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Looking forward to chatting with machines
Joia Shillingford, Financial Times, Digital Business, page 6 - 19 November 2008
Professor Peter Cochrane, former BT futurologist and co-founder of Cochrane Associates, unveils some of his IT predictions.
How will IT change?
We'll see lots more software mash-ups, where people take chunks of different software programs and mix them together to create new software. I've seen it done live and it's amazing.
What will business IT look like in 2012?
In hardware, the really big change will be the move to organic screens. They will be a third of the thickness of plasma, consume a third of the energy and be brighter with sharper contrast. PCs will also be smaller, lighter, cheaper and faster. Extra computer power will be available on tap - via a grid or cloud.
What will be new in public sector IT in 2012?
Governments will lag behind corporations and individuals in adopting IT and the gap will widen. But governments could become more accountable. I don't know exactly when, but someone will develop a truth engine, where you can check politicians' promises against later statements and events.
How will individuals use IT in 2012?
There will be much greater adoption of thin-client computing, where users gain access to applications on the web instead of on their PC's hard disk. My wife has just gone over to a £250 thin client as an experiment. That's a world that's an anathema to business. Social networking will also keep growing and becoming more powerful.
What will business look like in 2020?
IT departments could disappear. To survive, they must develop business simulators so companies can try out decisions before making them. No one person seems to understand how the banking system works, so that would be a good place to start.
What about the public sector in 2020?
We could have three-dimensional printers at home that will take recycled waste, for example, yoghurt pots, and turn them into new items, such as clothing.
How will IT be used by individuals in 2020?
By 2020, many things will last longer because nano particles will be embedded in them. For example, paints impregnated with nano particles could be durable enough to last a lifetime. I'm a big fan of innovation, so I'm not sure I want things lasting for ever.
How will we find information?
Search engines such as Google will have an element of cognition and be able to recognise context. They'll know if you are working on something and will anticipate what you might need. For example, if you are writing a speech they will fact check it for you.
How are we going to power devices?
The ratio of surface area to volume is critical to battery life, and some energy is currently lost via the connection between the battery and the device it is powering, such as a laptop. Nano materials could help and by 2020, I envisage laptops becoming something like a single slab, where the battery, chip and display are all part of an integrated whole, with a big surface area.
What's going to happen in networking?
RFID [radio-frequency identification] tags - used to track goods - will be everywhere, which will improve logistics and lower fuel use. There will be fewer lorries driving around half full, because delivery companies will know what's in them.
What about videoconferencing?
There'll be really good videoconferencing - with eye contact and no awkward delays. This will require very fast broadband networks, with symmetrical upload and download speeds.
How important is speech technology going to be in 2050?
For at least 15 years, speech technology has been able to recognise a human utterance against a noisy background better than another human. By 2050, with the addition of some context and cognition to speech recognition, it should be possible to have a chat with a machine.
What else will happen in 2050 and beyond?
Humans used to build TVs, now machines do it better. In the next phase, machines will design machines and that's where we are headed.
That scares the pants off some people, but I am cautiously optimistic.