I’ve been playing with this post for a few weeks now, and it’s becoming somewhat of a saga. So I broke it up into two parts. In my previous post, I explored, the merging of the browser and the operating system, and the further emulation of browser interaction to mimic desktop behavior with continuous updates and feedback.
I don’t exactly have a theme in the ideas of this post, but they are, I think, individually noteworthy predictions.
Elementary, My Dear Watson
Anyone who watched the epic battle between two Jeopardy champions and the IBM supercomputer, Watson, caught a glimpse of the future. The first challenge of creating the public internet was to build a universally accessible collective database of human knowledge. The massive wealth of data is there. Search engines have made it quickly accessible. The new problem arising is too much data, particularly bad, incorrect, or outdated data. The explosion of forums, feeds, and blogs (sorry) has contributed to this problem. The ranking system of keyword search engines has helped a bit, but a massive amount of time is still lost searching the internet for answers. I can attest as a programmer, to the annoyance of searching a particular problem and landing on forums where others have posted the same problem but no answers have been provided. As IBM mentioned, in the medical field, this time could mean the difference between life and death.
Using Watson based “deep language” AI, we will soon have a web service that can interpret your questions as language – not just keywords – and aggregate massive amounts of data to compile real answers. In order for this to effectively work, a ubiquitous rating system will be required. Lots of sites like StackOverflow.com already implement their own ranking systems to internally sort useful answers. This could vastly improve our efficiency not only at our own jobs but at solving all of life’s simple problems. And you won’t ever be put on hold for helpdesk.
Rise of Video Chat
The technology exists today, but on a relatively small scale. The cost of webcams will drop to nearly zero very soon, and bandwidth rates will continue to improve. Seeing someone’s face is a fundamental element of human interaction. Not just for a deployed soldier to see their child’s face, but also as a business need. Being able to view emotional response and look someone in the eye is a necessary part of communication.
As a part-time telecommuter, I can attest to this need as I am often out of sight, out of mind at meetings where I phone in. A seemless video chat feature will improve the interaction of helpdesk support, meetings, online tutoring, dating, and just chatting in general.
A Slowing of Change
What? Does this contradict all other predictions? What about the whole exponential increase of change? What I’m saying is that for most of the web, today’s needs are being filled. Speed and bandwidth will continue to increase and we will all benefit from that, but there is a large number of small business websites that only really need contact information and a small amount of information about their company. These are people who may not want to spend any more time in front of the computer than necessary. They don’t need twitter feeds or live chat or any of the promises the future holds. Granted, the tools they use to manage their websites will continue to improve, and non-technical people will have an increasing ability to integrate shopping, client interaction and other features into their websites, but I predict the rate of change for most of the web will begin to slow.
There will always be a select group of tech-enthusiasts that push the bounds, and the web giants, the entertainment industry and some other groups will utilize technology to its fullest and continue to bait us with their latest creations. But if you look at the history of the web in relation to print, we went from nothing to something very rapidly. But the rate of change in the print industry has slowed dramatically. I believe the same will occur with a large majority of the web.
Big Brother Is Soliciting You
There will, however be a “trickle down technology” effect to the middle business tier. Large companies will continually innovate new ways to use data mining and targeted advertising to construct your profile and try to sell you what they think you will buy. This trend was explored in depth in a Time article, so I won’t go into any more detail on the topic, except to say that I think Joel Stein was right on. And I do believe that the public will gradually accept a certain level of invasion as a trade off for the benefits of the era.
That’s all I have for now. Feel free to disagree or add your thoughts.