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The Most Significant Tech of the Next 20 Years
George Dvorsky   Nov 4, 2010   Sentient Developments  

I was recently interviewed by Christian Nesheim of the I Look Forward To blog, who asked: “What will be the single most significant technological development of the next 20 years?”

To which I responded:

Interface technologies that bridge the gap between the human brain and the internet. In twenty years, our interaction with the web will be so seamless that it will be considered an exosomatic organ. Implications include ubiquitous access to all knowledge stores on the net and “techlepathy.”

Indeed, it seems that with each passing year we are increasingly closing the gap. As amazing as our computers and hand-held devices are today, I already consider them clunky and even anachronistic relative to what I see coming down the pipes. As it stands, if I want to communicate with somebody or look something up, I have to go to my computer, launch a web browser, do a search, blah, blah, blah. It’s tedious and boring-but most of all it’s a waste of time.

image1In the future that I’m imagining, this gap-the delay between needing something on the internet and actually getting it-as being seamless. Such a development will be the result of ongoing miniaturization of technologies, ubiquitous computing and more sophisticated interface devices, namely language user interfaces (LUI’s) and even neural user interfaces (NUI’s).

And once we’re at the NUI phase we will have accomplished a rather remarkable thing: The unimpeded connection of the brain with the internet. At this stage, we will be able to navigate the Web and communicate with others through our subvocal commands and even our thoughts alone. When this happens, the internet will become less an external resource than an exosomatic organ. It’ll be like an extension of our brain.

The internet is already very much like this, but as mentioned, the process of interacting with it is still rather primitive. Once we can access the Web in such an on-demand fashion, the speed with which we can access data and communicate with others will likely result in giant leap in terms of human capacities and performance. I suspect that collective IQs will rise dramatically, collaborative efforts will increase in scale and potency, and social networking will evolve to a new level. This might even usher in the much speculated age of the global mind in which we will have ubiquitous access to a chorus of friends, thinkers, and specialized groups.

A concern about all of this is that, given such a possibility, we will still be working with our limited paleolithic brains. It’s an open question as to whether or not our minds will be able to handle all this busyness. I suspect that, in order to make sense of it all, we will have to employ sophisticated filtering, automated workflows, virtual agents, and ongoing data analytics. And this is before we get involved with actual cognitive enhancement-so there is hope.

Be sure to read the rest of the I Look Forward To article in which other futurists are interviewed, including David Pearce, Michael Anissimov, Phil Bowermaster, and Aaron Saenz.

George P. Dvorsky serves as Chair of the IEET Board of Directors and also heads our Rights of Non-Human Persons program. He is a Canadian futurist, science writer, and bioethicist. He is a contributing editor at io9 — where he writes about science, culture, and futurism — and producer of the Sentient Developments blog and podcast. He served for two terms at Humanity+ (formerly the World Transhumanist Association). George produces Sentient Developments blog and podcast.



COMMENTS

One thing’s for sure: it has to be already almost ready, at least proven feasible with a clear roadmap, if it’s going to be actually deployed within the next 7300 days. And because you haven’t heard about it, it’s cooking in some stealth lab. It’s probably going to use a combination of cutting-edge sciences, information technology, minituarization, and materials.

I don’t know what it is but if it’s going to have any chance of being deployed within the next 7300 days, it has to be under development already, at least proven feasible with a clear roadmap. It’s going to have to use a combination of cutting-edge sciences, information technology, miniaturization, and new materials, to achieve anything new and significant.
As an example of recent semi-significant tech, when’d you first hear of Kinect? Not too long before it was ready, right? So it’s most likely cooking in some stealth lab, probably never been blogged about.

 

the bitter reality of tomorrow , we will not need this body any more , and what be might only matter will be our brain which will be so hard to keep intact

Lukman, may I ask upon what basis you know the “bitter reality of tomorrow”?

I agree with Charlie Stross that lifelogging is likely to be significant, if only because I expect that it could be used to partially compensate for age related cognitive decline and I’m not getting any younger.  I’m also a big fan of renewable energy.

I’m just trying to figure out how the poor casino’s will adapt to collective intelligence in our brains.

The step of fusing our brains with the internet is going to be very interesting in the testing stages, i would personally kill to be a part of it. I get giddy thinking about it, basically all the information on the internet will be in our brains. I try to imagine what that first persons thoughts would be. Or would our access to the internet be just like it is now? Only we no longer need the computer as we have it now, with a pointer and boxes to write text, then you have to click enter. Or will it be you think something like ,how do you deep fry a turkey? and then you read the information through you eyes or do you just know the information in a second?

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