Future of information technology
and information society

UMK - logo

Włodzisław Duch


Department of Informatics,
Nicolaus Copernicus University

Grudziądzka 5, 87-100 Toruń

WWW: https://www.is.umk.pl/~duch


Prediction is difficult, especially of the future.

How will the information technology change our lives in 10-30 years?
Silicon Valley rule: plan at most two years ahead.
10 years ago nobody imagined how important Internet will be.
Science fiction and futurology: many interesting ideas, but the future is unpredictable.
Changes accelerate; future will be more strange than we can imagine.

A short calendar of past and future events.

Years ago

12 mldBig Bang: the Universe is created;
4-4.5 mldThe Earth was created.
3.8 mldOldest bacteria.
600 mlnExplosion of life.
40.000Homo sapiens sapiens dominates
5.000Human written history
500Magic rules the world, plague kills whole villages.

Acceleration ...

1543Copernican revolution
1687I. Newton, Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica
1859C. Darwin's, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection
1888H. Hertz - radio waves; G. Marconi and A. Popow - radio transmission
1925Quantum mechanics: W. Heisenberg, E. Schrödinger
1940-1949First universal digital computers: ENIAC, EDSAC, EDVAC
1947Transistor - J. Bardeen, W. Shockley, W. Brattain
1959Integrated Circuits, J. Kilby, R. Noyce
1978VisiCalc and WordStar start application software era
1981IBM Personal Computer; BITNET nodes and listserver electronic infromation lists
1984Apple Macintosh - friendly computer;

The seeds of future have been planted in the last decade

Acceleration ...

1994WWW gains popularity (CERN, NCSA);
US, UK, Japan and New Zealand Government WWW servers,
Internet shopping malls; cyberbank;
Internet radio stations;

Internet companies go public;
CyCorp, a commercial company developing expert system with encyclopedic knowledge, was formed after 10 years of academic research

Kasparow looses to Deep Blue 3:2;
EQP computer program proves a 60-years old hypothesis (Robbins conjecture);
face/speech recognition becomes reality
experiments integrating biological neurons and silicon devices are made;
telecommunication industry started the process of integration with digital media and the Internet, creating wireless WAP protocols;

Hand-held wireless communication devices combine cellular phones with PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants);

WWW is everywhere;
voice controlled computer software and text dictation becomes reliable;
databases accept orders given in natural spoken language;

navigation systems for cars use computerized maps and GPS;
a van controlled by a notebook is driven across the USA on normal roads with average speed of 70 miles/h.

1999 eEurope EU initiative, move towards information society, Internet as a key growth factor;
Intel sales through WWW reached 1 mld $/month.

laboratory experiments with avatars, artificial personalities;
evolving virtual Babyz, artificial life in games;

robot toys - Sony AIBO - start new era in robotics;

supercomputers make 1012 operations per second, have 10 GB RAM; brains are about 103-104 times faster, with 10 PB (1 M times larger) memory;
first experiments showing the feasibility of quantum computing;

head transplantation of a monkey, technology ready for human head transplantation;
cochlea implants, first artificial retina,
direct connection to the primary visual cortex;

Bioinformatics pushes for more computing power in the post-genomic era; computing power is (almost) everything!
Household Web devices, such as refrigerators and microwave ovens appear;
computers integrated with jackets and shirts (Levis and Philips);

automatic translation of Web pages between many languages is available (not bad but not perfect);
Internet is full of bots pretending to be humans, for example John Lennon;
AI is embedded in many computer games;
3D glasses are sold for computer games/video;

first robots designed by computer programs, build by other robots, observed in an environment and automatically improved by evolutionary computer programs.

recognition of human emotions and emotional responses are demonstrated in the lab;

every second 500 mln transistors (at a cost 1/10.000.000 $ each) and 10 mld neurons are being born; these proportions soon will be reversed.

ASCI White reaches 12 TFlop; NEC Earth Simulator 35.6 TFlop
Hipokamp replaced with artificial one in a rat!
Sales of domestic robots has tripled in one year.
real-time translation of spoken language via telephone with 90% accuracy shown in 2001;
"Enduring personalized cognitive assistant" (Epca) project formulated by DARPA, financing since 2003.
BCC Corporation estimated total AI sales to grow from $12 billion in 2002 to $21 billion in 2007.

3G portable phones integrate with PDAs, digital cameras, music players, enabling fast access to information;
wearable computers integrated with clothing will be common in rich countries;
“life shirts” and smart toilets will evaluate the state of our organisms;
electronic ink and polymer displays will make some impact on printed media;

virtual reality games including 3D vision, hearing, tactile and olfactory sensations will appear;
augmented reality maps for some cities will be in use, providing personal navigation systems (similar to car navigation systems) displaying 3D information on special glasses;

household robots for cleaning houses and caring for the elderly will finally arrive; Trilobite by Electrolux is one example, sold since 2002;
Amazing Sony Qrio house robots were introduced in 2003.
Many web pages use talking heads to answer client's questions; Amtrak, Well's Fargo and other USA companies replaced their voice multiple-choice pushbutton systems with natural language processing systems.
In 2003 United Nations Economic Commission for Europe found that worldwide sales of robots designed for domestic chores and for home entertainment beat sales of industrial robots for the first time;
simple dialog with computers running "common sense" software, with recognition of semantics, prosody and gestures;
personal avatars arrive in new generations of phones, representing their creators in many situations.

real animal brains control artificial devices, eel's brain already controls wheeled robot;

2004: First projects aimed at global brain simulations are formulated.
Great progress in brain-computer interfaces, playing games is possible.
General Motors OnStar driver assistance system based on a combination of voice commands with some live staff backup reached over 2 million subscribes, growing by 1 million per year.
Sony has patented direct brain-computer non-invasive intterface, baseod on ultrasound projection to change neuron firing patterns. "Method and system for generating sensory data onto the human neural cortex", U.S. Patent 6,536,440.
2005: IBM Blue Gene architecture with 280 Teraflop speed (Nov. 05), about 1/30 of the human brain (although at bit level it is about 10 Pflops, comparable to human brain).
4 autonomous vehicle teams finish a 132-mile DARPA Grand Challenge desert rough terrain race in less than 10 hours.
Autonomic computing at IBM should allow servers and networks to reconfigure themselves to solve problems in self-organized way.
Japanese virtual rock star Yuki Terai reaches the status of a national idol.
Simulations (Neurosciences Institute, San Diego) of the mammalian thalamo-cortical system with 10^11 neurons and almost 10^15 synapses were reported, 1 sec of simulations took 50 days on 27 processor cluster.

Sensorimotor skills are extremely complex problems.
"It will be easier to create an artificial college professor than an artificial bulldozer driver."
Herbert Simon, Nobel laureate in Economics and pioneer of AI.

2007: in November DARPA Urban Challenge with autonomous cars driving through 55 miles of a mock city environment, merging into moving traffic, has been finished within 6-hour limit by 5 teams.
Intel demonstrated 80-core processor with teraflop speeds.
2008: IBM Roadrunner, petaflop computer based partially on cell microprocessor architecture, becomes operational. Roadrunner connects 6948 dual-core AMD Opteron chips with 12 960 Cell engines on IBM blade servers, has 80 terabytes of RAM, is housed in 288 refrigerator-size IBM BladeCenter racks occupying 6000 square feet. Its 10 000 network connections have >90 km of fiber-optic cable, needs 3.9 MWatt of energy, delivers 376 Mflops/Watt (brain over 50 Gflop/Watt, over 100 times more efficient).

computers costing 1000 $ make 1012 operations per second (teraflop computers) should appear near the end of this decade; processing power of supercomputers is comparable to human brain;
computers become indispensable partners in taking intelligent decisions in many fields;
most computers will work with natural language interfaces and will have common reason, allowing them to find information and answers to all kinds of questions;
live translation through PDA's and telephones in routine use;

full integration of media, telecommunication and IT;
communication devices will allow to access any information and provide such services as live translation between natural languages;
WWW servers broadcasting virtual reality content demonstrating the potential of cyberspace and teleimmersion;

transactions in electronic shops and in government offices are frequently between humans and avatars;
traditional methods of learning are gradually replaced by AI tutorial systems;

artificial animals, toy robots, displaying and understanding a whole range of emotions are sold;
"power jackets" for healthy people are use for hard physical labor;
blind, deaf, crippled and violent people are wired to electronic devices; see vOICe auditory image representations
neo-Ludditte movements protest violently against changes;
economics in hi-tech countries will bloom, although a shortage of avatar personality designers should be expected ... (2017 Apple looks for psychologists to improve Siri.


2011-2030 1000$ computers reach speeds 1015 op/sec, comparable to human brain;
quantum computers with powers well beyond human brain are in use (2017-quantum computing shows non-trivial results);
computers evolve, designing new, more powerful computers without help from humans …
in most cases computers make better decisions than people;

cyberspace becomes the basic medium of communications between people and artilects;
natural communication with artilects via gestures, anticipation and emotional face expressions takes place in cyberspace through personal info-devices;
3D glasses give full illusion of visual reality; tactile interfaces are common;
ambient intelligence is in most objects of common use;
direct communication with the brain enables extensions of some sensory experiences and cognitive functions;
specialized robots of all kinds will be used everywhere; general-purpose robots arrive;

discoveries and theories are made with computers as indispensable partners;
some discoveries are hard to understand for humans because of our limited spatial imagination ...
artilects pass Turing test in opinion of most judges;
only a small part of humankind follows the rapid evolution lane ...

2030 (Quantum ?) computers with speeds and associative abilities comparable to 1000 human brains cost 1000$;
all production and most services are fully automatic;
new knowledge generated by artilects is beyond human understanding;
real 3D world is not interesting for most artilects, further evolution of thought takes place in high-dimensional spaces;

some humans have parts of their bodies replaced by artificial systems;
some humans experiment with extensions to their brains;
for people with implants virtual reality is indistinguishable from real experiences;

artilects pass the Turing test, claim that they are conscious and the claim is widely accepted.

2050? human personalities integrate with artificial - full extensibility of mind is achieved, storing human mind structures in external memories.
forms of perception and being in the world are impossible to imagine;
magnetic stimulation of cortex allows to stop normal processing, increase brain plasticity, and download new informations directly to the brain;
direct resonance between two or more brains, and brains and machines will allow for mind transfer,
but ... will transfer between artificial and real human minds be real continuation of the self?

Even more strange vision of the future is in:
Ray Kurzweil, The Age of Spiritual Machines. Penguin Books 1999.

It is dangerous to believe that artificial systems are inherently inferior to human mind.
Human-level AI leads quickly to greater-than-human-level intelligence.
Technological progress in other fields will be accelerated by the AI arrival.

Virtual world may become more interesting than physical space for new generations.
Science-fiction visions of future lack imagination: stone-age humans in super-hi-tech environments.
We cannot imagine how things will develop in 20 years time, our goals may become different.
Perhaps the most important for us is to understand human mind, our real needs ...

Interesting notes by John McCarthy: What futures shall we make?

All talks are at my WWW page: