The future is already here! Or is it?

I’ve been asked to deliver an opening keynote at an upcoming conference. In this talk, I’ve been asked to survey future technologies and how they might shape communication service providers landscape. To prepare, I started jotting down a list of all the interesting future technologies and it immediately occurred to me that many of these are already here with us today. This reminded me of the quote by William Gibson – “the future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed”.

And indeed, the difference between today and the future is often merely the pervasiveness of these technologies. In most cases, the technologies exist and their potential can be anticipated to a large extent, if considered carefully.

But then I wondered whether I missed something or got my estimates wrong.

It’s much easier to see the direction of a trend than to know when it will be realized. For example, we all know that at some point in the future, cars will drive themselves. The question isn’t whether or not this will happen. The question is only “when?” this will be a reality. Similarly, we can now all see that at some point in the future, people will barely use paper books. These will become a thing of the past. The really interesting question is “when?” will this future be reality. Certainly in less than 100 years, perhaps less than 20, and perhaps even less than 10 years from now.

Why is this critical?

Well, innovators must get their timing right – bringing a solution to market too early can be as devastating to a venture as bringing it too late.

So I was thinking, perhaps inspired by my crowdfunding blog post, that you might help me figure out if I got it right. I’m going to put forth my initial estimate of when and why I believe a set of technologies will become mature and pervasive (not ubiquitous). When I say “pervasive”, I mean when will the technology be widely used – perhaps as much as 25% of the potential users will already be using it. At that point in time, it would probably not yet completely take over its predecessor technology.

Then, I’d like you to help me. Please point out any important technologies I have missed (note that I intentionally dropped over 40 items from this list, as otherwise this would have become a very long list) and also comment on the time you think they would become pervasive and why.

So here we go: the technologies, when they will mature, and why:

Is this our future?

Tech Trend Year when   pervasive (at least 25% of the users) Why
Mobile Money / Peer-to-Peer (P2P) money exchange

2014 / 2017

In developing economies this will come sooner and will gradually penetrate developed economies.
Location-Based Services (LBS)


Some might argue that we’re already there with so many GPS-enabled smartphones. The question is when will 25% of users be expecting and using services and experiences based on their location.
Internet-connected TV


I believe it will take that long to reach a quarter of the population. To some degree, we’re still in early-adopter phase right now. And I don’t distinguish here between the various methods to net-enable the TV experience.
Cloud computing


Till cloud computing operates a quarter of business compute resources.


What is marketed today by some vendors as Telepresence is simply higher quality video conferencing. The original vision of Telepresence has taken a backseat. I here refer to that real vision and refer to it in a business context. It’s when companies have telepresence rather than high quality video conferencing.
Near-Field Communication (NFC)


It might take some time to roll out this technology for contactless payment systems, for instance. Especially in developed economies where alternative forms of credit and payment are widespread.
Zero emission alternative energy powers the world


Costs must come down and the substantial focus on “green” and various incentives will help bring that about, eventually.


Until 3D TV is in 25% of the homes. See my blog post about 3D TV.
Social communications


People use free communication via social media and P2P VoIP/IM rather than paid services by communication service providers to conduct most of their communication.
Cloud-based operating systems (truly thin clients) – or is this a cycle?


Thin/thick, dumb/smart terminal is a pendulum. Will it swing back (e.g. Chrome)? Perhaps, as connectivity truly becomes ubiquitous.
eBooks replace books in all current forms of use (including education)


It will take a few years to acquire all these books for educational institutions, but eventually, it’ll happen.
Mobile broadband at 10 Mbps


Late stages of 4G technologies might get there on existing spectrum and consumer insatiable demand for bandwidth.
Ubiquitous broadband connectivity


There is an expectation that for most populated areas on the planet, anybody traveling there can receive an affordable broadband connection.
High-efficiency inductive charging


Aren’t we tired with all the wired chargers? At some point these will be replaced, no? How about 8 years from now?
Smart meters


Smart energy saving devices in the home and remotely accessible and administered power meters will roll out, eventually. There are some geographies (such as Italy) where this might have already happened, but when will it reach a quarter of the users?


Medical professionals will routinely monitor patients from remote.
Natural gesture interfaces (e.g. touch, hand gestures, vocals) will be used for almost everything


I’m not yet sure these interfaces are always better. Right now, I’m using a keyboard, for instance. However, in the future I might use Gmail Motion. It was announced April 1, 2011. You must check it out.
The Internet of Things / Machine to Machine (M2M)


Since these are not “used by people”, it doesn’t exactly make sense to talk about pervasiveness in terms of users. Therefore, the benchmark here is a bit different – when 25% of “things” are connected to the net that are not operated by people. So for this, tablets, smartphones, PCS would not count. I think it will take longer than some anticipate.
Self-driving vehicles


Not too far into the future, we’ll see these in our neighborhood. Wouldn’t that be cool?
The semantic web


Everything’s meaning is connected and understood. When we ask questions, the meaning will be used to determine the answer.
Digital life integration


Our digital lives are still very disparate. Contacts, calendars, music, photos, videos, etc. All created and stored on a variety of devices and mediums and not easily accessible. It will take some time to resolve this in a pervasively available method, but it’s bound to eventually be solved.
Voice and text simultaneous translation


I don’t think this is ready yet and it might be comical today.
Artificial body part replacement for many more parts


The brain will probably be the last to be replaceable, but I believe it too will be “bionically” enhanced in due course. Before then we’ll have all sorts of limbs and internal organs.
Cure for cancer


This is for many forms of cancer, through genetically specific and personal medicine. Optimistic, perhaps. Something to hope for.
Physical books no longer in practical use


Seeing a physical book will become a rarity. Libraries will, effectively, be museums. Most will not exist as all books are accessible online and on reading devices anywhere.
All storage be cloud-based


We’ll no longer have DVDs and BluRay discs, or any other portable medium for that matter, all data will be cloud-resident. No more new forms of media will be required by individuals.
Home automation


If you’re wealthy, you can have full automation of your home today. When will this be a reality for 25% of the population? The issue is retrofitting existing homes, of course. That’s a long cycle.
Affordable brain-power computer (yet not brain-capable)


One can buy a computer, like a PC today, but its power will be able to compute the equivalent of a human brain. However, as it will not operate like a human brain, it will have only niche uses.
Affordable space tourism


You won’t have to be filthy rich and it becomes an everyday occurrence. Those with income at the top 10 percentile will be able to afford a trip. Some believe it’s nearly here already. Not me.
Cold fusion


Hmmm. Not much to base my assessment here, I’m afraid.
Virtual tourism


You can have the full experience of travel, without leaving a facility. Not just as “an experiment”, but as actual replacement for tourism… I don’t how attractive this will ever become.
Interplanetary human travel



Some observations

If all this is true (and it certainly isn’t), there are some rather funny consequences. For example, this would imply that in 15 years we will have cured cancer and have self-driving vehicles, yet our home would not yet be fully automated. Also, if much of this plays itself out as suggested, the next two decades are going to be extremely exciting, don’t you think?

I’m the first to admit that this table certainly has many errors and omissions. In fact, this is not a set of concrete predictions so much as it is a straw man for you all to tear up and suggest corrections.

Call to action

Please, help identify notable omissions and correct these estimates, and perhaps our collective wisdom will provide better insight into our future.

18 thoughts on “The future is already here! Or is it?”

  1. Great post as always !!
    But where are the military innovations? Like telekillers where you can kill enemy while playing video games.
    Or bombs on the “clouds” which fall on enemy like rain.
    Or gesture based country destruction system, where gestures on a map can destroy entire countries (Helpful only if you can find them on map)

  2. Tal, you are correct on the timing constraints. Perhaps on the small appliance /gadget side, your timing could widely be affected (in the positive side) by the advent of super fast charging batteries. If a pair of AA batteries or similar can be charged as claimed by the technology to be in the 20 seconds range. It brings “near” 100% reliability . It means a e-Reader, NFC gadgets, Mobile everything, etc. adoption can be folded by 4X – you may have considered that in your assumptions. Most importantly, devices become as reliable as loose coins or bills in your pocket (always there) – Also the excuses of my cell phone discharged become extinct. With that mental barrier broken I think it will accelerate many things so back to timing – also in all other items It maybe interesting to hear what are the barriers/enablers of adoption from the human, economic and social perspective, as you pointed in several – big task you are in – good luck – E.

  3. Your estimate for zero emissions energy (2018) is physically impossible. Even if a suitable technology existed and every country in the world suddenly committed resources proportionally equivalent to Project Apollo it would not be possible to deploy a new energy infrastructure to 25% penetration in 7 years. “Alternative” energy is currently barely a blip on the global energy map. It would take several decades of sustained two digit growth rate to achieve this.

    It’s not eletronic gizmos. It’s big iron.

  4. Your research is comprehensive and well thought-of. You took a lot of responsibility on your shoulders. Do you have a time-window to meet me on April 2071? I would like to review this list again then with you. But I hope we meet a day or two earlier as well :).

    I am skeptic about these technologies reaching the 25% cap: Internet TV – I still think that for a very long while, deep into the future, linear TV broadcasting will remain dominant and will require separate infrastructure (cables, satellites etc). Internet TV will not replace linear TV, even not by 25%. They will co exist for at least 20 years. You are right by indicating that TV consumption is undergoing a change, but most, if not all premium TV content is still manufactured by linear TV networks. The change will take place only when at least one premium network, such as HBO or ABC will shift its entire business to the internet.

    3D TV – I am very skeptic it will ever catch anything near 25% market, even if the technology becomes better and cheaper.

    Some technologies you didn’t mention, which I think maybe very disruptive:
    digital paper – 2021 – this is a huge game changer – mobile, tablet, print, TV – anything can be folded to your pocket or even cut by scissors.
    Topographic touch screens – 2021 again – intuitive touch screens that adjust their topography to content: e.g. when a keypad is displayed, it raises 12 bumps underneath the numbers and signs. When a QWERTY keyboard is displayed – a smaller set of bumps appears, etc. This is the real hybrid of touch and keypad devices.
    LBS – I agree with your estimate, but here it’s not the technology that will change, but rather its use and adoption. Today – because of privacy and power consumption concerns – one’s geo location is updated electively. Early adopters in 2015 will use devices that constantly update their locations online, no more check-ins, the hell with privacy. By 2018, not transmitting your location will be as primitive as not having a Facebook profile today, or not having a cellular phone ten years ago. You may claim whatever you want about privacy, but it’s just a matter of using the off switch.

  5. Hi Tal and congratulations for your new web site.

    I don’t know if cars will drive themselves in the future. This is not a technological issue but a human behaviour issue. As well some other solutions you mentioned.

    I believe that before you describe a list of solutions, that for most of them the technology is available for many years, you should ask yourselve what are the issues we need to solve and what kind of human culture we expect in the future. In other words – you should create an agenda.

    There are today many R&D groups with interesting agendas dealing with electro optics, artificial inteligence, robotics and many others. The list is too long for one article.

  6. Love the concept of your blog post and keynote. Couple comments. First is on Internet Enabled TV. Personally I think we’re already there or very close to 25%. Since so many families already have some type of gaming system, using them for internet TV is already in place. I can’t tell you how many friends are cancelling their cable and Direct TV and simply adding a subscription to Netflix. We’re about ready to do it ourselves. Outside of our local news station, their is really no need of anything but internet TV today (and who has time for TV anyway . . .LOL).

    My next comment is on the zero emissions alternative energy. Here you a purely dreaming! In the US we can’t even get a new nuclear plant built for the last 20 years. Plus much of the technology is not ready for prime time. Biggest issue is transmission of the energy and the very high cost factors. There is a reason T.Bone Pickens abandoned his goal of creating wind energy production across TX. It is a HUGE financial loser not as a power generator, but for a means to get the power to the folks that need it.

    My final thought is on ebooks. While I am a huge fan of my NOOK. I don’t think we’re going to get completely away from paper books for at least a generation. First there are still to many folks who will prefer the feel of book. And then there are the copyright issues for older books. I found it odd to walk into a local town bookstore recently. I didn’t have the need or desire to purchase anything there as it didn’t fit in my NOOK.

    Thanks for getting us thinking. This was a terrific idea!

  7. If cold fusion is bogus like most scientists say (and I’m >90% sure it is) it will not happen by 2036 or ever. If it’s real (and I do try to give it the benefit of the doubt) it will happen REALLY fast. A compact device to power, heat and cool your home with no recurring energy bills? No centralized infrastructure? That is an industry that could scale faster than anything you have ever seen.

    If intellectual property right slow this down countries will revoke their signatures on IP treaties. It will become the hottest black market item of all time. Nothing will stop it.

    All that is assuming it’s real, of course.

  8. I am wondering if this is correlating with any other publications?

    Particularly interesting topic is “cloud”-anything (my wording) I do believe it is another spiral on top of “old good” networking technology. I mean there is not much of new protocols, inventions in distributed computing, etc.

    On the other hand we will always need powerful computing resources on “endpoints”, which guarantees the demand for processing power increase on an end computer/processor. This will , eventually, lead to “temporary” solutions based on local CPU only.

    Military applications, in particular, have several (sometimes contradicting) trends. Some intelligence systems need to be highly autonomous, while others are just a bunch of sensors requiring connection with control center. Will there ever be a single “universal” cloud-anything-together OS? – I doubt. Remember Novel?
    What really can happen is the following. Someone comes up with a major commercial hit and calls it “ultimate cloud” solution. In that case it may be earlier than 2018?

  9. I imagine inductive charging will become pervasive for some classes of low-power devices, but it’ll face some headwinds as it’s hard to get above 80% efficiency.

    Regarding renewable energy, the current figures are about 13% if you exclude nuclear power, 19% if you include it, so we’re not as far away from the 25% mark as some might think.

    I’d exclude the art book and collectible category to sort of save the eBook prediction – it seemed safe to function-minded folks to predict the demise of the vinyl record (which as you know is outselling the CD now) but it seems substantially less safe to predict the same for the book. Additionally, if google is to be believed, there are quite a few more books to digitize than there were records and digitizing a record doesn’t require the extra ocr step to make it fully equivalent to an originally digital version.

    The semantic web and the translation problem are probably closer to each other, although you might be right that by restricting interaction to searches the first problem becomes easier (or at least easier to solve in parts).

    Setting aside all the technical issues involved (latency, stability, security, etc.), cloud computing eventually translates to more efficiently utilized hardware (sort of already possible today except for the formerly mentioned technical issues) and to a reduction in power transmission cost vs an increase in bandwidth consumption. If you build a huge data center near the hydroelectric plant in Quebec and run enough fiber up there, you can sell cpu at a fraction of the cost people are used to (also, most of the time you just need a vent for cooling) but of course a huge data center in inuit country might not be as romantic as a “cloud”. I think the cloud concept might break down into several sub-concepts before it reaches 25% of business use, some of which will just look like good old client-server, we’ll see.

  10. First, I’d like to say that I am very glad I crowdsourced this research topic. You’ve all provided valuable feedback. Furthermore, a bunch of people sent me direct emails with the full table of predictions with comments and change revisions included. What more could I ask for? Well, perhaps only for those comments to be public 🙂 I’ve got lots of other encouraging feedback in person and in emails. Thanks!

    Second, you are really helping me keep up with this. If you have interesting topics you want my views on in future blog posts, don’t hesitate to suggest.

    Third, I clearly had some major omissions here. Had I included everything, the list would have been way too long. So I chose a few things to drop. You might ask why I chose to put cold fusion and not, let’s say, levitating vehicles or something much closer to home, such as Augmented Reality. But that’s just a choice – I wanted to get some of these suggested by you.

    Finally, nobody put a comment suggesting I’ve omitted Augmented Reality, which I clearly have. Also, nobody mentioned virtual worlds (e.g. Second Life). Two examples of things I’ve deliberately omitted. But were not yet caught. Someone did catch my omission on robotics. But not about some of the sci-fi applications of Artificial Intelligence.

    So responses to some of the comments (and do keep’em coming):

    Gurvinder, military technologies, unless we get into a global war soon and 25% of users are using them, would not count as pervasive until the technology gets applied in consumer / non-military applications. But those are some “cool” ideas that certainly can wreak havoc.

    Eduardo, yup – missed rapid charging. But I don’t know if it would be in my top-20. I see what you mean as how it has significant implications. It might happen – the question is, as you said, a matter of timing. But in this case, it’s not only “when?”, but it’s also “if” someone will get the chemistry to work so fast that charging could be nearly instantaneous. I have not considered this relative unknown in my assumptions.

    Oren and Steve, good point. The hype might have clouded my judgement. What is your estimate for pervasiveness of nearly-zero (90% less than today) emission? But, you must read Ori’s comment… he claims we’re nearly there. WDYT?

    Tal, we shall meet indeed. I’m not guaranteeing 2071. But I hope to be lucky enough to see a majority of these predictions realized. I agree that linear TV will remain the TV killer app even as the Internet reaches the TV. What I meant is not TV over the Internet as a medium, but TVs that have some actually used connectivity to the Internet (not necessarily within the TV itself, perhaps by an adjunct box). Perhaps just for YouTube / Flickr / Facebook. On 3D TV – I’m kind of with you (see my post on that). Still, I think 3D will be included in every set in about 3-4 years, so within a 5-8 year replacement cycle, this will happen whether we like it or not.

    Interesting regarding digital paper. 2021 you say… I wonder. I am a bit of a skeptic. Let’s see. I don’t even see why exactly this must happen. Same thing regarding topographic touch screens. I am kind of doubting that becomes more than a niche attempt, perhaps resurrected in the 2050s when we’ve really become sick and tired of physical keyboards. But heck, why do we need all these keyboards at all. I think these sort of technologies will be obsoleted before they exist by DBR (direct-brain-reading, just invented). Why use a keyboard when you can just think it?

    LBS – your prediction is interesting and might happen. What I’m seeing right now is that governments and regulators are working hard to put in privacy controls that some might consider archaic and others a human right. This might arrest the non-elective use of LBS. Take note of the recent ruling in Israel regarding what employers are allowed (and not allowed) to do with regard to inspecting employee emails.

    Daniel, perhaps someone should have an agenda, perhaps even me. This was not an attempt to define the future, but predict it. As Alan Kay famously said, the best way to predict the future is to invent the future. I am trying to do that as well. But my efforts are limited. Shai Agassi is trying to reinvent the car. I’ll try to reinvent something else. Here I’m trying to predict how the world would look due to mostly existing forces. For instance, why would I want to create the keyboard that Tal Yaniv suggests we want if DBR (see above) precedes it? And yup, this list could go on and on.

    Theresa, you might be right, but I think it’s not nearly at 25% (regarding net-connected TVs). It certainly might get there sooner than 4 years from now though. Your argument regarding zero-emission energy is pretty convincing. But you do not factor in that change is accelerating. In many respects we see that happening. This could happen in a single domain, for instance transportation, perhaps. Regarding eBooks – a generation is ~20 years. And you’re right, it will require a complete “indoctrination”. So when will schools no longer have books? Then count a generation. Hmmm… let’s see.

    Oren, regarding cold fusion – it could happen any time, or never. But I don’t know which. For this reason, I have decided not to include encountering extra terrestrials. But a) too many claim they have already done so; b) some people are earth are no less out-of-this-world; c) it’s very unpredictable when it would be encountered. Ironically, SETI was shut down earlier this week… Regarding IP limitations – heck, I doubt all governmental structures would break down. I think whomever comes up with this and manages to effectively commercialize it first will have some runway before commoditization.

    Alex, I wanted to mention this pendulum of centralized / decentralized – thick / thin architectures. But the concept was completely worthy of another piece, so I played it down. But good point.

    Ori, what I’ve seen at CES from eCoupled claims to be over 96% efficient and more efficient than copper wires even at short distances. So check that out. Your point on renewable energy is terrific and contradicts Oren. I don’t buy the books. Books are unique and quaint and we’ll always have them in “libraries”, which will be renamed to be “museums”. Earlier this week I was walking in the offices of a big law office in NYC and we happened to walk through their library of legal books. It was huge. It was clear that I was in a museum. Who needs all that stuff anymore? Another blog post on this probably is worth it. The paperless world is coming. I really believe this is not an “if”, it’s a “when”, but the when might be much farther than I anticipate. Nevertheless, I do not give it 100 years. Good insights regarding the cloud!

    Thanks again to all for such terrific comments. I am so happy I inspired this discussion and us thinking!

  11. One other point of view I’d like to introduce is petroleum as a renewable reource (see One of the most egregious examples of Orwellian Newspeak is referring to petroleum as “fossil fuel”. If the bulk of the funds being spent on trying to defy the laws of physics in developing “alternative” sources of energy, continual technical advances in emission reduction of the dominant technology would be better spent (remember, hygdrogen vehicles would emit water vapor, the #1 greenhouse gas, and require other energy sources to generate hydrogen–a net loss).

  12. In response to Axel’s comment that was originally posted LinkedIn:

    Axel Schultze • This is an interesting list and it looks like much will be that way. Then there are things that are ancient thoughts, never matured and I’m not sure why it will in the next 10 or 20 years like self driving vehicles.- not in 10 years. We won’t even have high quality streets by then – let alone systems that allow self driving vehicles. 3D TV is here and either implode or grow much faster.

    Now – all you have on your list are things that are simply enhancements to what we have. What about those that all of a sudden appear and change the world like Social Media, Internet, Personal Computers, Telephone, Cars, Airplanes…

    Interestingly enough all those innovative explosions had a precursor about 30 years earlier and then all of a sudden changed the world. Social Media for instance had already forums 20 years ago. The Internet was created in the 60’s but exploded in the 90’s. First personal computers were built in the 70’s and only in the mid 80’s mass produced that changed the world. Airplanes were constructed by Leonardo DaVinci but it took 400 years and the Wright Brothers made them real.

    So what do we have already that is cooking hot and will be the next wave after Social Media for instance? Tip: It will happen in and around 2018 – why? Draw an innovation life cycle curve from the past 200 years and you’ll see an interesting pattern of acceleration. The next big mass movement may occur already around 2014 and get really interesting around 2018. And, like social media which is still technology driven but more socially enabled, the next thing will again be more and more something less technical but technology will play a big enabling role. I have my own speculation what it might be.

    Fun to bounce around stuff like this 🙂

    Axel – regarding self-driving vehicles. I think that in the past the technology wasn’t ready for it. I think it will mature in the next few years. The DARPA Grand Challenge has steadily advanced this space and work Google is working on also suggests major progress. So I think this specific domain is moving faster – irrespective of road conditions.

    As I said, I believe much of the future is already here, just not evenly distributed. And as you rightly said, everything you mention had its predecessor well before it matured and became pervasive. The challenge I looked at is in this post is not to see what becomes invented but rather what matures and by when.

    Now, you got me curious. I couldn’t figure out your hints to what you believe will be the “next big thing” and will hit circa 2018. Please give some more hints!

  13. Nice post! me likes 🙂
    I think that in most technologies you are way too optimistic. Not much from the technology side, rather from the cultural, as stated by clever responders before me.
    Take RFID, as an example. A CEO retailer would love it if customers could just throw items in their own baskets (no shopping bag required), shelves will always be stocked optimally (no manual stock count required), then they will walk through the shop doors (no cashier/POS-operator required), their shopping will be automatically charged to their mobile-payment. Of course, no items will be stolen – no payment, no exit (no store-detectives required). Customers will even be informed way ahead of leaving if they will not be allowed out with booze outside legal hours, or if they have exceeded their purchase of sleeping pills due to DEA restrictions.
    Alas, to begin with, human rights activists would not allow this to happen so fast. Checkout what has happened when Gillette piloted RFID in some stores in the UK and elsewhere
    Secondly, imagine what the unions will have to say. A bunch of employees will lose their job. Even if they won’t, their job-title will change – say a backstore chap is now called to do customer service. Unions thrive on such disputes.
    Even if the RFID tag does drop to sub-cent, or if an alternative, cheaper, technology emerges, it will take at least another 20 years before a critical mass, say 95% of supermarket items, are auto-scannable. Before that, there is no chance for this revolution to complete. Coming up – green(er) insecticides

  14. Green(er) insecticides: one amazing technology is described here:
    Pablos Holman presented in TedXTelAviv one year ago one of the coolest gizmos I’ve seen for a long time: cameras detect musquito wing-flip rate, aim a laser beam, and ZAP, one musquito bites the dust. One property is musquito sterile
    Such insect control technology reduces harmful chemical polution dramatically. It seems inevitable that such or similar technology can be used against ants, cockroaches, poisonous spiders, just name it.
    When can it reach 25% (let’s call it Givoli’s factor 😉 )? I am guessing in about 15-20 years time, taking into account economical forces that heavily rely on fossil fuel based industries. WDYT?

  15. At the risk of the entire readership of this discussion having all doubt removed that I am a crusty curmudgeon, and an old-school/aging one at that, I’ll mention that literally yesterday my bank chose to fax a form to their main offices that they first printed out and then had me manually complete because I had a problem with the online equivalent at their web site. That is not to say that I think fax is lurking for a comeback, but rather to agree that the human factor has a lot more to do with technology adoption/penetration velocity than any other single factor. By the way, in the late 90s I used to enjoy baiting young people by asking them to guess how old the fax was (it was over 100 at the time).

    All of this brings back a recollection from the beginnings of my own career in technology (started in 1966–I told you I’d remove all doubt). I attended a lecture by a brilliant MIT Sloane School professor named John Donovan. The title of his lecture was “The Computer is Free”, and the jist of it was that the cost of computing at the embedded computer level was coming down so fast that for any product whose development cycle took more than a couple of years (yes, there was a time when that applied), one should assume that the processing power would be one of the least expensive components in the final product and thus one should plan the features of the product to take maximal advantage of that processing power. The room fairly erupted with objections from an army of flat-top haircut/pocket protector/RCA Transistor Manual carrying engineers (literally descriptive of the majority in the room), with Moore’s law and all of the vision that MIT gave Dr. Donovan going right over their head. I was fortunate to believe he knew of what he spoke and used the principles from that lecture to great benefit over the decades of my product development career.

  16. A few more responses to newer comments:

    Ilan, a lot has to do with cultural issues. That said, I think unions might delay things, but usually not prevent them from ultimately happening, otherwise, the sort of progress we have seen in the last 200 years would have not happened. Think about the dislocation of jobs in this period? So many jobs were created and then destroyed and the cycle repeats. You can name tens of jobs that didn’t exist 20 years ago, and many that no longer exist today… I loved Pablos’ talk at TEDxTelAvivk, and especially the laser destroyer of mosquitoes. Unfortunately, I think that will take longer to materialize. 15-20 years? perhaps. But perhaps never. As nice as that is, and I wish it were sooner.

    Steve, I’m with you regarding fax. Had to fill in insurance form the other day – same thing, fax in, print, fill in, fax out. They do not have email nor web interface. They are not alone. That said, I don’t think there’s a comeback, just a slow decline. 20 years from now faxes will be a fond memory, as available as Telex is today… Nice story about John Donovan. Btw, I sat through a number of talks TODAY describing the length of design of a computer still as 3-5 years – so that time span has not dramatically shrunk in nearly 50 years…

    Thx again to all!


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