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Our wireless world: predicted by Isaac Asimov in 1964

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Science fiction and systems management...

We take for granted the technology that enables us to remain connected and communicate with the rest of the world on the go. This was not the world in which Isaac Asimov lived in 1964 when he made a set of predictions.

The renowned science fiction writer and the inspiration behind cult classics such as iRobot described how he imagined the world would have progressed in 50 years. Now that 2014 is upon us, we are able to see Asimov’s uncanny accuracy in certain aspects, but there are also ways in which technology has progressed even beyond Asimov’s imagination.

In 1964, Asimov predicted, “the appliances of 2014 will have no electric cords, of course, for they will be powered by long-lived batteries”. This is undeniably true, as we have a plethora of wireless devices, such as phones, laptop and tablets. This has enabled us to remain connected wherever we are and has allowed for a mobile workforce, for example, a visiting district nurse can send her reports from her phone without having to return to an office. However, he had little to say on the networks that allow for this connectivity.

Asimov goes into more detail about the “appliances” which we would now recognise as smart phones and tablets: “communications will become sight-sound and you will see as well as hear the person you telephone. The screen can be used not only to see the people you call but for studying documents and photographs and reading passages from books.” We can see here, that he predicts not only video calling, but also the multi-functional nature of many of our gadgets.

What he does not predict is that in 2014, we start to move on from tablets and smart phones and the even the concept of the screen with the advent of wearable technology. With smart watches, glasses and even wigs in the pipeline, the way in which we use technology is set to change yet again. I (among many) predict that it won’t be long at all, before these sci-fi style gadgets become part of our everyday lives.

Another one of Asimov’s predictions involves education and technology. He refers to an exhibit at the World Fair “part of the General Electric exhibit today consists of a school of the future in which such present realities as closed-circuit TV and programmed tapes aid the teaching process.” Many of us today, would consider being taught through videotapes extremely outdated.

The technology that aids our children’s’ learning has far surpassed Asimov’s predictions, with wireless technology allowing even infant school children to use tablet computers in the classroom. A recent survey by Extreme Networks revealed that as of January 2014, three million school-aged children would own a tablet and that many of them are taken to schools and connected to the network. It won’t be long before teachers telling their pupils to get their tablets out, will be as commonplace as wheeling in the ancient television on a trolley was a few years ago.

On the subject of education, Asimov goes on to say “high-school students will be taught the fundamentals of computer technology [and] will become proficient in binary arithmetic.” Whilst children today are comfortable using technology and the Internet, not many can claim to be proficient in binary arithmetic. This has only just begun to change, with the new trend of “coding clubs” at schools. I am sure this will become much more commonplace, as technology evolves, employers will require their employees to have a deeper knowledge of its inner workings.

Finally, Asimov stated, “Not all the world’s population will enjoy the gadgetry world of the future to the full.” Indeed, the world we live in today with widespread Internet access and gadgets in most people’s pockets is confined to the developed world. For many countries, the technology that we take for granted is as distant as it was to Asimov 50 years ago. This is set to change however, with the decreasing cost of this technology.

It was astounding just how much of the modern world Asimov predicted and it is equally incredible how much wireless technology has shaped our everyday lives in just 50 years. However, not all of Asimov’s predictions have come true. For example, we have not yet replaced all windows with “electroluminescent screens” nor do we eat bars made of algae that taste like “turkey and steak”. These things at least for the time being remain, fortunately and firmly, in the realm of science fiction.

Our world becomes evermore interconnected, with even watches and wigs able to connect to networks. This phenomenon, called the Internet of Things, means that the job of IT managers will become increasingly difficult when it comes to managing and maintaining such complex networks. IT managers will need to equip themselves with the knowledge and technology to manage and monitor an array of new devices as they come onto the scene.

Posted by Alessandro Porro, VP international sales, Ipswitch


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