say that we may not move away from our dependency on oil, our vehicles themselves will make amazing advancements.
The future holds so many possibilities to push the limits of human experience, and writing won’t be left behind. In 2010 Google had planned to completely digitize all 130 million books on the planet, but as of this past year they have only managed to digitize roughly 15%. It’s estimated that in order to carry every book on the planet on an e-reader you would need 124 3-terabyte drives. Luckily, by the time we accomplish this feat supercomputers will be the size of a sugar cube. Of course, if you’re anything like me, you’ll forget where you left the new tiny computer.
With life expectancy likely hitting 150 years and more, there’s still no way anyone will ever read that many books. Taking into consideration the advancement of word processing and voice recognition, writing has become a hobby that’s accessible to everyone. Even in your own group of friends, it’s probably difficult to find someone that isn’t already blogging online. So, bottom line, our lives will continue to fold out, as they always have; only everyone and anyone will be able to read about it. A world connected through technology, mind and voice.
So I’d love to hear what you think! Please feel free to comment below