UseableArt : Information + Design

Cyber Shock [theory]

It’s been over forty years since Alvin Toffler’s seminal work Future Shock, and its safe to say he was correct about a great many things. But we are living in his future, we’ve been shocked, we’ve acclimated ourselves… But unfortunately we’re in for another awakening, what I call Cyber Shock.

Future Shock

Sure the Web’s been around so long as to become ubiquitous. Sure we all consider ourselves web-savvy gurus. But in an age dominated and defined by information, and by inadequate tools to collate and deliver all that data, we are in for a rude awakening. That same freedom Toffler describes, that he was so wary of, is ready to consume us.

A decade ago, a friend in the intelligence business described the problem of sifting through the reams of data they collect as something akin to drinking from a fire hose. That was ten years ago. Today, the same volume of information is a civilian problem. We are bombarded with more and more useful and useless information every day, and we have already reached our threshold. Here are eight solutions looming on the horizon, and far stranger ones than anything Toffler could have imagined.

Cybernetic Implants
Chips, data plugs embedded in your skin, and optical implants, already in development, will provide built-in data feeds on everything from today’s traffic report to text messages and email.

Quantum Computers and Artificial Intelligence
In a decade or so, your laptop will have the computing power of a human brain, and software will much more effectively learn your browsing habits and preferences. If you prefer the old-fashioned laptop or tablet approach, they’ll handle the filtering for you.

Personal Data Assistants
And I’m not talking about a PalmPilot either. The Rhoomba’s larger cousins are poised to take over our homes, hopefully in a friendly way, not only doing our choice but helping us to prioritize our information and our lives.

Speech and Thought Recognition
With applications like Dragon coming into their own, lazy people no longer have to type. Next step? Implants that will read your thoughts the way Dragon interprets your vocal patterns. But there’s more to it than that. The pace of modern society demands tools like these that speed processes along and, sad to say, unless you’re a court stenographer, we just can’t type or write as fast as we can see, hear, and think.

Virtual Reality
And though SecondLife is leading the way in terms of practical applications, we’re not talking about the chunky, clunky unnatural movements, meetings, and other interactions that take place therein. As computing power and 3D rendering and animation technology advances, one day soon you’ll do everything from your shopping to your daycare and business in a digital reality indistinguishable from real life. Cost efficient, and you never have to leave your desk chair. Though you might have to invest in an AbRoller…

Intelligent Filtering Software
The NSA and other agencies and institutions have been using this stuff for years. Word filters, biometric recognition systems… All these things and more will be integrated into our reality, first through mobile devices like tablets, laptops, and smart phones, then directly integrated into our bodies, simplifying the recognition process in the sea of data with which we already contend.

Intermediate Bridging Technologies
Sure, the leap from good old human brain to chipped synapses is a big one. And additional processors and storage devices embedded in the brain? Even when the technology is ready and necessary, it is not in our nature to be an early adopter of such radical technology. An iPhone is one thing… a computer in your head is another. Intermediate technologies will be necessary. “Chipping in” to your call phone or laptop, for example, will allow our comfort levels to grow until we accept our new reality.

Medical Monitoring
Think a computer in your head is scary? What about surgically implanted technologies that monitor your health and report directly to your Doctor, employer, and insurance company? And having all that information stored in a database? No more lying to medical professionals or thieving insurers about how many cigarettes you smoke, how many gin and tonics you enjoy each work, sexual activity… You name it, they’ll know it. Benefit or curse? You be the judge.

Just a taste of things to come, folks, just a taste. More on this later.

Andrew Wallerstein’s Personal Website

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This entry was published on August 18, 2011 at 10:24 am and is filed under andrew wallerstein, artist, business, communications, graphic design, industrial design, infographics, information design, interface design, interior design, ipad, iphone, ipod, mixed media, virtual reality, visual futurist, visualization. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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