Vernor Vinge is one of my favorite sci-fi authors. I just read his new book, Rainbows End, and I highly recommend it. It's set in the near term future (within 20 years), and it has a bunch of technological and social predictions I want to list here since I can't find them on the Internet (Vinge has a 50 min podcast available which discusses some of them). These aren't plot spoilers, but they are technology spoilers, so don't read this if you plan on reading the book:

  • Affiliances - These are some kind of part-time work / large-scale special purpose corporations. I think the great idea here is that with the right software and network infrastructure, it should be possible to break down problems into arbitrarily small sub-problems which can be outsourced to other people anyplace in the world.
  • Belief Circles - This is directed online communities on steroids. This is when online communities which have a common belief system (say fans of Harry Potter, Trekkies, etc.) spend so much time together online that they are able to accomplish things in the real world too.
  • SHE (Secure Hardware Environment) - Following the trends of many modern governments to control encryption and other advanced or threatening technologies, the ultimate dream of government control freaks is that all computing hardware must be regulated by the government. And this government regulation requires that the lowest level computing infrastructure gives back door access to the government to everything that takes place in computers.
  • Localizers - Imagine very cheap wireless sensing machines the size of a grain of sand (something like this but smaller). And if they're really cheap, and they're scattered in every square meter around the country, then you've got ubiquitous high-bandwidth networking to everybody everywhere. But bye-bye privacy.
  • Contact lens overlays - The idea is that you can change what you see through your eyes with your contact lens (but in his podcast he says he might change it to retinal implants). Instead of painting your house, just have everyone in your family use the same color overlay!
  • SM (Silent Messaging) - People can send instant messages to others without talking or typing -- I think the idea is that someone growing up using advanced computer interfaces would be able to interact with their computer interfaces without explicit or at least viewable muscle movements. Wouldn't this just be technological telepathy?
  • Large Teams Acting as One Giant Brain - What if you had high bandwidth and productive communication between all of your team members, and the team members were experts in a large range of areas, wouldn't the whole team acting together seem like one god-like intelligence?
  • Friends of Privacy - This is some group of unknown people on the Internet who publish subtle and not-so-subtle lies to make it difficult to trust the information you read about people online. In other words, anonymously-published large-scale disinformation.
  • YGBM (You Gotta Believe Me) - This is technology that let's you manipulate people's minds through broadcast media. I think it's probably possible to control people, look at cult leaders for an example.
  • Ubiquitous Support - Imagine a real-time Google Answers. Imagine if you're a programmer and you've just spent 2 days stuck on a problem, what if you could, immediately and in real-time, pay to get one hour of help from some expert programmer somewhere in the world?


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