The smartphone is a huge hit by any reasonable perspective. But so was the pager at one time. What tech breakthrough will be next?
I distinctly remember my first cellular telephone. It dates back to approximately 1987, when I was still in high school. It was a “mobile phone” that came in a black bag and plugged into your car’s cigarette lighter.
It was the kind of phone people presumably used more for emergencies than for normal, extended conversations.
I distinctly remember my first cellphone, a Motorola flip phone of some kind that reminded me of the old communicator devices in the original Star Trek. These phones essentially were call-only. No internet. No surfing the web. No apps. They barely could text. (In fact, I’m not sure my first flip phone could do text messages at all.)
It was a while after the iPhone came out before I got one. Yes, I was one of those people who insisted the only thing I wanted to do with a phone was to make calls.
I didn’t want a smartphone: I thought my “dumb phone” and work-issued pager was more than enough.
Of course, these days, I’m doing everything from checking email to ordering takeout. (Along with making calls and sending texts.)
I suppose I better enjoy it while it lasts. After all, in a December 2015 study, users suggested smartphones would be dominant for another five years or so before they’d fade out and go the way of the pager.
But what tech breakthrough will replace the smartphone?
The study of 5,000 smartphone customers shows artificial intelligence will replace smartphones. In fact, 85% of smartphone customers surveyed think they’ll no longer be “burdened” with carrying around a device by 2020: they may be walking around wearing some sort of “personal assistant,” but AI will end up letting them just ask for whatever they want and then deliver it faster than they could get it if they typed up their request on a phone.
Part of that AI will include earbuds or headsets that listen to what you say and even listen to the world around you. Some have the capability to filter sounds to remove noises you don’t like — like the sound of a baby crying at a restaurant — and could potentially do it before you even ask for it.
Headsets, Business Insider reports, being developed by Microsoft, Facebook, Google, the Google-backed Magic Leap and Apple are all working to build standalone augmented reality headsets, which project detailed 3D images straight into your eyes.
In other words, computers are going to hijack your senses, more so than they already do, with your sight and your hearing intermediated by technology.
What’s scary about that is that the technology is designed to make decisions about “augmented reality” and filtering sounds that might otherwise distract us so quickly that we’re not supposed to even be able to detect that those decisions have been made.
To put it another way, the “adjusted” reality we’re seeing is supposed to be seamless to the point that we won’t even notice that what we’re experiencing has even been “adjusted.”
So we’re relying on technology to present us a “more clear” view of what’s happening while hoping we don’t miss something we think is important that the tech doesn’t.
But it gets even more terrifying: Elon Musk has tweeted about something called “neural lace,” a sci-fi-sounding technology that allows a computer interface to essentially be “woven” onto our brains.
With the problem of security and hackers only getting worse, should anyone seriously consider having tech hardwired directly into people’s brains?
More importantly, would you agree to be a guinea pig for such a technology?
Suddenly that smartphone feels a lot lighter and a lot more convenient.