20 ways gigabit-speed internet access might change our lives by 2025

Holodeck entertainment, full video lifestreaming, scientific diets and more 2025 predictions from Pew Internet’s new report

The Guardian, Thursday 9 October 2014

If you want to know the future of technology, should you ask a technological futurologist? On the one hand, it’s their job to think about What Comes Next and What It All Means in regards to devices, connectivity and the digital services that they enable.

On the other hand, you might just get back a load of blather cribbed from whatever science-fiction novel they read most recently. Robot Sex! Flying Cars! Augmented Drone Shopping! An App Whose Sole Purpose Is To Send Yo To Your Friends! Oh, wait…

Still, flippancy aside, futurology is fun to read, both at the time, and then a decade or more later to see how much of it was right. That’s why a new report from the Pew Research Center and Elon University called Killer Apps in the Gigabit Age is well worth a read.

See this separate story for a take on its predictions for healthcare, education and societal change. But here’s an additional primer to some of the more ambitious forecasts in the report, which was compiled by asking 1,464 experts what the advent of gigabit-speed internet connections will mean for our lives.

From semantic overlays to holographic co-workers…

(…)“I could be writing on a ‘whiteboard’ with others, as well as seeing them standing next to me. In fact, I would be in my office in Beacon, New York, wearing an Oculus-ish headset and writing on my wall, while meeting with people from London and San Francisco.”
Stowe Boyd, GigaOM Research

“On the entertainment front, something like the Holodeck concept first shown in the old Star Trek series is actually within our grasp by 2025. Games, films, shopping for cars and vacations, and (of course) porn will all become immersive 3D experiences.”
Kathryn Campbell, Primitive Spark

“No doubt the killer app will be real-life holograms operating in real time: for instance, as doctors, as surgeons, as coworkers. It will change the workplace. Not only will it diminish the need for business travel, it will also increase competition in the labor market immensely. Whereas before you had to compete with fellow humans in the same physical area, immigrants for example, in the future you have to compete with ‘cloud immigrants’—coworkers appearing in their work as a hologram.”
Marcel Bullinga, futurist (…)

From reality immersion to walk-in photos…

“These apps will create livingness of information. We will enter any destination like diving into water. This new submersion, due to enhanced glasses or some evolved cognitive cum visual tool, will affect both the destination and those experiencing it. We will no longer go anywhere alone, as we will be connected to everyone and everything around us. We will not think of this as a media experience, but as reality immersion while we are walking down Fifth Avenue in New York or spending an afternoon at the Palazzo Vecchio.”
Barry Chudakov, Sertain Research

“I see amazing potential of wearable computing to contribute a near-harmonious information-seeking environment where the analog world is enhanced and opened by the digital world. There are probably implications for sexual environments, but I’d prefer not to dwell on that.”
K.G. Schneider, university librarian

“Sensors everywhere—on property, on our clothes, on (and perhaps in) our bodies, all of it feeding digital information to be processed on servers or filtered and passed to the cloud. By 2025 small devices might be powered by harvested energy, in which case the possibilities expand dramatically. On the receiving end of this massive information flow will be large displays at work and in many homes through which vast quantities of information can be rapidly visualized. We have lagged in exploiting this because it is more difficult to model or demo than a simple application, but it will come.”
Jonathan Grudin, Microsoft Research

“Eventually it could change the way we preserve our past. In the same way that photography changed the way we could preserve our personal and collective history imagine the impact of being able to ‘walk into’ an old family photograph or video.”
David Bernstein, The Bernstein Agency(…)

From disaggregated education to scientific diets…

“The school day will disaggregate into a number of learning sessions, some at home, some in the neighborhood, some in pairs, some in larger groups, with different kinds of facilitators.”
JP Rangaswami, Salesforce.com

“When it comes to education, there will be an app for every child’s learning ability or disability… Children will be learning and tracking 24/7, while sharing their experience with selected-in peers and networks.”
Breanne Thomlison, BTx2 Communications

(…)“The big story here is continuous health monitoring… It will be much cheaper and more convenient to have that monitoring take place outside the hospital. You will be able to purchase health-monitoring systems just like you purchase home-security systems. Indeed, the home-security system will include health monitoring as a matter of course. Robotic and remote surgery will become commonplace.”
Hal Varian, chief economist, Google

From 3D-printed clothes to government disruption

“Wearing clothes that are tailor-made for you every day, 3D-printed at home, will also become normal, with the previous day’s clothes recycled efficiently”
JP Rangaswami, Salesforce.com

(…)“The global nature of connectivity could foster an integrated world economy, breaking down the importance of nations and governments. Foolish optimism, but perhaps we will even be able to make bureaucracy operate more effectively.”
Alison Alexander, Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication

(…)“New and more complex big data streams—images, sensor data, sound files, video, natural language—will continue to challenge us, however, as there is a limit to the ability of algorithms to account for human language and behavior. As a result, we’ll need to see dramatic advances in machine-learning capability. This will invest machines with a kind of sentience, although one far removed from the dystopian vision of a William Gibson.”
Susan Etlinger, Altimeter Group

You may agree with some or all of these. You may vehemently disagree. Please do put your views in the comments section.

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