Cheap computing power, cheap storage, high-resolution flat screens, cellular radio, radio frequency modems, satellites, fiberoptics, and networks equals the dynabook. And the dynabook means that you can be anywhere and create, access, modify, or transmit highly structured information anywhere else--in seconds. By the turn of the century information production and exchange may be unrecognizable. As we hurtle into the future, technology will make possible changes so drastic that they will be considered discontinuities; changes both for the better and for the worse.
Imagine a world of little or no privacy, of even greater earning power for the technologically-literate, of even larger disparities between the haves and the have-nots, of wholesale social disruption as the technology percolates through society. Imagine a world where mail is delivered in 4 milliseconds instead of 4 days and many postal workers are jobless. Imagine a world where the proportion of the work force in manufacturing, now 25 percent, drops to 16 percent--only 8 times the proportion of the work force in agriculture; postal workers may have lots of company.
Imagine a world where suing a doctor means suing the diagnostic program that the doctor used. Imagine a world of greater financial instability and even shorter boom-bust cycles as governmental regulatory agencies, designed for a slower era, utterly fail to keep up with the speed of international electronic money transfers. As you read this, all the money you own is chasing other money around the world, 24 hours a day.
Imagine a world where anyone threatened with assault can instantly alert the police and supply their exact location together with video of their potential attacker; not even masks or darkness may help attackers if the dynabook has an infrared camera. Imagine a world where no news service is trustworthy since any sound, any image, any scene, any movie--including those with apparently live-action famous personages--can be complete fiction.
These predictions are simple extrapolations from current technology. Developments 20 years into the future require unproven technology (nanotechnology, holographic memories, biocomputers, optical computers, atomic-scale computers), artificial intelligence, or deeper changes in society. Just 35 years separate the decryption of DNA from the first patented artificial animal life. Just 20 years separate Yuri Gagarin's Vostok 1 flight from the first shuttle Columbia launch. Just 14 years separate the first successful personal computers from the Silicon Graphics Indigo.
We are now in the curious position that facts learned in childhood are obsolete by the time we become adults 18 years later. And it will only grow worse since the pace of technological change is accelerating, and will continue to accelerate. Given the enormous rate of technological change, it is almost senseless to extrapolate 20 years into the future. The world of 60 years from now may be as different from us as we are from preindustrial societies.