Sunday, April 23, 60 Minutes ran a story on the MIT Media Lab. Entitled Where Tomorrow’s Technology is Born, the video depicts a young man who developed a headset that reads what he’s thinking, and searches Google for an answer that's whispered into an earpiece. Scott Paley asks him what the largest city in Bulgaria is and its population. In a few moments, the man answers “Sophia, one, point one million.”
He can also order a pizza of your choice by thinking about it.
In 2014, I wrote the short story Google Boy as a part of my science fiction anthology Tales From Our Near Future. That story tells what the outcome might be if someone were given the ability shown on 60 Minutes. Within four years of my publication, the reality of Google Boy seems within reach.
I’ve found an interesting phenomenon in predicting the future. It seems we’ve moved from “Wow!” to “Isn’t that already done?” In my novel, Leaving Lisa, the story revolves around a device a woman develops before her untimely death. Her widowed husband can talk to the device and it answers in Lisa’s voice, providing answers that Lisa would have likely provided. Many times, readers told me, “Don’t we already have something like that?”
Predicting the future is fascinating, especially the near future. The 60 Minutes story visited the MIT Media Lab years ago, where touch screens were first shown and a precursor to a GPS system took you through a map of the city. Back then, we might have been able to predict a GPS mapping system that you carried in your pocket, but could we have predicted the changes it would make in our lives? Could we have predicted Uber?