The Original Think Magazine (Published since 1996)

Robot Recession

Cyberbots are still a thing of the future, says science.

BenderForget about asking the robot maid to pick up your socks.

According to a recent study by the independent nonprofit research group The Institute for the Future (IFTF), household robots won't be driving our cars or folding our laundry anytime soon.

IFTF surveyed more than 700 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) experts about what technological developments we'll be seeing in the next 10 to 50 years, and which are out of range of technological advancement. The results ranged from the fairly mundane to the stuff of science fiction.

Nearly all of the IEEE experts surveyed agreed that computers will continue to get more and moe powerful, fostering a whole slew of programmes that require powerful software, including more accurate modeling of weather patterns and eerily life-like computer graphics.

The study refers to computing pioneer Alan Kay's predictions that soon we'll be able to run simulations of our own lives, so that we could get a glimpse of what we'd look like if we "lived on a vegan diet" or ran 10 miles a day.

Another trend the survey uncovered was the coming proliferation of "smart dust," miniscule wireless sensors that "self-organise into ad-hoc networks," allowing data to be transmitted and stored almost without boundaries - every object, movement, or technological interaction will be able to be tracked and analysed, raising huge questions about privacy.

Fifty-six percent of the survey respondents also predicted that within the next two decades, most people in developed countries will have a "documented personal genetic profile," allowing for individualized medical treatment. Robots, however, are still more than 50 years away - the technology just isn't there yet. So while a nurse may be able to read a person's genes and predict the onset of athlete's foot, cleaning up the socks are still a problem.


For more information on The Institute for the Future, visit www.iftf.org

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