2010, the Most Important Year

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Monday, December 28th, 2009

This is supposed to be a very important year

Why are all the good technological advances still five years away? Robotics that works? Five years away. Ubiquitous computing? Five years. Artificial Intelligence? Its been five years away for decades. Even in the world of medicine, the cure for Alzheimer's and cancer is always five years away. And lets not even start talking about flying cars. It seems like the revolutions that are supposed to change the face of our every day lives are always just out of reach.

And what do we see now? We see incremental advances in existing technology. The coolest technological advance that came out this year could be said to be Google's Android phone operating system. And yet that is just another phone, built in the same style as the Apple iPhone. Or, if you're into hardware, there are ever smaller, ever more dense solid state hard drives coming out, which could be said to be cool. They are just an already more efficient version of existing technology as well. There were a few e-book readers, a few new tablet PCs, and a host of netbooks. These are all incremental advances.

But what revolution is coming. Technophiles everywhere might be despairing for some kind of revolution in anything, at all. HDTV is TV, but better. Blu-ray is like DVDs, but better. Everything is just like the old, but better.

You might not realize what kind of revolution I'm talking about. Even if you are not old enough to remember, the change from radio to TV as the mainstream medium of communications altered people's lives irrevocably. Going back further, the advent of the telephone meant that one could receive information instantly, given that people were in the right place at the right time. The most recent advance which has been able to change everyone's lives was the Internet, and it has been 15 odd years since that came out. Don't you think we're due for another?

Unfortunately, looking forward to the year 2010, there isn't much in the way of revolutions coming. The year 2010 is supposed to be significant for a variety of reasons. In science fiction, there have been a lot of important events happening in this year. We are supposed to make contact with alien technology next year, on the far side of the Moon. We're also supposed to be in a civil war right about now and have conquered an alien bug species on planets a long ways away. We're supposed to have solved problems like hunger and war by now. Alternatively, we are supposed to have bombed ourselves back to the Stone Age. The year 2010 is supposed to be significant.

But so far its not looking to be the year of any major breakthroughs or revolutions, and that's just sad. Because if there ever was a time for the first artificial brain, 2010 would be the year. Or if robots achieved sentience and decided to eliminate humanity, 2010 should be the year they do so. If nothing big happens in 2010, then the faith that millions of people have in scientific progress may very well be shaken. And what happens after that? Mass anarchy, chaos in the streets, dogs and cats living together. It could be anything, really. If a scientific revolution won't come along and change the face of the world to save us all, then what will?

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