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Thread: What does the future of computer science look like?

  1. #1 What does the future of computer science look like? 
    ...matter and pixie dust wegs's Avatar
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    I ran across a few articles the other day, relating to computer science. It got me mulling over some questions in my mind about the ‘future’of technology, and where computers might be heading. Thought I’d throw my questions out to the forum, and see if some of you have answers, or at the very least, think about these things, too. Questions: Is there a limit do you think to how much data can be stored on a hard drive? (overall capacity to hold data, I mean) Is there a limit to how fast computers can run? Will computers ever have the ability to ‘mirror’ the processing power of the human brain? (silly question? lol) What does the future look like for the computer chip? (how much data can we possibly cram at this point?) There has to be a limit, but how far away are we to that limit? Hmmm… Look forward to your thoughts.


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    If this is accurate (Memory storage density - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia) you can fit a very large amount of data in a very small space. 1 square inch is roughly the size of your thumbprint and 3 exabytes is (also according to Wikipedia) something like 20 times the data stored in all the printed material in the world. (That's ignoring all the stuff around the actual storage medium that you'd need to read it though.)

    The speed limit on processors is a more difficult question. On one hand, you have to move data around which is limited by the speed of light like everything else (and in fact electrons in metal don't move quite that fast). On the other hand, with multicore processors and parallel processing in general you can still get stuff done while data is being moved around. But it's no free lunch as making programs that take advantage of parallel processing has been largely unsuccessful outside of certain embarrassingly parallel tasks (and yes, that's a technical term).

    The basic trend in computing has been smaller and faster, and while there are UI issues with making interfaces too small, the chips and stuff that run those interfaces don't have to worry about that specific problem. There's also the growing issue of heat and heat dissipation (the cooling unit on my CPU dwarfs the CPU itself). Eventually someone will work out a good way to deal with that problem, maybe using room temperature super conductors if anyone ever discovers one of those (though there are other ways around the issue), though thermodynamics is against it ever going away entirely.

    As for the size limits of the computer chips themselves, we're already bumping up against those. They're getting small enough that electrons are starting to quantum tunnel between pathways degrading the performance of the chip. It's not at the theoretical limit just yet, but you at least need some way to get electrons or photons from one end of the chip to the other, though you could imagine getting that down to a single string of atoms.

    All of that doesn't change the basics of computing though. There are still problems (like the Travelling Salesman Problem) that will still take too long for any traditional computer. But then there's quantum computing. If it lives up to its promise it could radically change the kinds of things a computer can do in ways that are hard to predict the consequences of.


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    ▼▼ dn ʎɐʍ sıɥʇ ▼▼ RedPanda's Avatar
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    Lots of questions: I'll pick one: "Is there a limit do you think to how much data can be stored on a hard drive?"

    Solid state storage will probably get better and better.
    I remember the first memory stick I got; it was 128 MB and the size of a cigarette lighter.
    The current memory stick I have is 64 GB and is the size of the USB plug itself. (Here's a link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/SanDisk-64GB...=64+gb+sandisk)

    My PC also has a SSD.
    I expect SSD's to become the standard eventually - each generation of SSD being more "data dense".

    The problem with having more drive space is that we make up things that take up more drive space.
    For example, I have my entire CD collection on a hard-drive - but that only happened because large enough drives became available/affordable.
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    ...matter and pixie dust wegs's Avatar
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    Thank you for your replies -- I will come back when I'm not at work ...but one more question -- is there is a continuous security threat in terms of "malware?" It seems like there is a new "infection" I'm reading about every month ... Why isn't there anti-malware software available to capture all the viruses? These are machines not humans. (?) Ok, this is more of a mini rant...sorry. :/
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    I read an article some time ago where they were contemplating about future computer storage systems, someone mentioned the largest storage device is the human skin. It could be possible that genetic engineering will be able to tap into that area of biotechnology and produce storage devices on a micro level. Who knows?
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    Ok ... Here's some trivia for you all...What is the number one source of malicious software that infects our computers? Answer: Trojan Horses.
    Last edited by wegs; November 8th, 2013 at 02:37 PM.
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  8. #7  
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    Quote Originally Posted by MagiMaster View Post
    If this is accurate (Memory storage density - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia) you can fit a very large amount of data in a very small space. 1 square inch is roughly the size of your thumbprint and 3 exabytes is (also according to Wikipedia) something like 20 times the data stored in all the printed material in the world. (That's ignoring all the stuff around the actual storage medium that you'd need to read it though.)

    The speed limit on processors is a more difficult question. On one hand, you have to move data around which is limited by the speed of light like everything else (and in fact electrons in metal don't move quite that fast). On the other hand, with multicore processors and parallel processing in general you can still get stuff done while data is being moved around. But it's no free lunch as making programs that take advantage of parallel processing has been largely unsuccessful outside of certain embarrassingly parallel tasks (and yes, that's a technical term).

    The basic trend in computing has been smaller and faster, and while there are UI issues with making interfaces too small, the chips and stuff that run those interfaces don't have to worry about that specific problem. There's also the growing issue of heat and heat dissipation (the cooling unit on my CPU dwarfs the CPU itself). Eventually someone will work out a good way to deal with that problem, maybe using room temperature super conductors if anyone ever discovers one of those (though there are other ways around the issue), though thermodynamics is against it ever going away entirely.

    As for the size limits of the computer chips themselves, we're already bumping up against those. They're getting small enough that electrons are starting to quantum tunnel between pathways degrading the performance of the chip. It's not at the theoretical limit just yet, but you at least need some way to get electrons or photons from one end of the chip to the other, though you could imagine getting that down to a single string of atoms.

    All of that doesn't change the basics of computing though. There are still problems (like the Travelling Salesman Problem) that will still take too long for any traditional computer. But then there's quantum computing. If it lives up to its promise it could radically change the kinds of things a computer can do in ways that are hard to predict the consequences of.
    Thank you so much for this feedback. Particularly interesting from the link you provided is this: ''Effects on Performance:'' Increasing storage density of a medium almost always improves the transfer speed at which that medium can operate. This is most obvious when considering various disk-based media, where the storage elements are spread over the surface of the disk and must be physically rotated under the "head" in order to be read or written. Higher density means more data moves under the head for any given mechanical movement. So more space, quicker transfer speed. Didn't realize this.
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  9. #8  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stargate View Post
    I read an article some time ago where they were contemplating about future computer storage systems, someone mentioned the largest storage device is the human skin. It could be possible that genetic engineering will be able to tap into that area of biotechnology and produce storage devices on a micro level. Who knows?
    Eeek...that would be like a weird sci-fi movie.
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    The problem with malware (a more general category than viruses or trojan horses) is the same as the problem with real viruses. As soon as a defense is devise, the malware/viruses change to get around it. Any new piece of software, firmware or hardware offers a new chance for security issues.

    Skin-based storage sounds interesting (I wouldn't have to worry about misplacing my thumb drive ) but most likely impractical. Skin is shed fairly quickly and the cell under the skin (in the area where a tattoo would be, for example) are replaced in other ways. Embedded ICs are certainly possible though (RFID tags for patients and pets already exist) but the problem with those is that RFID is a really poor storage protocol mainly due to the limitation (and design point actually) that it's completely unpowered. (It gets all its power from the RFID reader waved over it.) There's no theoretical reasons I know of that would stop someone from eventually making something that could do the same job much better.

    That's all from the point of view of embedding something in our skin or our skin cells. Biocomputing, manipulating life processes and DNA to do computation, is certainly an interesting idea, and I know it's being researched seriously, but that's about all I know about it.
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    I'd say advancing Internet technologies/protocols, as well storage and processing power.

    The long-term vision of Internet protocols has to be IMO interplenatary. If comunication can ever be viable between Earth and Mars, or even Earth and the Moon, then this is has to be boon. In the short-term though, affordable and high-bandwidth WAN technologies should be the goal.
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    All the main storage/processing issues are limited by physics. I think the bigger issues are about industrial forces. For instance, how much of a role with the cloud play? Will things be centralized, or autonomous? As more infrastucture depends on the Internet, how will government step up its involvement in cyber security? These are the big open questions to me.

    What I foresee is an expansion of what I call "brick and mortar" software and services. Software will move down to a more fundamental individual level, helping with more directly survival related tasks. Google's showing in organizing efforts to reunite family members after Haiyan bodes well for their future, as do other modular technologies that assist people as tools in their daily struggles to survive and stay secure. The idea of "cyber life" as a replacement for real life with slowly begin to wane, with a return to reality and work, now cyber enhanced through tools.
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    In the future children, after a history lesson, will ask "What is a computer?" and their parents will be unable to answer. Today - unless you are in the construction industry - you do not see the rebar in the building, the sizing of the aggregate in the roadway foundations, the % of carbon in the steel framework. You barely see the building or the road. They are an invisible part of your environment you take for granted.

    In the future computers will be so embedded in almost everything we make that we will operate in a mix of a virtual/real world, in which the distinction between the two is meaningless.

    I think I shall coin a word for this: virtrality.
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  14. #13  
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    Quote Originally Posted by TridentBlue View Post
    All the main storage/processing issues are limited by physics. I think the bigger issues are about industrial forces. For instance, how much of a role with the cloud play? Will things be centralized, or autonomous? As more infrastucture depends on the Internet, how will government step up its involvement in cyber security? These are the big open questions to me.

    What I foresee is an expansion of what I call "brick and mortar" software and services. Software will move down to a more fundamental individual level, helping with more directly survival related tasks. Google's showing in organizing efforts to reunite family members after Haiyan bodes well for their future, as do other modular technologies that assist people as tools in their daily struggles to survive and stay secure. The idea of "cyber life" as a replacement for real life with slowly begin to wane, with a return to reality and work, now cyber enhanced through tools.
    This is a most fascinating post! I have thought of these same things, but hadnt given much thought to your 'brick and mortar' theory. THAT, is interesting, and you could be right. While it is curious to see how 'far' computers will go, in terms of creating an even more in depth virtual world...I lean in agreement with you, about the limits becoming something unexpected. Real reality replacing virtual reality. lol Awesome insight, thank you!
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  15. #14  
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    In the future children, after a history lesson, will ask "What is a computer?" and their parents will be unable to answer. Today - unless you are in the construction industry - you do not see the rebar in the building, the sizing of the aggregate in the roadway foundations, the % of carbon in the steel framework. You barely see the building or the road. They are an invisible part of your environment you take for granted.

    In the future computers will be so embedded in almost everything we make that we will operate in a mix of a virtual/real world, in which the distinction between the two is meaningless.

    I think I shall coin a word for this: virtrality.
    Excellent points, here. Do you think this is a positive trend we are heading towards, or do you see such an 'embedded' integration as becoming dangerous? (dangerous in terms of becoming co-dependent upon technology) I don't think we're there quite yet, but we're getting there.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MagiMaster View Post
    That's all from the point of view of embedding something in our skin or our skin cells. Biocomputing, manipulating life processes and DNA to do computation, is certainly an interesting idea, and I know it's being researched seriously, but that's about all I know about it.
    Interesting, yet potentially dangerous, and scary...all at the same time. I'm AGAINST integrating computers in this way. Do you see any dangers if this were to happen? Ethical problems?
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    Quote Originally Posted by wegs View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by MagiMaster View Post
    That's all from the point of view of embedding something in our skin or our skin cells. Biocomputing, manipulating life processes and DNA to do computation, is certainly an interesting idea, and I know it's being researched seriously, but that's about all I know about it.
    Interesting, yet potentially dangerous, and scary...all at the same time. I'm AGAINST integrating computers in this way. Do you see any dangers if this were to happen? Ethical problems?
    Who cares about ethics these days, money, money ,money, its so funny. Advancement is the name of the game.
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    Forum Radioactive Isotope MagiMaster's Avatar
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    We're already fairly dependent on technology. You might not think about it, but notice what happens every time there's a major power outage. Traffic lights, heating and air in less temperate areas, medical devices, and many other things rely on electricity and circuitry.

    But that's something we'll just have to deal with (by building appropriate safeguards and defenses). There's no going back. The Earth couldn't support 7 billion people without technology and the population will just keep growing.

    Ethics are something to consider, but look at stem cells. They're have been several medical advances made using stem cells, but because one method of collecting stem cells is slightly ethically questionable, lawmakers have shut the whole thing down. I'm not saying ethics aren't important, but they need to be one part of a larger cost-benefit analysis. Besides that, not everyone shares the same code of ethics, so unless you can get the UN in on it, stopping research in a field just means some other country will get ahead.

    As far as I know, no one is currently researching biocomputing within an existing organism (like a human). Most of the stuff I know about uses either bacteria, viruses or just a DNA soup. But like any other vaguely similar technologies, such integrated biocomputing would have to go through a large number of medical trials. As long as those trials are conducted impartially (i.e. no one is paying for certain results) it should be safe.

    BTW, the term for overlapping virtual reality with reality is augmented reality.
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    In 10 years the equivalent of the IPad will be at the dollar store for $3. I saw one documentary predicting that hand held computers will be 'everywhere' just like getting a grocery cart when entering a building, mall, etc. they will be left on benches like newspapers are left.

    I agree with a statement that technology will be embedded in everyday items rather than having a device called a 'computer'. Capacity.? All depends on physics. The big unknown is the feasibility of quantum computing. The jury is out. If possible on a practical basis then capacity increases trillions of times to insane proportions. Thinking machines will dwarf humans.
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    Future computers will have solid remote storage, multi multilevel data, tranfers in three dementions, supports for human systems and believe it or not will include replication and time travel. See star trek.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MagiMaster View Post
    BTW, the term for overlapping virtual reality with reality is augmented reality.
    Inefficient. And current augmented reality is but a shadow of the virtrality that is coming. (Are you trying to deprive me of my fifteen minutes of fame and entry in Wikipedia?)
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by MagiMaster View Post
    BTW, the term for overlapping virtual reality with reality is augmented reality.
    Inefficient. And current augmented reality is but a shadow of the virtrality that is coming. (Are you trying to deprive me of my fifteen minutes of fame and entry in Wikipedia?)
    hahaha you're already 'using' the word in a sentence.
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    Well, it's important to know what other people are calling it if you want to look up what's already been done.
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    In the future children, after a history lesson, will ask "What is a computer?" and their parents will be unable to answer. Today - unless you are in the construction industry - you do not see the rebar in the building, the sizing of the aggregate in the roadway foundations, the % of carbon in the steel framework. You barely see the building or the road. They are an invisible part of your environment you take for granted.

    In the future computers will be so embedded in almost everything we make that we will operate in a mix of a virtual/real world, in which the distinction between the two is meaningless.

    I think I shall coin a word for this: virtrality.
    As LBJ said in "Forrest Gump", "I'll be god-damned!"

    Any idea if "Virtrality" will manifest itself before the time my old carcass gets burned? joc
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    Quote Originally Posted by MagiMaster View Post
    BTW, the term for overlapping virtual reality with reality is augmented reality.
    So, REAL reality still remains in command, with "augmented" standing guard? jocular
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by MagiMaster View Post
    BTW, the term for overlapping virtual reality with reality is augmented reality.
    Inefficient. And current augmented reality is but a shadow of the virtrality that is coming. (Are you trying to deprive me of my fifteen minutes of fame and entry in Wikipedia?)
    Go nuts, commit a really lewd act, and your perpetuity in Wiki will be assured! joc
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    In the future children, after a history lesson, will ask "What is a computer?" and their parents will be unable to answer. Today - unless you are in the construction industry - you do not see the rebar in the building, the sizing of the aggregate in the roadway foundations, the % of carbon in the steel framework. You barely see the building or the road. They are an invisible part of your environment you take for granted.

    In the future computers will be so embedded in almost everything we make that we will operate in a mix of a virtual/real world, in which the distinction between the two is meaningless.

    I think I shall coin a word for this: virtrality.
    This is very true, hope the electricity stays on and cheap.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fossilborealis View Post
    In 10 years the equivalent of the IPad will be at the dollar store for $3. I saw one documentary predicting that hand held computers will be 'everywhere' just like getting a grocery cart when entering a building, mall, etc. they will be left on benches like newspapers are left.

    I agree with a statement that technology will be embedded in everyday items rather than having a device called a 'computer'. Capacity.? All depends on physics. The big unknown is the feasibility of quantum computing. The jury is out. If possible on a practical basis then capacity increases trillions of times to insane proportions. Thinking machines will dwarf humans.
    And paperbacks will probably still be around $7-20 a pop. :P
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    Quote Originally Posted by shlunka View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Fossilborealis View Post
    In 10 years the equivalent of the IPad will be at the dollar store for $3. I saw one documentary predicting that hand held computers will be 'everywhere' just like getting a grocery cart when entering a building, mall, etc. they will be left on benches like newspapers are left.

    I agree with a statement that technology will be embedded in everyday items rather than having a device called a 'computer'. Capacity.? All depends on physics. The big unknown is the feasibility of quantum computing. The jury is out. If possible on a practical basis then capacity increases trillions of times to insane proportions. Thinking machines will dwarf humans.
    And paperbacks will probably still be around $7-20 a pop. :P
    More like..."What's a paperback?"
    Fixin' shit that ain't broke.
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    One of the measures of a civilization is how much power an individual had access to. In the hunter-gatherer days, each person was basically limited to their own muscle power and maybe that of a friend. In the early days of agriculture, this jumped up to one or two ox-power. Then there were water wheels and windmills, etc. As technology advances more power is available to more people. The next big jump will be when we transition off fossil fuels, which I'd bet will be a bit after we get fusion working on an industrial scale. The price of electricity should drop in the long run, eventually it may even become free in parts of the world (although not likely in capitalist, anti-socialist countries).

    Books though will probably not go away. They have too much momentum. They may become a more niche item though with all books printed on demand, which will probably raise the price a bit.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MagiMaster View Post
    One of the measures of a civilization is how much power an individual had access to. In the hunter-gatherer days, each person was basically limited to their own muscle power and maybe that of a friend. In the early days of agriculture, this jumped up to one or two ox-power. Then there were water wheels and windmills, etc. As technology advances more power is available to more people. The next big jump will be when we transition off fossil fuels, which I'd bet will be a bit after we get fusion working on an industrial scale. The price of electricity should drop in the long run, eventually it may even become free in parts of the world (although not likely in capitalist, anti-socialist countries).

    Books though will probably not go away. They have too much momentum. They may become a more niche item though with all books printed on demand, which will probably raise the price a bit.
    Good points...just to piggy back onto what you're saying here...wind power is a very lucrative and viable renewable energy source, albeit trickier in terms of harnessing it. I don't see electricity ever becoming a free resource, and I don't see us ever transitioning off of fossil fuels.
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    There's almost no possibility of us not getting off fossil fuels as they'll run out eventually. It might take a while if we're careful with them though.

    I agree that free electricity is unlikely in most countries, but consider roads. They're fairly similar to the electric grid in many ways, but most of them are free to use, so it's not impossible.

    Wind power is nice, but I don't think it'll be possible to use it exclusively. It just doesn't generate enough energy per acre. (There's a limit to what can be harvested.) But it's also good to have a mix of sources to balance out fluctuations, so it's probably not going to go away either.
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    Quote Originally Posted by wegs View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by TridentBlue View Post
    All the main storage/processing issues are limited by physics. I think the bigger issues are about industrial forces. For instance, how much of a role with the cloud play? Will things be centralized, or autonomous? As more infrastucture depends on the Internet, how will government step up its involvement in cyber security? These are the big open questions to me.

    What I foresee is an expansion of what I call "brick and mortar" software and services. Software will move down to a more fundamental individual level, helping with more directly survival related tasks. Google's showing in organizing efforts to reunite family members after Haiyan bodes well for their future, as do other modular technologies that assist people as tools in their daily struggles to survive and stay secure. The idea of "cyber life" as a replacement for real life with slowly begin to wane, with a return to reality and work, now cyber enhanced through tools.
    This is a most fascinating post! I have thought of these same things, but hadnt given much thought to your 'brick and mortar' theory. THAT, is interesting, and you could be right. While it is curious to see how 'far' computers will go, in terms of creating an even more in depth virtual world...I lean in agreement with you, about the limits becoming something unexpected. Real reality replacing virtual reality. lol Awesome insight, thank you!

    I'm glad you liked my post. I think in a lot of ways, this process has begun in a key way with the slow advancement of 3D printing, and the ability to scan 3D objects in. Just this weekend, I was looking for a car part (casing for side view mirror) that I realized could be printed easily, but instead I have to pay $50. The time is coming soon when I can scan my broken one, fix it in the computer program, and reprint it out. Once it soaks in that people can do this sort of stuff, it will be very popular. The tech is just not quite there yet, but coming soon.
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  34. #33  
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    Quote Originally Posted by TridentBlue View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by wegs View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by TridentBlue View Post
    All the main storage/processing issues are limited by physics. I think the bigger issues are about industrial forces. For instance, how much of a role with the cloud play? Will things be centralized, or autonomous? As more infrastucture depends on the Internet, how will government step up its involvement in cyber security? These are the big open questions to me.

    What I foresee is an expansion of what I call "brick and mortar" software and services. Software will move down to a more fundamental individual level, helping with more directly survival related tasks. Google's showing in organizing efforts to reunite family members after Haiyan bodes well for their future, as do other modular technologies that assist people as tools in their daily struggles to survive and stay secure. The idea of "cyber life" as a replacement for real life with slowly begin to wane, with a return to reality and work, now cyber enhanced through tools.
    This is a most fascinating post! I have thought of these same things, but hadnt given much thought to your 'brick and mortar' theory. THAT, is interesting, and you could be right. While it is curious to see how 'far' computers will go, in terms of creating an even more in depth virtual world...I lean in agreement with you, about the limits becoming something unexpected. Real reality replacing virtual reality. lol Awesome insight, thank you!

    I'm glad you liked my post. I think in a lot of ways, this process has begun in a key way with the slow advancement of 3D printing, and the ability to scan 3D objects in. Just this weekend, I was looking for a car part (casing for side view mirror) that I realized could be printed easily, but instead I have to pay $50. The time is coming soon when I can scan my broken one, fix it in the computer program, and reprint it out. Once it soaks in that people can do this sort of stuff, it will be very popular. The tech is just not quite there yet, but coming soon.
    Wow, this would be awesome in a number of way if technology leads to progress like you suggest here. For every step we take though with technology, I often wonder if that is a job lost for others. I have misgivings about it all.
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    It's a complete waste of time and effort to worry about such things. Every new technology destroys some jobs and also creates others. Just look at history for a number of good examples (like the cotton gin or the assembly line). If you have a job that might become obsolete soon, you can either protest the change (which has never worked long term) or you can adapt by either transferring your skills to another job (possibly one created by the new technology) or by becoming a doing-it-old-school craftsman (if that makes sense for your job).

    3D printers are definitely going to change the way we do things, and yes, they'll probably make a few jobs obsolete eventually.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MagiMaster View Post
    One of the measures of a civilization is how much power an individual had access to. In the hunter-gatherer days, each person was basically limited to their own muscle power and maybe that of a friend. In the early days of agriculture, this jumped up to one or two ox-power. Then there were water wheels and windmills, etc. As technology advances more power is available to more people. The next big jump will be when we transition off fossil fuels, which I'd bet will be a bit after we get fusion working on an industrial scale. The price of electricity should drop in the long run, eventually it may even become free in parts of the world (although not likely in capitalist, anti-socialist countries).Books though will probably not go away. They have too much momentum. They may become a more niche item though with all books printed on demand, which will probably raise the price a bit.
    Depends on what is 'a book'. Our paleo department hasn't purchased a book or subscribed to a hard copy journal in a couple of years. Everything is digital format on line.Novels...the days of paper are numbered. They will be printed on demand but physical printing will be a thing of the past for kids starting school today. As for cost...way cheaper than off the shelf books in china and most of the world. Printing on demand is only more expensive in western nations.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MagiMaster View Post
    It's a complete waste of time and effort to worry about such things. Every new technology destroys some jobs and also creates others. Just look at history for a number of good examples (like the cotton gin or the assembly line). If you have a job that might become obsolete soon, you can either protest the change (which has never worked long term) or you can adapt by either transferring your skills to another job (possibly one created by the new technology) or by becoming a doing-it-old-school craftsman (if that makes sense for your job). 3D printers are definitely going to change the way we do things, and yes, they'll probably make a few jobs obsolete eventually.
    Its a really interesting thing to think about. Auto parts are a good example. There are some you can safely print, but others have very specific strength and heat requirements, and many must be metal. Very specialised requirements for certain things would lead to outsourcing to specialized printing shops. So would Autozone go away? No, but they would probably have on sight printers, and connections to local print shops. There's just no way for consumer printer to print everything. The main change is no waiting to order parts from some distant factory.
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    You can print metal now. It's just that it requires either a research/industrial-grade printer or a sintering furnace to finish it (check out Shapeways). There's no theoretical reasons why those processes couldn't be refined, simplified and made safe enough for a consumer grade printer. I'm not really sure many people would want to print auto parts though for the same reasons many people don't change their own oil, but yeah, a printer at the garage would make sense.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MagiMaster View Post
    You can print metal now. It's just that it requires either a research/industrial-grade printer or a sintering furnace to finish it (check out Shapeways). There's no theoretical reasons why those processes couldn't be refined, simplified and made safe enough for a consumer grade printer. I'm not really sure many people would want to print auto parts though for the same reasons many people don't change their own oil, but yeah, a printer at the garage would make sense.
    I think it would be fun to print auto parts. Think of the difference between the 60s, where only a few specialized computers existed and their programmers were even rarer, to the present when any one can program anything on their own. This does the same thing to mechanical engineering. Want a more ecological or faster ride? Download the schematics online, modified them as needed (if you have the skills) and print them at the auto shop. Wanna build a go-kart for the kids? Same process, mod it out on the computer for an educational engineering experience for the kids.

    But as far as your point, consumer metal printers may be possible, but there are political forces working against it related to the ease with which individuals can produce automatic weapons. I expect an politico/economic response that ensures metal stuff printed in registered stores is just cheaper. But we shall see. Also, I heard efficiency was low at present with it, but it could improve a lot. We shall see my hopes are high.
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    Urbee 2, the 3D-Printed Car That Will Drive Across the Country - Popular Mechanics
    I think they mostly just print the body, but it's still interesting. It'll probably be a long time before a 3D printer can make metal parts to the accuracy required by engine pistons and cylinders without further machining.

    ATF Tests 3D-Printed Guns, Finds They Go "Bang" - Hit & Run : Reason.com
    3D printed guns are a thing too, but that's not going to stop 3D printers. Besides, the US loves its guns and the NRA basically writes their own gun laws, so I wouldn't bet on any major response to a new way of getting them, at least not in the US. Still, economies of scale would make store-printed parts cheaper any way. (Printing large batches of similar, or even dissimilar, parts reduces time and waste.)
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    Some random thoughts in no prticular order:

    Hard drives: will disappear. IMO all memory storage that relies on physical moving parts will be made obsolete by solid state storage of some sort. Floppy disks and tape drives are mostly museum pieces, optical disks are declining, hard drives will follow. It happens that I just ordered a new desktop computer a couple of days ago... with a bootable SSD and no hard drive.

    The printed word: will probably not disappear, but may become a technology restricted to the intelligentsia. I predict print will be largely replaced by interactive video. Literacy will decline.

    Humans: are in serious danger of becoming obsolete. I have long said I expect to talk to a computer smarter than I am within my lifetime. I see no reason to change that opinion. When computers become smarter than we are, what incentive will they have to keep us around?
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    I think most people still refer to solid state drives as hard drives, but yeah, the magnetic plate drives will probably go the way of floppy disks eventually. I doubt SSDs will be the only form of storage though for the same reason we don't give up our CDs for just hard drives. There seems to be at least three, maybe four, distinct use cases for storage exemplified by hard drives, CDs and thumb drives (you might include cloud storage in that list), so while SSDs will likely replace hard drives, something else will have to replace the others.

    Literacy is in no danger. Nearly all of the information on the internet, this post for example, is written. In many cases, videos are no substitute for words. And there's plenty of people that don't want to plaster their face or voice all over the internet.

    And I think you have that last point a bit backwards. After all, we don't get rid of our parents just because we're smarter/stronger/healthier/etc. than them. If computers become smart enough to replace us, they'll just leave it to happen naturally. There's no point in getting rid of us unless it becomes a case of self defense. A more likely scenario is that the line between the two will fade over time.
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    Future computers, printing is still in the hot glue dispenser stages, cnc machining is cool, AI and robotics are making progress, solid storage devices on a nanoscale,its getting there. For the future of computers, I see star trek style computers. Computers that do everything. For the future I don't see them as a detriment at all, I see them as a utility, like a kitchen appliance or something. That stupid show star trek has a lot of future reality in it that has proven out.
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    ...matter and pixie dust wegs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TridentBlue View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by MagiMaster View Post
    It's a complete waste of time and effort to worry about such things. Every new technology destroys some jobs and also creates others. Just look at history for a number of good examples (like the cotton gin or the assembly line). If you have a job that might become obsolete soon, you can either protest the change (which has never worked long term) or you can adapt by either transferring your skills to another job (possibly one created by the new technology) or by becoming a doing-it-old-school craftsman (if that makes sense for your job). 3D printers are definitely going to change the way we do things, and yes, they'll probably make a few jobs obsolete eventually.
    Its a really interesting thing to think about. Auto parts are a good example. There are some you can safely print, but others have very specific strength and heat requirements, and many must be metal. Very specialised requirements for certain things would lead to outsourcing to specialized printing shops. So would Autozone go away? No, but they would probably have on sight printers, and connections to local print shops. There's just no way for consumer printer to print everything. The main change is no waiting to order parts from some distant factory.
    *giggle* Come on...printing auto parts? What are you saying? That sounds unfathomable.
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    Quote Originally Posted by danhanegan View Post
    Some random thoughts in no prticular order:

    Hard drives: will disappear. IMO all memory storage that relies on physical moving parts will be made obsolete by solid state storage of some sort. Floppy disks and tape drives are mostly museum pieces, optical disks are declining, hard drives will follow. It happens that I just ordered a new desktop computer a couple of days ago... with a bootable SSD and no hard drive.

    The printed word: will probably not disappear, but may become a technology restricted to the intelligentsia. I predict print will be largely replaced by interactive video. Literacy will decline.

    Humans: are in serious danger of becoming obsolete. I have long said I expect to talk to a computer smarter than I am within my lifetime. I see no reason to change that opinion. When computers become smarter than we are, what incentive will they have to keep us around?
    It's funny you mention this about humans becoming obsolete. I have fleeting thoughts of that when I stop to ponder where technology is taking us, but...it's one of those things, where things tend to come full circle. We can't be replaced by machines. Machines need us, more than we need them, honestly. Historically, we survived just fine without machines. In some ways, machines have complicated our lives, more than aided them. We simply adore our phones, but we have lost a desire for face to face/verbal communication, and that personalized 'touch.' We shop for nearly everything online, including people (dates)...but we have lost that sense of emotional connection. I don't think these are positives, but rather they became inevitable drawbacks, relating to the advancements of technology. There is a price to pay for every technological advancement that comes our way. I love technology, but I also fear it in some ways. I don't see humans becoming obsolete, therefore...but, that things may swerve in that direction, before the tide turns back to balance. Balance is key. Regarding hard drives...really? They will disappear? That's wild that you think that. You say memory will be stored in a 'solid state storage' of some sort...can you give us your best proposal as to what you envision that to be? Thx for your repy, it's cool to see how others view the wave of the future, as it relates to technology. (scary too lol)
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    I believe the earth is becoming a digital world
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