When I have too much time on my hands, I start researching. This essay is on technology, not game design. Sort of.
There is a lot of noise being made by futurists of all shapes and sizes. Predictions on what kind of technologies will come when, extrapolated from the idea of an exponential curve. It certainly seems possible, plausible. You have to admit that vastly more futurists' predictions have come true than any prophet or precog in the history of mankind. They have a hit rate of between 10% and 25%, and they are predicting very specific things. There are no wishy-washy could-be-this, could-be-that predictions. When you say "there will be software to translate text into sound so the blind can use computers", there's not a whole lot of wiggle room. You're either right or you're wrong.
The thing about an exponential curve is that the damn things kind of sneak up on you. Things seem to be fine, then a bit unstable, a bit wonky, maybe... suddenly everything goes vertical and the whole world is fundamentally different.
What's worst is that the kids don't even notice...
For example, cell phones. Half the world's population uses cell phones. Not half the world has cell phones, but in many cases, those without cell phones will frequently use someone else's cell phone. Third-world villages might only have one cell phone... but, damn, I mean, that's a village with no running water (no source of water in the village at all). That's a village with no utilities... and they've got a cell phone?
That's science fiction, that's what it is. Every time I picture it, I get a little shock. A little bit of, "well then, that went vertical while I wasn't looking..."
There are a lot of other technologies that are about to go vertical. How long do we have? Five years? Ten? Maybe twenty, if the government bans them?
How do you think you'll feel when you buy your ten-year-old one of those science kits for Christmas... but when he completes it, he's re-engineered your front lawn to glow safety orange at night?
How about when your printer breaks down, so your eight-year-old goes into the basement and makes you a new one? He's not even a geek, any more than a teenager with a cell phone is a geek. It's simply that the technology is in their blood. In many cases, literally.
To me, everything smacks of future shock. I don't think about "oh, with this technology we could do such-and-such". That's easily predictable. In twenty years, it will cost about as much to buy an outfit as to buy a 3D printer that can print you that outfit. It's not science fiction. It's not a guess.
The question is, what kind of shock waves will it cause?
The idea of science going asymptotic is fun for me. But we already see the stretch marks from our current slow advance. Not just in the form of panicking religions, but in every aspect of our society.
Even with something as easy as email... a lot of otherwise bright middle-aged professionals have a really hard time with email. Oh, they'll use it... but they sound like nine year olds. They can't write emails. There's just some kind of short-circuit in their head.
Cell phones, yeah. I'm feeling it. I went to buy the cheapest model of cell I could find, and it comes with a camera. I couldn't find one that didn't come with one. Future shock!
I want to use the camera, but... it doesn't click. It doesn't register in my brain, somehow. Even though every teenage girl in America can do it second nature. I mean, yeah, if I think of it, I can take a picture... maybe I could figure out how to send it to something other than my phone? But I never think of it. It just doesn't exist to me, even though I've always wanted a camera.
Sure, This sort of thing is clearest with certain nutjobs who refuse to believe in evolution. Somehow, the idea just... slips by their brain. They can't grasp it, so they deny it. Some days, I feel like denying that my cell phone has a camera. In decades past, I would just not use the camera, live my life, and die without ever using it. Regardless of what I believed, or whether I argued against it, the next generation could get on with it without me.
But the pace of science is outstripping the roll of generations. It will only get worse. A child born today and a child born five years from now will be growing up in two radically different worlds, as odd as that sounds. When each child is ten, they will have very different holiday wish lists.
The one born today will have his birthday in 2018. He will want a VR-XBox 9000. You know, the one that simulates every cell of the enemy exploding simultaneously and shares it with your friends worldwide?
The child born five years from now, his tenth birthday will be in 2023. He will want a construction AI to build him custom game machines with adaptable capacities for each game individually.
Those are guesses.
But they're probably good ones.
It's easy to say stuff like that. I mean, you can think, "yeah, that sounds cool, if I understand what you're talking about..."
Have you stopped to consider what it actually means? This isn't you getting a cool new technology. This is a child being shaped by a cool new technology.
You can already see it. These are people whose lives incorporate Flickr on a fundamental level. They are young people who grow up understanding that they post photos of every goddamn thing in the universe for all their friends to see. It's part of their brain. It's the same way that I fundamentally understand that computers are The Thing. To them, computers aren't The Thing. Computers are a medium. Computers are a default. Sharing information is The Thing. Friends can stay in touch every second of their shallow little lives, even if they are far away!
Ten years from now, sharing information won't be The Thing. Sharing information will be the medium. Sharing information will be the default.
What kind of weird, wholly ungoverned society will evolve out of that? What is The Thing on top of sharing information? Five years later, that thing will be the default... what will be built on top of it?
This cannot really be slowed down much.
All I can think is that our current method - our consumer/industrial society - it can't really last very long. It isn't built to withstand the ability to build open-source cars in your basement, or to manufacture your own prom dress based on a photo of your favorite actress. It isn't built to adapt to a hundred million children all working in amorphous synchronicity. It certainly isn't built to work in a world with no third world.
What kind of future is there? How bad will the future shock be? Will there be violence to try to stop it?
Those questions are infinitely more interesting than the relatively simple ones of "what technology comes next".
What is your opinion?