Predictions for the Future
by Waitsel Smith
Everyone is wondering what is going to happen in both the near and distant futures. The prophets of doom are everywhere, and they're selling their books, CDs and online classes by the truckloads. I'm no Nostradamus; but I do believe I have a pretty good handle on where things are going, based on history and observing our planet over the past 50 years. Care to hear my predictions?
This one is a no-brainer. I've heard the age we're living in called a lot of things, but I don't see how it could be called anything other than the Information Age. The Industrial Age, which we just left, was about the invention of machines that caused a boom in industry, thus creating the Industrial Revolution. Our own age is about the invention of the Internet, which has caused a boom in information, thus creating the Information Revolution. So, to be consistent, our age is the Information Age.
In 1990, when the World Wide Web was launched, we officially, though not practically, left the Industrial Age and all its trappings and entered an entirely new age. What that means is that everything that was part of that previous age is going away and something entirely new is going to take its place. (So, why bemoan the fact that our manufacturing has gone overseas? It was inevitable.) Let me give you a few examples of how things are going to change.
Transportation and the Age of Speed
In the Pre-Industrial Age (i.e., the period before 1750), we had an agrarian society in which people travelled by horse, horse-drawn carriage, stagecoach, etc. In other words, the horse was the primary means of power. With the Industrial Age, the horse was replaced by the motor, thus making possible the Iron Horse or steam engine, the horseless carriage or automobile, the airplane, the turbine engine, and a host of other motor-driven contraptions. (It's interesting that the power of a motor is still measured in horsepower.) Now we're in the Information Age. What would you guess is going to be our means of power and the resultant mode of transportation?
If you say the electric car, I'll scream. That might be the answer if we were still living in the Industrial Age. But we're not. We're in the Information Age. So what would make sense for this age? It has to be something that is information-driven. We now have GPS installed in most vehicles, but that is just the beginning. Where will things go from here? I'm inclined to think we'll see cars that drive themselves. You type in where you want to go and the system takes you there. In other words, if information can't do the work for us, what good is it? As far as transportation, that means taking you to where you want to go.
[Since I wrote this, I've discovered that self-driving cars, or "autonomous cars," have already been invented, have passed a 1,000 mile test, have been priced at around $100,000, and are due to be introduced to the highways of California in 2013! They work with sensors: the car is able to tell if there is an object in front of it, or approaching it from any direction, and avoid it. Pretty amazing. For more, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autonomous_car and http://www.foxnews.com/leisure/2011/10/20/google-unveils-driverless-car-tech/]
Right now, there is a lot of focus on changing from a fossil-fuel system to something else. That makes sense. Fossil fuels were a product of the Industrial Age. Now we need something else. But electricity was also a product of the Industrial Age. So I don't think electric cars are the answer. Something else is coming - something bigger and better - something faster. Ultimately, someone is going to invent a new way of travel that is going to make cars seem antiquated - just as antiquated as the automobile made the horse-and-buggy. But before that happens, I think we will see cars that drive themselves.
Here's one reason I think a new mode of transportation that doesn't involve cars is coming. Think of how illogical cars are. It doesn't make sense - not in our present age - for people to get into their individual cars each day, drive out to the highway and sit in traffic for an hour. It is a huge waste of time and energy. It would make far more sense if they could enter some type of transport device, similar to what Captain Kirk and his crew used on Star Trek, and instantly transfer themselves from their homes to their places of business.
There are three types of objects in the world: people, places and things. The Industrial Age answered our desire to connect with things by mass producing everything from toothbrushes to houses, so that things became really inexpensive, making it possible for almost anybody to have almost anything they wanted, and have it almost instantaneously - given they were living in an industrialized nation rather than in the middle of a jungle.
The Information Age is answering our desire to connect with people, so that it is possible to have a video conference with people in different parts of the world in the morning; send a personalized message to hundreds of thousands of people in the afternoon; and, later that evening, find a mate on an online dating service, and all pretty much instantaneously. We're just a little over twenty years into this. What are we going to be doing twenty years from now? Ironically, our ability to connect with people virtually is undermining our relationships in the real world. (For more on that, see my article on Technology Meltdown.)
The only object left is places. We have yet to figure out how to connect with places instantaneously. You cannot connect with a place vicariously - you have to be there. That involves transportation. So the question becomes, how can we transport ourselves from one place to another instantaneously, or near instantaneously? That, I believe, is the problem we will be working on in the years ahead, the solution of which will eliminate the need for cars and usher in the age that will replace this one: the Age of Speed.
It's hard to imagine how electric cars fit into the Age of Information. I don't think they do. No, there is something else coming, something really, really fast. We have seen the power of rocket ships and jet engines. We have taken a room-size computer and put it into a chip small enough for an individual to carry around in a briefcase, phone or other device. Why not the ability to travel at the speed of light? Einstein has already come up with the theory. It only remains for someone to apply it practically. I think it's coming.
For you skeptics who think that's too far-fetched, consider this: Right now, the space program is dead. Almost all funding has been pulled. The reason it's dead is because we have gone as far as we can - or at least as far as we can afford to go - with the technology of the Industrial Age. It's time to tap into the technology of the Information Age. Without the ability to travel at the speed of light, I seriously doubt if the space program will be resurrected. At the same time, I cannot imagine the 21st century without space travel, can you? So something is going to have to happen. And when it does, it is only a matter of time before it is offered to individuals for personal use. And when that happens, a new age will dawn: the Age of Speed. Or, if you prefer, the Age of Light.
[I don't believe the recent privatization of the space program negates what I'm saying; and, as a matter of fact, may very well bring about the changes I'm suggesting.]
The Industrial Age dealt with the hands of man, making them more effective at producing things. The Information Age is focused on the mind of man, making him more effective at connecting with other people. What would you guess the next age will deal with? The soul of man? His spirit? Maybe that will lay the groundwork for what the Bible describes in the book of Revelation as the final days. At any rate, I think speed and light will be involved.
I've made my living at Advertising for the past fifteen years. Advertising is a product of the Industrial Age. Before that, almost all communications were done by word-of-mouth. Advertising came about because, with all the products being produced in factories, someone had to sell them… en masse. And that meant advertising… which led to newspapers, which led to mass communications, which led to mass media.
So, is advertising passe in the Information Age? I think so... at least as we know it. I have a friend who runs an advertising school, and he tells me that people don't even want to use the word "advertising" anymore because it has a negative connotation on social media sites. Well, there you have it. If it doesn't fly on social media, it's not going to fly. There is nothing more out of place than to be discussing something on a social media site and have an advertising message suddenly dropped into the middle of the conversation. As a matter of fact, I believe ads are starting to look out of place all across the web. They are anti-social and non-relational. It is very disturbing to be reading something on a web site and have a pop-up window appear advertising some totally unrelated product. Advertisers are going to have to catch on and change their ways or they are going to be left in the dust.
What's the future of social media? I think it is the way of the future, but not in the form it exists today. Right now, you have to sift through a lot of garbage to find the gems on social media sites. In the future, it is going to be a lot easier, more targeted, and, I believe, a lot more interesting.
There is no mystery to social media. I hear people asking questions like, "How can I learn to be successful at social media?" Type… and have something relevant to say. It's that simple. Social media is nothing more than word-of-mouth in a social context on the Internet. Because it is social, you have to be nice, and because it is the Internet, you have to type - until social media becomes more interactive and better equipped to handle video conferencing and other forms of communication. But Skype, a way to do video calls on the Internet, can be used as a social medium, and it has been around for years.
Above: These black-and-white patterns are the QR codes for five of my web sites. If you have a QR scanner app on your smartphone, you should be able to scan them and bring up the respective sites on your phone. Move the scanner around until it has zeroed in on one of the five patterns. It will beep when it has captured the code.
Don't feel that you have to jump on the Facebook bandwagon to do social media. (As a matter of fact, I got kicked off Facebook. To read about it, go to Why I Don't Trust Facebook - and Got Kicked Off!.) Facebook is just the tip of the iceberg. If you post a review on Amazon.com or one of the movie sites out there, you're doing social media. A blog is a social medium. Blogs are the new magazines, and everyone, it seems, has become a publisher. All you need to publish a blog is to have something to say or something to share. A forum is a social medium. Think of blogs, forums, marketplaces and such on the Internet as the modern-day versions of coffeehouses, pubs, shops and town squares of the past - all places where people gathered to be social.
Just to be clear: to be included in "social media," a medium has to allow a two- or multi-way conversation to go on, in which others can listen in. With traditional media, the communication is one-way. That's the difference. I would also include that the medium is probably going to use the Internet as its source of information, though I don't see why it should be limited to it. To be "social," all it has to do is allow for the possibility of other parties joining in.
Social media does not negate the importance of having a web site. Web sites are still just as necessary as ever. But people using the Web are going to have to learn to supplement their Internet marketing with more traditional approaches. Traditional media still have better response rates than social and other new media. Just because I think advertising is on the way out does not mean I think all media other than those that use the Internet are doomed - yet.
Just as there are still horses, there will always be cars; and just as there are still people gathering in coffee shops and pubs to swap the latest gossip, there will always be newspapers, television, radio and other traditional media. But…
They're on the way out, for the most part. Newspapers are all but museum pieces now. They're going out of business almost as fast as banks. The papers themselves are shrinking in size in all directions. I'm guessing Benjamin Franklin is spinning in his grave to see what his beloved newspaper has become. But I think he would enjoy some of the new media taking its place. The future of newspapers lies in the tablet, I think. If people can wake up in the morning and find a newspaper waiting for them on their iPad, Nook, Kindle or whatever tablet they're using for reading, then that would make sense. But the paper newspaper is out.
In the future, people are going to be sitting in their homes watching the Internet, not television. You can already download movies from the Internet. Oh, people may still call it television. But, technically, it will be the Internet. The only problem I see with this is if the Internet has a bandwidth issue. We are already seeing restrictions being placed on ISPs that use a lot of video, and it's only going to get worse. I'm starting to see gaps in my service during the busiest times. If there is a limit to how much traffic the Internet can handle, then there may be a place for traditional television, or a combination of the two. But the Internet will definitely dominate.
I don't know what to say about radio. It has become such a despicable medium. It used to have some admirable qualities, when it carried live shows, back in my parents' day. Or, in my day, if you were taking a long trip, it gave you something pleasant and soothing to listen to. But as it exists today, with back-to-back, poorly written commercials and belligerent talk radio tripe, it is little more than noise. Let's give it back to the Indians or the Boy Scouts or wherever it came from. We have been poor stewards of it. Except for weather reports and other emergency uses, I don't see a future for it. Let it go the way of the telegraph.
[Since I wrote this, I've had a change of heart. I've begun listening to NPR (National Public Radio) every day, and there are actually some good programs on there, especially the news. But NPR is hanging by a thin thread right now, financially, and who knows what will become of it in the future. I do believe there is a place for good reporting, which NPR has, but which most of their commercial counterparts lack. If we lose that, the public will become even more benighted than it already is.]
Movies are interesting because, if one thing is transitioning successfully into the Information Age, it's movies. I think that is due in part to their digitization; in part to the fact that about half of what we see in movies today was created on a computer; and in part to their universal and enduring appeal. Movies are the perfect medium for the Internet. So are phones, obviously. As a matter of fact, any screen can carry the content of the Internet.
Where's It All Going?
Where is the stream of information carried by the Internet taking us?
Well, I said I thought there would be a big focus on transportation in the years ahead, as we attempt to find something to replace the fossil-fueled car; and that it's not going to be the electric car. So, how does man ultimately use all that he discovers and invents?
You guessed it: war. (I hope you're not surprised by that answer, because it certainly isn't original.)
We saw the greatest industrialized war with World War II. It made the Civil War, which was a very bloody one, look like a feud between the Hatfields and McCoys. Never have more men and more machines been so orchestrated to produce more destructive power. The 20th Century is known as the bloodiest of all centuries. More people died violently in the 1900s than the rest of history put together. Well, welcome to the 21st Century, sure to be even bloodier. This ability to connect with people instantaneously is only going to make it easier for generals to conduct their wars globally and by long distance. So, what is going to happen once mankind learns to travel faster?
One of two things: either the global nature of war will be taken to the next level, which can only lead to the near annihilation of the planet; or, mankind will realize the logical end of such madness and outlaw war entirely; in which case mankind will become slaves to a one-world government responsible for preserving the planet. And because mankind will no longer have the ability to overthrow tyrannical governments, tyranny will reign.
Right now, geography is a natural barrier separating nations, and even making it difficult for large, gangly nations like China to govern themselves. But once the transportation problem has been solved, those barriers will be removed. Then China will be a nation to be reckoned with. Can you imagine what it would be like if China could transport tens of millions of people almost instantaneously to other parts of the world? It would mean that Alex Raymond, creator of the comic book hero, Flash Gordon, wasn't totally full of hooey when he suggested that Mongols would one day try to rule the planet. (Of course, he was talking about people from the planet Mongo, not from the country Mongolia. He did, however, make them look Chinese.)
China is still a very large question mark. For example, what will be the role of Christians in China's future? If they continue to grow in massive numbers as they have been, then one day, China may reverse its policy towards Christians, as the Roman Empire did, and Christians could suddenly find themselves in the most favored position of leaders of the nation. That would certainly put a new spin on things.
And of course there's the Muslim question. What won't Muslim terrorists try with all this new technology at their disposal? Or will the flow of information into their benighted countries bring about change for better - democracy, even? Not if Egypt is any indication. According to Michael Yousseff, outspoken Evangelical pastor in Atlanta, GA, and of Egyptian heritage himself, the revolution going on in Egypt recently was NOT the democratic movement that the Press made it out to be. Rather, it was a Muslim-directed initiative with the ultimate goal of turning Egypt into another Islamic state. So, in spite of our living in an age of information, tyrannical powers still find a way of twisting the facts and keeping people in the dark.
Then there's Israel. The day of judgement for Iran is swiftly approaching and a confrontation between the two nations is inevitable. Israel is surrounded by Muslim nations; what else can she do? Israel has a right to the land between the Nile and Euphrates rivers because that is what God specified as their Promised Land. The entire world knows this. Since they only possess a fraction of that land today, it is wrong for the United Nations and our misguided President to ask them to make further concessions to the Palestinians. It's like a teacher on a playground asking a puny little kid to give up his spot on the jungle gym so the bullies will stop annoying the other kids. Israel is not going to give in; they are going to fight. And in that conflict, I believe God will help them; and in the not-too-distant future, I believe this precarious position of Israel will lead to Armageddon. It's all in the Book.
This world can only go so far, and then it has to give way to the next. In the next, we can look forward to age after age of peace, joy, love and all the other qualities that are part of God's Kingdom, and the result of Christ's work on the cross.
So the final question remains: Will there be technology in Heaven?
For the answer to that, you need to read Randy Alcorn's book, Heaven. :)
Oh, so you want the answer now? Well, I know there will be movies in Heaven. :) So, wouldn't there also have to be technology? Read Randy's book. :)
Waitsel Smith, September 11, 2011
COMMENTS FROM READERS LIKE YOU:
[Send me yours and I'll include them on this page. Let me know what you think.]
You're missing out on radio: British BBC Radio 4, Plays, Books, Poetry, History, Find your Ancestors, Science Discussions. All available on the web. Listen and do something at the same time. Culture and productivity. I love radio and agree about most of it here. There is some good PBS stuff from the North. Just a thought. - Pat, Atlanta
I listen to NPR. But that is not going to be around in the future. Not only are they having an extremely difficult time raising funds, but their funding from the government has been pulled. Their only option, as i see it, is to use advertising, which will destroy their format. I just don't see how they can continue without government assistance, and that just ain't going to happen. If the entire radio were run the way NPR runs their member stations, I'd love radio. But that is a tiny, tiny fraction of radio, and almost an endangered species at this point - so not representative of radio in general. Thanks for your feedback. Thoughtful. - Waitsel
Wouldn't you listen to the BBC? Too English? I admit I have a real concern about the continuation of Public Broadcasting here. That's the only TV I watch and I can see it disappearing. Very sad. - Pat, Atlanta
I love the BBC, but I really don't watch television anymore. I watch Turner Classic Movies because I love movies. A lot of them are British. What I hate most about television and radio are the ads. They're mindless. I also hate the volume of television and radio there is. Anything with that much quantity cannot possibly have much quality because there are not that many good writers out there. So it's a lot of mediocre crap with, once in a while, a gem thrown in. But the old movies have a lot of great writing, so you get not a great quantity, but you get great quality, with only once in a while a dud. I'm okay with that. - Waitsel
I love British Radio (BBC) because there is so much to try and no adverts. Listening over the net I can pick and choose. I too hate adverts. I Netflix and PBS for that reason. I'm finding a lot of interesting Foreign movies on Netflix. But I confess I'm catching up on British TV I missed a lot as well. What British Movies , what era? If you have recommendations , I know you've probably passed them on before, but I forget. I'd like to get them. I can Netflix them. I forget about TCM. - Pat, Atlanta
Text © 2011 Waitsel Smith. Poster from Fritz Lang's Metropolis © Paramount Pictures. Minority Report starring Tom Cruise © Paramount Home Entertainment. Audi Shark Concept Vehicle designed by Kazim Doku. Greenmachine Concept Plane Illustration © Nasa/Lockheed Martin Co. Photo © News.Me. Image "Travel at the Speed of Light" by Ferdilicios. Wall-e © Disney-Pixar. Other photos and illustrations © unknown artists. All Rights Reserved.