Predicting or Creating the Future?


In the Jan-Feb 2012 issue of THE FUTURIST  is Thomas Frey's "Eight Grand Challenges for Human Advancement." He proposes several very science fictiony things. All the challenges push past beyond our knowledge of physics. That's a good thing because I don't believe we're even close to understanding how the universe works. But what if they did come to pass? They would have some very far reaching consequences. Here are my concerns:

Challenge Possible Consequences
1. Race to the Core What? Am I the only one who remembers the movie "Crack in the World" Really?
2. Viewing the Past Don't you feel your privacy being violated by the very thought of this thing? I do.
3. Disassembling Matter This is a "Disintegrator Beam" or Star Treks Phaser. Just what we need- war that doesn't need blood or guts to kill. This cannot be a good thing.
4. Gravity Challenge Anti-Gravity is way too exciting. Flying Cars and JetPacks. Bring it on.
5. Ultimate Small Storage Particle Library of Congress on a molecule. How do you check out books on something that small?
6. Travel at Speed of Light According to Einstein's famous equation E=MC2 wouldn't traveling at the speed of light make any mass infinite and thus destroy the universe? Just a thought.
7. Swarm-Bots So these tiny robots will dress you in the morning. Getting past that creepy thought. What will happen when the great high-altitude EMP occurs. We'll be facing the end of the world as cars stop, planes drop, computers burn -- all while we're standing around naked.
8. 10-Second Interface Even faster search capability. I'm sure Google is working on this one.
This is a custom visualization developed by the emerging technology strategist Michell Zappa.

This is a custom visualization developed by the emerging technology strategist Michell Zappa.

Sure I'm skeptical (and mildly horrified) but I don't want to make light of Thomas Frey's major premise that "if we change people's visions of the future, we change the way they make decisions, today." What's your vision of the future? Is it like Michell Zappa's where you just extend the present stuff to their natural conclusion? Take the present internet and introduce new mobile hardware and you get better education, better personal informatics, and even faster searches. Isn't that just the same old, same old? Where's the disruptions? Try plugging in a "past viewer" into the scenario and see what happens to your predictions. Speaking of disruptions, International Data Corporation (IDC) has been in the prediction business for over 30 years. This is their prediction season where they talk about the upcoming year. They feel that since 2007 we've been a period of "hyper-disruption" which is a fancy way to say, "Everything is Changing." IDC's main prediction for  2012 is it sets the stage to define the world of 2020! This makes those great  Microsoft Future videos  (see below) even more exciting. Will there be an environment where standards and devices will be in place that people can interact with them in a seamless manner as the video suggests? But notice how IDC takes present realities and extrapolates a future as opposed to Frey's attempt to "make the future." You have to admit that if any of the eight grand challenges are realized in the next few years then 2020 will be vastly different from the IDC vision or even Microsoft's. Will IDC's "hyper-disruption" or Frey's "Challenges" set the stage to a bright tomorrow or trap us in a nightmare of unintended consequences? And where do we, as professional Systems Engineers, fit in the making of this "Brave New World."  What's your vision of the future?