What do we hope to see in 2009? I mean this both personally, and in reference to our society as a whole. In this post, I am going to talk first about technological expectations, then some of the other societal changes that I expect, followed by a more personal section.
Technological Expectations for 2009
Things we hope to be released in 2009:
Kindle 2.0 (from Amazon)
The Amazon Kindle is a wireless reading device from Amazon that many people in the United States are already enjoying as an alternative to physical newspapers, novels, and documents. Amazon is expected to deliver a new version of the device, possibly in a smaller/more compact form factor. Additionally, there have been many complaints about the keyboard and the page navigation keys, all of which may be addressed if a Kindle 2.0 is designed. There’s also been discussion about a textbook edition that could be exactly what students need to avoid lugging around huge, cumbersome, heavy textbooks. I would certainly appreciate e-textbooks; wouldn’t you?
An improved consumer Mac desktop (Apple)
Though the iPod (and iPod Nano), iPhone, and Macbook series have all seen massive improvements, Apple has not changed the iMac significantly except for faster processor speeds and more memory. What about changes that the consumer can see, feel, or save? As of now, their top-of-the-line 24-inch iMac at 3.06 GHz costs a whopping $2,299 CAD. Cheaper prices would help as much as product improvements.
Windows 7 (Microsoft)
Admittedly, its release date could be any time between mid-2009 to 2010, but we’re hoping for it as early as possible, because the earlier it gets out, the better the PC experience will be, and the more competition there is for the consumer desktop. New features like touch, improved user-friendly interface for all the applications (even WordPad and Calculator), and sensors are sure to distinguish this Windows version from any previous one. Perhaps it will even match Mac OS X in terms of aesthetics and usability in day-to-day tasks (the fun ones, like making movies and managing photos, not the productivity/business things). The SuperSite for Windows has more to read about Windows 7.
Windows Live Wave 3 (Microsoft)
This entails a new version of the Windows Live apps — Messenger, Mail, Photo Gallery, Writer, and newer additions such as Movie Maker. Windows Live Wave 3 also involves improvements to Microsoft’s online services (such as Spaces, Windows Live Mail, and FolderShare) that are already beginning to take place. Also, don’t forget that Microsoft announced plans to have Office in the cloud — Word-like, Excel-like, and PowerPoint-like applications that run inside a browser. Add that to their existing Office Live Workspace and certain business solutions, and we see Microsoft adopting the Cloud. Add Azure as a platform initiative, and we see Microsoft trying to lead the way again in terms of platforms. Once again, Paul Thurrott’s SuperSite for Windows has more to read.
Mac OS X Snow Leopard (Apple)
Snow Leopard is just a bit of an improvement on Leopard, and will add enhanced 64-bit support and other backend changes. Though it’s not particularly exciting, I’m sure it has many Apple fans hyped up.
Technological Hopes for 2009
How about the things we imagine, or hope to have (but probably won’t have)?
A consumer-affordable OLED television (Sony)
Just because OLED technology is in active development doesn’t mean that this will necessarily happen in 2009. As of the current year, an OLED TV from Sony costs over $2000, which makes it an unlikely choice for the average consumer, particularly given the recent economic crises.
A netbook from Apple
The Asus Eee PC that I have is ‘nice’, but I’m sure Apple could do a better job. As it stands, netbooks lack usability, given their tiny keyboards, tiny trackpads, small screens (and relatively miniature screen resolutions), limited processing power, and limited memory. If Apple decides to enter this field, they would face the same challenges, but could certainly design a better keyboard, a more usable trackpad (based on the one used on the new Macbooks), and invariably a better operating system than the customized Linux distribution or Windows XP.
For all we know, this concept is in the works.
Virtual Reality: Gaming and more
This was actually brought up by an acquaintance recently, who noted that video games are already becoming increasingly realistic, and that a large proportion of teens don’t distinguish between the unreal and the real anyhow. Virtual reality would make things seem even more realistic, but then we face the combined dilemma of: (a) limited computing power — only the newest computers have even a chance at a virtual simulation with a good resolution and frame rate, and virtual reality would be extremely difficult to implement in an affordable gaming console; (b) more time spent gaming; (c) some gamers would not distinguish between life and virtual reality — what if they practice killing in virtual reality and take that to real life?; (d) how would injury be simulated? — in a sniper game, for instance, how would a game provide physical feedback that you’ve just been shot?
Faster Internet connections in Canada!
This is just wishful thinking. While Japan and Northern Europe enjoy some of the fastest connections in the world (measured in gigabits per second), we in North America (more so in Canada than the United States) have to live with 5–20 Mbps connections over cable or DSL. At least large population centres in the U.S. can get FiOS; we don’t even have that.
What we need is competition. If Rogers Communications loses its (almost) monopoly over cable Internet, and if Bell Canada didn’t dominate telephone and DSL so much, maybe we’d see impressive improvements each year. What I want is affordable, 50+ Mbps connections — and I hope to avoid DSL.
We’re still a long way from the interactive, life-like holodecks of Star Trek… but that doesn’t mean we can’t try. Projection-style holography is still very much possible today, and if technology moves forward the way we’d like it to, we’ll hopefully have three-dimensional images soon.
Practical applications of consumer-oriented holography, and that means outside the business or Pentagon or military, include the luxury of changing decorations in a split second, to have a ridiculously advanced visualizer for iTunes (or whatever media player you happen to be using), or maybe some futuristic gaming machine.
Is it too early to ask for a transporter or a replicator? (As far as I know, neither of those are likely within the next 50 years.)
Widespread hybrid/hydrogen automobiles
While hybrids are already becoming popular, the truly efficient and pollution-less automobiles, the hydrogen car, is still out of reach in most of the world. The hydrogen infrastructure just isn’t there; there are nearly no hydrogen fueling stations in most of the United States and probably none in Canada. I would like to see this technology mature.
Societal Changes in 2009
What’s going to shift in our society?
In the past few years, we’ve always been talking about “radical Islam”, but a developing trend is “radical Christianity”. I’m making the most of my freedom of expression to note the increasing extremism of many denominations on social issues such as gay rights, abortion, immigration, war, trade, marijuana, and — believe it or not — health care. During the recent American presidential elections, we have seen church groups involving themselves in campaigning for or against certain candidates; we’ve seen endorsements from some, such as Reverend Wright, and condemnations from others. We’ve seen Catholic churches adamantly oppose birth control of any sort, evangelical Christians fighting for “the sanctity of life” and “the traditional family”, and all-in-all, an increasingly alarming involvement of the church in daily life and politics.
Let’s talk about one issue, perhaps one of the biggest issues, of recent months.
California’s Proposition 8 sought to ban all gay marriages in the state, and was affirmed by 52% of the voters. Religious organizations on both sides added to the conflict. My problem with Proposition 8 and the faulty logic used by religious proponents (“we’re protecting our religious rights and values”) is that a ban, by definition, restricts rights, as Lawrence Lessig will tell you. If a church doesn’t want to marry gay couples, they don’t have to; it’s not like the lack of a ban forces them to carry out such an action, whereas the ban would force other religious organizations to turn away gay couples.
Religious groups are abusing the role of religion in people’s lives. I will openly admit to being atheist, but to attack my reasoning based on atheism would be an illogical, ad hominem attack. This argument comes not from my atheism, but rather my atheism comes from it.
Inevitable gay rights movement
We cannot deny that this is a huge issue that will be campaigned for and against. Given the attention dedicated to such matters in 2008, I believe it will continue to be a large problem in 2009, and may perhaps be addressed (either favourably and unfavourably) by certain judicial bodies.
Liberalization of the U.S. Supreme Court
Barack Obama’s successful bid for president places him in the powerful position of appointing Supreme Court justices. If he can appoint a sufficient number to swing the court to the left, we may see the court overturning previous rulings on abortion, and perhaps further precedents.
Continuing rise of Asia
Asian nations, specifically China and India, are poised in positions of massive economic influence. Whether they can continue that influence and dominate trade is a matter for their governments and businesses to decide. China, on one hand, may begin to loosen rules on privatization and employment, while India’s government may take action to improve conditions and the quality of life throughout their territories. The United States’ weak economy makes it doubly vulnerable to the lure of cheaper business with China and India.
An eye on space
Already India has sent an object to the moon. The development of the International Space Station is progressing nicely. Space shuttles are to be sold off. Satellites are being launched and destroyed.
Would it be too far-fetched to say that space is at least a concern for every developed nation’s government and people?
Personal Expectations for 2009
Now we move from the general into the specific; from the societal to the individual. In 2009, I hope to improve my relationships with others, to exemplify the best characteristics of humanity, and in doing so, to live by the dictates of philosophy. I make it my New Year’s Resolution(s) to be a better person: to care more about the lives and feelings of friends and acquaintances… to treat strangers as friends… to open myself to influences… to help others lead more meaningful lives… and to combat societal issues that threaten to destroy the peaceful ways of life we enjoy.
In 2009, I also hope to gain a wider and more active readership on this blog. You can help, by commenting on this post, by subscribing to the blog via email or RSS, and by sharing my posts with your friends.
Thank you for your continued readership!