Now that we've survived through the end of the 20th century, we can safely ignore the doomsayers-at least for the meantime-- and reflect upon the more positive predictions for our times. After all it is the dawn of a new millennium, and what better way to start it than to gaze into the crystal ball to see the future of computing. Here's what the techno-savvy seers say will happen over the next 5 to 10 years and beyond.
Computers will continue to double in processing power every 18 months. This trend has been so predictable (or religiously followed, depending on how you look at it) since the 1980s that it is almost taken for granted. In fact people often refer to it as Moore's Law, named after the Chairman Emeritus and cofounder of Intel, Gordon Moore.
Big deal. Unless you're a statistics buff, these are just plain and boring numbers. So what do they all mean to us? Well, you can pretty much count on a steady supply of faster and more powerful PCs for the next ten years.
In fact, these PCs will be so powerful that you can surf the Web, chat with your friends in live video, play tracks from your favorite CD, and write a letter to your mom-all at the same time. You can talk to your computer and ask it to book a flight or order pizza for you. Actually, speech software products such as ViaVoice (www-4.ibm.com/software/speech) from IBM or Dragon's NaturallySpeaking (www.dragonsys.com) already allow you compose and send email as well as speak simple voice commands, if you don't mind routinely correcting mistakes by the software.
At present, these packages can recognize words about 95% of the time. That's one error for every 20 or so words. But soon, they will be able to transcribe what you say with minimal errors. They can even recognize that it's you by the tone of your voice.
Now, fast forward to the future. According to Ray Kurtzweil, a renowned expert in the computer field, that by 2020 the PC will have a performance comparable to the human brain-around 100 billion calculations per second.
Of course, it doesn't mean computers will begin to outsmart us within the next two decades. Rest assured Schwartznegger's Terminator days are still in the realms of science fiction. Our brains have a fantastic "software" that allow us to think, see, hear and be creative--feats which computer scientists have not been able to figure out yet.
So far, the best the commercial software world has to offer is an annoying paperclip assistant, courtesy of Bill Gates. But nonetheless, we can soon expect to see major changes in the way we interact with computers.
What is even more exciting is that we can choose to play an active role in the digital future. The Internet makes this opportunity possible through its vast wealth of resources. Want to build a bot, add a search engine to your Web site, play with speech recognizers or create a nifty plug-in for Netscape? These are the building blocks of the 21st century economy, and they are all available for free download!
Whether for personal hobby or for profit, those with the desire, courage and perseverance to learn what these tools can do and how they work will find it extremely rewarding to become one of the pioneers of the new information economy.
We, the W!P staff, encourage you to get a head start and try to make sense out of these new technologies. The waters of the 21st century world may be constantly in flux but we will be your companion along the way, sharing with you the knowledge and resources that we have available.
Finally, to those who still feel that the pillars of the new digital
economy will be exclusively erected in the developed countries, I
leave you with the words of Jose Rizal: "Genius has no country, genius
bursts forth everywhere, genius is like light and air, the patrimony
of all: cosmopolitan as space, as life, as God."
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