Aeroplanes will be too afraid to crash, yogurts will wish you good morning beforebeing eaten and human consciousness will be stored on supercomputers, promisingimmortality for all. These fantastic claims are not made by a science fiction writer or acrystal ball-gazing lunatic. They are the deadly earnest predictions of Ian Pearson, head ofthe futurology unit at BT.
“If you draw the timelines, realistically by 2050 we would expect to be able todownload your mind into a machine, so when you die it’s not a major career problem,”
Pearson told The Observer. “If you’re rich enough then by 2050 it’s feasible. If you’re pooryou’ll probably have to wait until 2075 or 2080 when it’s routine. We are very serious aboutit. That’s how fast this technology is moving: 45 years is a hell of a long time in IT.”
The world’s fastest computer, IBM’s BlueGene, can perform 70.72 trillion calculationsper second and is accelerating all the time. But anyone who believes in the uniqueness ofconsciousness or the soul will find Pearson’s next suggestion hard to swallow. “We’realready looking at how you might structure a computer that could possibly becomeconscious. There are quite a lot of us now who believe it’s entirely feasible.”
In the shorter term, Pearson identifies the next phase of progress as “ambientintelligence”: chips with everything. He explained: “For example, if you have a pollencount sensor in your car you take some antihistamine before you get out. Chips will comesmall enough that you can start impregnating them into the skin. We’re talking about videotattoos as very, very thin sheets of polymer that you just literally stick on to the skin andthey stay there for several days. You could even build in cellphones and connect it to thenetwork, use it as a video phone and download videos or receive emails.”
The next age, he predicts, will be that of “simplicity” in around 2013-2015. This iswhere the IT has actually become mature enough that people will be able to drive it withouthaving to go on a training course. “Forget this notion that you have to have one single chipin the computer which does everything. Why not just get a stack of little self-organizingchips in a box and they’ll hook up and do it themselves. It won’t be able to get any virusesbecause most of the operating system will be stored in hardware which the hackers can’twrite to. If your machine starts going wrong, you just push a button and it’s reset to thefactory setting.”
Pearson’s third age is “virtual worlds” in around 2020. “We will spend a lot of time invirtual space, using high quality, 3D, immersive, computer generated environments tosocialize and do business in. When technology gives you a life-size 3D image and the linksto your nervous system allow you to shake hands, it’s like being in the other person’s office.
It’s impossible to believe that won’t be the normal way of communicating.”
39. A rollable display which can be wrapped around the arm is likely to appear in thephase of ______.
A. ambient intelligence
C. virtual worlds
D. conscious computers