RE: A Future Timeline from Interactive Week

Billy Brown (
Tue, 27 Apr 1999 11:14:48 -0500 wrote:
> Speaking of future timelines and scenario building, we had a discussion
> about a year ago on general scenario-building that resulted in my
> of a timeline stretching from 2000 to 2015. You can find it at:
> I have rechecked it from time to time and, while it is of course still
> early, I'm still pretty happy with what we came up with.

I notice that your predictions of computer speed and storage density are noticeably below what an extrapolation of current trends would predict (i.e. you have a doubling time of ~2 years, rather than the observed 1 - 1.5). Is this deliberate?

I also see a few points to quibble with:
> circa 2005
> 50 Gbt hard drives common, being replaced with completely solid state

Solid state devices are improving, but not any faster than hard drives. I don't see desktop machines switching to solid-state unless hard drives stop improving so fast, and that doesn't seem likely to happen so soon. People will only trade their 50 GB disk for a 1 GB persistent RAM device in a few niche markets, like PDAs and wearables.

> coding of most applications automated

If you mean using code generators to do some of the grunt work, sure (I'm doing some work on that myself). But figuring out how to write a novel program is a process of invention that can't be reduced to algorithms of any reasonable complexity. A general-purpose code writing program is thus only slightly simpler than a sentient AI, which makes this an extremely optimistic projection. I'd guess more like 2015-2020.

> first cell-phone implants

Wouldn't this have to go through FDA product-safety testing? If so, add about 10 years.

> return of "oil shocks" as third world hydrocarbon consumption skyrockets

Our current oil reserves are so large that even very strong consumption growth won't send prices up all that much. Finding and exploiting new fields is a much cheaper, faster process than it used to be, and we can't possibly exhaust our total supply in this time frame. At worst, we might face shortages several decades in the future.

> a few "intelligent freeways" begin operation in major urban areas

God, I hope not. Can you imagine what will happen the first time there is a system crash? Instead of a small, human-error accident every few days, you get a huge, photogenic, machine-caused disaster every few years. Even if the overall mortality rate is lower, the public won't go for it.

> circa 2005 - 2015
> The AI Revolution arrives: Toward the end of this period autonomous agents
> become important economic actors, treated as human agents are now in law
> business

If you mean sentient AI this seems a little optimistic (I'd bet on 2015-2025), but not hopelessly so. However, IMO non-sentient AI will be both more common and more important than human-level sentient agents. It is also easier to do - it is far simpler to duplicate a single cognitive ability than an entire mind.

Billy Brown, MCSE+I