Wednesday, September 24, 2008

"Predicting" the Future

We don't know for sure what will replace them but it is pretty clear that two of the most ubiquitous objects in our lives today - the hand-held cell phone and the computer mouse - will be a thing of the past within 3 to 5 years. Several states have already passed legislation making the use of hand-held cell phones illegal while driving. Something is going to replace such hand-held devices. We have seen indications of possible replacements for the mouse in the interfaces used by the iPhone and touch screen computers - hand gestures may replace the mouse.

It is difficult to predict the future with much certainty but some future events don't require prediction. For example, it is a straightforward calculation to determine the location of the planets at any given point in the next 1,000, 100,000 or a million years. That's why it is a relatively easy calculation to land a space vehicle on the moon or a distant planet.

It is not a "prediction" that our solar system's sun will die and the earth will be a barren ball like Venus and Mars in about 5 billion years. The increase in solar temperatures is such that in about a billion years, the surface of the Earth will become too hot for liquid water to exist, ending all terrestrial life. That's no more of a prediction than saying your car will run out of gas when you drive it for a long time. You just have to do the math (or look at the gauge.) Weather forecasters don't say they "predict" the weather but "forecast" it. Their work is based on calculations and computer modelling not guesses. Their calculations are just more complex than those for space exploration so it is harder to get it right.

Many "futurists" simply look at what actually exists in research facilities now and "predict" what the future will look like. They are just more informed than the average person so they look like they are able to "predict" the future. Most people lead pretty conventional or contemporary lives so they have not heard about many of the new and emerging events that have already set the future in motion. Unless we read current literature and keep up with new developments in science we will not notice the future coming at us like a train coming down the tracks.

Click on the heading above to see an article about the possible future of the mouse.

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