Coding Our Future: Smaller, Smarter and Everywhere

Some of you may have seen the movie “The Imitation Game.” Set within a British intelligence service during World War II, it is a fictional account of the creation of what some have called the first computer. It is a monstrous concoction of switches, levers and spindles that, after churning away for several minutes, could decipher secret enemy messages.

Old computer


My first exposure to a computer came a few decades later when, in a newsroom setting, we bought a cabinet full of hardware that went by the name of Mighty Mouse. It was a good six feet high and equally as wide with an open back so our marginally competent tech guys could do trial and error with the wiring if something went wrong.

Since then the real estate requirement for computing has progressively shrunk and become a lot more personnel. We’ve moved from desktops to laptops to handhelds. And the shrinkage in size has often been accompanied by an expansion in function.

That trend will continue. In fact technologists believe that computers will continue to shrink to the point of being invisible to the human eye. At that point you can’t plug them in or carry a battery, even if we do, as some believe, come up with batteries that last 50 years. So part of this development is about alternative energy sources like solar, or maybe even body heat.

The availability of micro computing will make the current generation of wearables seem like “wearing a boom box on your wrist” (The Future of Wearable Tech, Jen Quinlan). We have had some introduction to wearables. There was the much ballyhooed Google glasses, which didn’t last long as apparently looking like a distracted dork outweighed the advantage of being an early adapter. Somewhat more successfully there’s been a modestly wide take up of the Fitbit and similar activity tracking bracelets.

What’s to come? Jewelry is a prime casing for technology. At Google, there is an initiative underway called Project Jacquard which is researching the ability to weave computing capabilities into fabrics, thus making our pants a wearable device. Elsewhere researchers are looking at embedding devices in diapers to monitor a baby’s health. When computers become smaller than the naked eye can see, embedded devices and sensors can be planted virtually anywhere. Did you know there was such a thing as a “smart bottle” of Johnnie Walker Blue Label?

Internet of Things


The actual wearable device is not what is important to our future, but rather what it connects to and what information it collects. Because along with planting technology on individuals, the shrinkage of computing is what will make commonplace the “Internet of Things.” The technology research firm Gartner predicts that there will be at least 500 “smart objects” in the average home in the future. We already know about things like thermostats and security systems. Among the things that are candidates for future conversion from “dark assets” to “smart objects” will be door knobs, refrigerators, smoke alarms, air conditioning and heating systems, and water faucets.

It is at that point where the connection between wearables and the Internet of things really starts to impact how stuff gets done. For example a signature from your wearable device might unlock your door at the appropriate time. Or your bracelet could monitor your body heat and trigger the startup of your home air conditioning or heating system. Maybe if you start following a recipe on your smart phone, your oven will automatically preheat to the appropriate temperature.

The Internet of things won’t be limited to what you wear or where you live. It also means devices with memory and tracking capability on utility poles, buildings, traffic lights, transit vehicles and parking meters, to name a few.

And at that point what we have heretofore referred to as “big data” becomes gargantuan data. How we capture that and put it to use will have a lot to say about what our lives are like 10, 20 or 50 years from now. This series of posts will explore some of the questions about how technology changes our future. Can we survive always on? Will machines become smarter than humans? What happens to work? How do we get from place to place? Can we have both transparency and privacy?

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28 Responses to Coding Our Future: Smaller, Smarter and Everywhere

  1. jacquiegum says:

    While I marvel at the advance of technology in my lifetime, I also cringe at the idea of gargantuan data. If we are forced to think less (like machines controlling our thermostats based on our body temperature) WHAT will we think of? Will it free our brains to be more creative, think on a higher plane, or will it arrest our motivation to work or be self-sufficient? What if the internet “breaks” one day and no one knows how to do anything practical…like start a fire. Woule we have anarchy??? Scary stuff….


    • Ken Dowell says:

      Sounds like a great script for a movie. At some point in the future when we rely on data/artificial intelligence to make many of our decisions for us, the Internet “breaks” and nobody knows how to do anything.


  2. patweber says:

    Code red is my immediate thought Ken. A major concern I have it seems you will be blogging about: how will we be affected by always being “on.” You can see a prediction to a degree in many people, young and old, today. And that is with very few people I know of wearing the Apple watch.


  3. Donna Janke says:

    It’s a little mind-bogging to consider where the Internet of things might take us. I started work in the computer industry in the late 1970s. The data centre was a gigantic room with a raised floor and special cooling to house a computer whose memory and processing power was a minuscule fraction of what our tablets do today. You raise a number of interesting and challenging questions in your last paragraph. I’m looking forward to your upcoming posts.


  4. Phoenicia says:

    I believe machines can only become as smart as the people who make them.

    My mind boggles when I think about how far technology can take us. What on earth will the world look like in say, 20 years time.?


  5. lenie5860 says:

    Ken, at times like these I am glad I am a senior. That is just too much thought taken away from us by machines – will our brains shrink if they aren’t used to their fullest capacity or if we never have to stretch our thinking. Not sure I like where this is headed but an interesting post raising some great questions. – look forward to the next one.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Beth Niebuhr says:

    It is interesting to think about how the world will look in 10 or 20 years. I imagine it will be an extension of the way it works now: Each new generation is born into a different reality than the previous one. They get less and less personally connected but have much more tech at their fingertips all the time. When I got my first (Radio Shack) computer, my kids went to it eagerly and just played with it to see what could be done while I was looking at it tentatively, afraid I’d break it.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Meredith says:

    I love this post, Ken, and I can’t wait to read more! This is a fascinating concept which bears so many conflicting potential problems and solutions. (And I love the term “dark assets” – very covert sounding.)


  8. If we knew today how we will act in, say, ten years time because of technology we would hardly believe it. Will be really interesting to see what happens.


  9. Erica says:

    I love the idea of your air conditioning turning on based on your body temperature. Couples would always be arguing about who gets to wear the device. If my husband wore it, I would always need to be dressed in a parka. I think you are correct that the world is moving this way. I think of the 1800s, and how different a life it must have been to not have cars or televisions or other modern conveniences that we don’t even think about. Well, people living at the end of this century will look at life in the 1900s in that same way.


  10. tuhinmech says:

    I felt like I am in a differnt age, much ahead of current age while reading this post.
    Science is expanding at a rapid rate and the future world is surely beyond our imagination.
    Interesting post


  11. Ok, so this post reminded me of something I heard of the news the other day. They said they have actually developed a smart bed that will keep track of your sex life and remind you when you need more, a different variety, etc! I thought what is this world coming to? This is getting insane. Between that and your smart TVs in the bedroom spying on you…creepy stuff.


  12. In this age of “smart” everything, I wonder how much harm vs. good the need to quantify everything really does us? I had a short obsession with my FitBit, but finally stopped wearing it after the third band broke. Beyond the first few weeks, it didn’t really get me to move more. I exercise on a regular basis, so what I need to not something to quantify for ways to make the act of jogging more of a quality experience. In an odd way, I do post my jogs to Facebook via the app I use, and when I miss a day, I feel a bit bad because I’m not being held accountable to my routine, though I doubt anybody ever really notices when I miss a day.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Andy says:

    I’m down with the Internet of Things as long as I can opt out of it all. I value my privacy (what’s left of it, anyway) and I feel no need whatsoever to be “on” all the time: if others want to do that, be my guest, but I’ll pass.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I have read several reports about scientist trying to develop living computers, programed brain cells which will function as a computer.
    I am, like many others, are concerned about our computers taking away our attention span. We know it is having an impact on this generation. What will it look like in the future.


  15. Sabina Q. says:

    Interesting post! I personally love my Fit Bit. It helps me know my steps when prior to getting it, the number was way off from one app to another. I don’t mind my Fit Bit sharing this information. I consider it public information. But I will not share credit card or bank info with any app. Thanks for sharing.


  16. Tim says:

    It is amazing what technological advances will come along in the future but at the same time, what with the latest cyber hacks and communication tapping, it does also carry with it a huge concern for personal freedom and the onward march of Big Brother.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Jason @ says:

    Too much technology. Privacy is almost non-existent. I wouldn’t be surprised if Skynet isn’t on the way next.


  18. Arleen says:

    Ken- The future is here. I just bought an Apple watch. Yes it has a lot of functions that I will never use or maybe NOT. I set at the computer a lot and do not get up enough and move around. The watch notifies me that I have been siting for an hour and get up and move. Sounds silly, but it has made a difference. It also measures my heart rate, which is the reason I purchased it in the first place. I am far from a techno geek, but some of the technology is worthwhile


  19. Interesting post! It is amazing what technological advances will come along in the future. Too much technology. I can’t keep up. No privacy at all!


  20. I’m not sure hitting the “like” button for this post was the way to go, Ken! Although all the tech advances fascinate me and make me flashback to The Jetsons…I’m also a bit worried about where it’s all headed. The fact that conversation seems to be a lost art as people commune with their phones more than each other over dinner, makes me worry that we’re going to far too fast down the tech path.


  21. Tatia says:

    Love the Imitation Game reference Ken! Such a fast paced historical drama. Just when it seems like everything has been achieved with Internet, coders and computer geniuses are taking it to the next level. I’m a bit nervous what lies ahead, but no doubt the internet’s presence will remain powerful as ever.


  22. Janice Wald says:

    HI Ken,
    Thanks again for your submission. I will be linking to you tomorrow in my Thursday Weekly Roundup.


  23. Pingback: Weekly Roundup #10 | Mostly Blogging

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