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A ‘Star Trek’ writer made a 1999 prediction that absolutely nailed what technology is like today

star trek screenshot/”Star Trek” (2009)
  • A column from 1999 went viral because its predictions are dead-on.
  • You have to read it to believe it.

An 18-year-old magazine column went viral over the past week because it’s just so good. The column effectively predicts the iPhone, Siri, and even Facebook’s privacy scandals — all the way back in 1999.

The prediction was made by science fiction author David Gerrold, who writes novels and used to write for “Star Trek.” It was shared this week by technology writer Esther Schindler. It was published in a now-defunct magazine called Smart Reseller, according to Fast Company.

Check it out:

—Esther Schindler (@estherschindler) March 28, 2018//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js ” data-e2e-name=”embed-container” data-media-container=”embed”>

What makes this so special is that not only did Gerrold foresee smartphones, but he also clearly saw the privacy issues that have come with them.

If there’s one quibble with the prescient column, it’s that voice assistants — whether Apple’s Siri, Google’s Assistant, or Amazon’s Alexa — can’t really do complicated queries the way Gerrold predicted. But maybe the prediction is still ahead of its time.

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What to expect from Apple’s iPhone 7 event

With a major iPhone physical redesign expected in 2017, the iPhone 7 may feature just modest changes this year. Will that be enough to keep consumers interested? Read on.

The closer you get to an Apple event, the more accurate the rumors tend to get. We’re now a few days before the event and probably have a pretty good idea what to expect — barring a few surprises — according to reports and analysts.

Let’s go over the new stuff you’re most likely to see on the next-generation iPhone at the September 7 Apple event.

Physical design: The iPhone 7 will not be a major departure from the appearance of the 4.7-inch iPhone 6s and 5.5-inch 6s Plus. The expected similarity is one of the reasons that the iPhone 7 is being referred to as another interim release, rather than the full redesign typically seen every two years.

Elimination of traditional headphone jack: This expected change has gained steam this week with an apparent leak revealing new Beats headphones due to be announced at the event. Rumors suggest that Apple will debut both new wireless headphones and Beats headphones that use Lightning connectors, according to MacRumors.

Water resistance: The elimination of the headphone jack is also expected to allow improved water resistance and is a key reason for its removal.

New dual-camera: A better camera has become a de rigueur upgrade for any smartphone. In the last few months, dual-sensor cameras (aka, dual cameras) are just beginning to come into vogue on high-end phones. The larger iPhone 7 model could use a dual-camera system similar to Huawei’s P9 smartphone. The dual-cameras produce photos with more detail and perform better in low-light conditions. The camera sensors combine the two images to yield a single, merged photograph, according to a Bloomberg report.

New home button: Apple may replace the current buttons — which must be pressed down into the phone — with a flush, pressure-sensitive button.

Faster processors: It is almost certain that Apple will come out with a new generation of faster processors, most likely called the A10 processor, as follow-on to the current A9 chip.

So far, analysts are not overly impressed by the expected changes to Apple’s flagship device.

“As much as the updates are solid moves forward they sound fairly mundane,” Neil Saunders, managing director of research firm Conlumino, told FoxNews.com. “That said, there will likely be more interest in the new phone if only because consumers with iPhone 5 or 5s models who feel it is time to trade up. However, this isn’t a replacement for the demand created by a phone which represents a real step forward.”

Jitesh Ubrani, an analyst at market researcher IDC, agrees. “The minor changes and the major refresh expected in 2017 are partly the reason we forecast a decline for the iPhone in 2016,” Ubrani told Foxnews.com.

IDC published a forecast on Thursday that reinforced this outlook for Apple — though the report added: “IDC does expect a rebound in 2017 and beyond as iPhones reach nearly a quarter billion units in 2020.”

And what about the most-talked-about change, the elimination of the venerable headphone jack? “Apple’s rumored decision to remove the 3.5mm headphone jack will dramatically improve audio quality,” Rene Oehlerking, CMO at headphone maker Jaybird, told Foxnews.com. “Replacing the 50-year-old analog technology allows you to listen to digital music in its purest form and, along with the upcoming Bluetooth 5.0 release, paves the way for a massive leap in wireless adoption.”

Other expected announcements on September 7 include a new Apple Watch with GPS, a faster processor, and better health and fitness tracking. A new iOS 10 operating system is also expected, as is the latest operating system for Macs, called macOS Sierra.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

 

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10 things in tech you need to know today

no mans sky The PlayStation 4 game “No Man’s Sky.” Hello Games / wanderon1

Good morning! Here’s the tech news you need to know to start your week:

1. Lyft reportedly tried to sell itself to Uber and several other companies, but failed. The ride-hailing startup is refusing to comment on the report.

2. Facebook has made a surprising move that could save its one shrinking business. Revenue from payments and fees has been trending downward, but its new “all-new PC gaming platform” could help to reverse that.

3. The National Security Agency hack proves Apple was right to fight the NSA. Some security experts view the recent leak of NSA spying tools as a vindication of Apple’s stance on user privacy.

4. The CEO of $3.8 billion (£2.9 billion) Slack has a smart idea to help people get off work early. Stewart Butterfield thinks chat bots will help Slack become “the browser and the command line for enterprise.”

5. We interviewed the Microsoft exec who made a computer so good that even Apple wanted to copy it. Panos Panay, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of devices, is behind the Surface Pro 4 and the Surface Book.

6. Lyft made a huge bet on Apple’s secret smash hit, Swift, and it paid off in a big way. The ride-hailing startup rewrote its app in Swift, a programming language created by Apple.

7. Samsung is closing down Milk Music, its music streaming service. Variety reports it will shutter on September 22.

8. Photos of what looks like a new, smaller PlayStation 4 have appeared online. Sony is expected to launch the the PS4 “Neo” in the coming weeks.

9. A Chinese selfie app is getting ready for a $1 billion (£770 million) initial public offering, The Wall Street Journal reports. Meitu is going to go public on the Hong Kong stock exchange.

10. Apple is losing its lead in smartphones. Samsung is outdesigning and outperforming Apple’s iPhone.

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11 reasons to be excited about the future of technology

In the year 1820, a person could expect to live less than 35 years, 94% of the global population lived in extreme poverty, and less that 20% of the population was literate. Today, human life expectancy is over 70 years, less that 10% of the global population lives in extreme poverty, and over 80% of people are literate. These improvements are due mainly to advances in technology, beginning in the industrial age and continuing today in the information age.

There are many exciting new technologies that will continue to transform the world and improve human welfare. Here are eleven of them.

1. Self-Driving Cars

Self-driving cars exist today that are safer than human-driven cars in most driving conditions. Over the next 3–5 years they‘ll get even safer, and will begin to go mainstream.

 

The World Health Organization estimates that 1.25 million people die from car-related injuries per year. Half of the deaths are pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists hit by cars. Cars are the leading cause of death for people ages 15–29 years old.

Just as cars reshaped the world in the 20th century, so will self-driving cars in the 21st century. In most cities, between 20–30% of usable space is taken up by parking spaces, and most cars are parked about 95% of the time. Self-driving cars will be in almost continuous use (most likely hailed from a smartphone app), thereby dramatically reducing the need for parking. Cars will communicate with one another to avoid accidents and traffic jams, and riders will be able to spend commuting time on other activities like work, education, and socializing.

dixon graphicTech Insider

2. Clean Energy

Attempts to fight climate change by reducing the demand for energy haven’t worked. Fortunately, scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs have been working hard on the supply side to make clean energy convenient and cost-effective.

Due to steady technological and manufacturing advances, the price of solar cells has dropped 99.5% since 1977. Solar will soon be more cost efficient than fossil fuels. The cost of wind energy has also dropped to an all-time low, and in the last decade represented about a third of newly installed US energy capacity.

Forward thinking organizations are taking advantage of this. For example, in India there is an initiative to convert airports to self-sustaining clean energy.

Tesla is making high-performance, affordable electric cars, and installing electric charging stations worldwide.

Tesla Charging A Tesla, charging. Tesla

There are hopeful signs that clean energy could soon be reaching a tipping point. For example, in Japan, there are now more electric charging stations than gas stations.

And Germany produces so much renewable energy, it sometimes produces even more than it can use.

3. Virtual and Augmented Reality

Computer processors only recently became fast enough to power comfortable and convincing virtual and augmented reality experiences. Companies like Facebook, Google, Apple, and Microsoft are investing billions of dollars to make VR and AR more immersive, comfortable, and affordable.

People sometimes think VR and AR will be used only for gaming, but over time they will be used for all sorts of activities. For example, we’ll use them to manipulate 3-D objects.

To meet with friends and colleagues from around the world. And even for medical applications, like treating phobias or helping rehabilitate paralysis victims.

VR and AR have been dreamed about by science fiction fans for decades. In the next few years, they’ll finally become a mainstream reality.

4. Drones and Flying Cars

“Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need… roads.” — Dr. Emmet Brown

GPS started out as a military technology but is now used to hail taxis, get mapping directions, and hunt Pokémon. Likewise, drones started out as a military technology, but are increasingly being used for a wide range of consumer and commercial applications.

For example, drones are being used to inspect critical infrastructure like bridges and power lines, to survey areas struck by natural disasters, and many other creative uses like fighting animal poaching.

Amazon and Google are building drones to deliver household items.

Amazon Drone Smaller Reuters/Gus Ruelas / Amazon

The startup Zipline uses drones to deliver medical supplies to remote villages that can’t be accessed by roads.

There is also a new wave of startups working on flying cars (including two funded by the cofounder of Google, Larry Page).

Flying cars use the same advanced technology used in drones but are large enough to carry people. Due to advances in materials, batteries, and software, flying cars will be significantly more affordable and convenient than today’s planes and helicopters.

5. Artificial Intelligence

It may be a hundred years before a computer beats humans at Go — maybe even longer. — New York Times, 1997

Artificial intelligence has made rapid advances in the last decade, due to new algorithms and massive increases in data collection and computing power.

AI can be applied to almost any field. For example, in photography an AI technique called artistic style transfer transforms photographs into the style of a given painter.

Google built an AI system that controls its datacenter power systems, saving hundreds of millions of dollars in energy costs.

The broad promise of AI is to liberate people from repetitive mental tasks the same way the industrial revolution liberated people from repetitive physical tasks.

Some people worry that AI will destroy jobs. History has shown that while new technology does indeed eliminate jobs, it also creates new and better jobs to replace them. For example, with advent of the personal computer, the number of typographer jobs dropped, but the increase in graphic designer jobs more than made up for it.

Master of Go Board Game Is Walloped by Google Computer Program” — New York Times, 2016

It is much easier to imagine jobs that will go away than new jobs that will be created. Today millions of people work as app developers, ride-sharing drivers, drone operators, and social media marketers— jobs that didn’t exist and would have been difficult to even imagine ten years ago.

6. Pocket Supercomputers for Everyone

By 2020, 80% of adults on earth will have an internet-connected smartphone. An iPhone 6 has about 2 billion transistors, roughly 625 times more transistors than a 1995 Intel Pentium computer. Today’s smartphones are what used to be considered supercomputers.

vatican mobile Crowds watching the pope in St. Peter’s Square in 2005 and 2013. Notice anything different? AP

Internet-connected smartphones give ordinary people abilities that, just a short time ago, were only available to an elite few:

“Right now, a Masai warrior on a mobile phone in the middle of Kenya has better mobile communications than the president did 25 years ago. If he’s on a smart phone using Google, he has access to more information than the U.S. president did just 15 years ago.” — Peter Diamandis

7. Cryptocurrencies and Blockchains

Protocols are the plumbing of the internet. Most of the protocols we use today were developed decades ago by academia and government. Since then, protocol development mostly stopped as energy shifted to developing proprietary systems like social networks and messaging apps.

Cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies are changing this by providing a new business model for internet protocols. This year alone, hundreds of millions of dollars were raised for a broad range of innovative blockchain-based protocols.

“If you asked people in 1989 what they needed to make their life better, it was unlikely that they would have said a decentralized network of information nodes that are linked using hypertext.” — Farmer & Farmer

Protocols based on blockchains also have capabilities that previous protocols didn’t. For example, Ethereum is a new blockchain-based protocol that can be used to create smart contracts and trusted databases that are immune to corruption and censorship.

8. High-Quality Online Education

While college tuition skyrockets, anyone with a smartphone can study almost any topic online, accessing educational content that is mostly free and increasingly high-quality.
Encyclopedia Britannica used to cost $1,400. Now anyone with a smartphone can instantly access Wikipedia. You used to have to go to school or buy programming books to learn computer programming. Now you can learn from a community of over 40 million programmers at Stack Overflow. YouTube has millions of hours of free tutorials and lectures, many of which are produced by top professors and universities.

The quality of online education is getting better all the time. For the last 15 years, MIT has been recording lectures and compiling materials that cover over 2000 courses.

As perhaps the greatest research university in the world, MIT has always been ahead of the trends. Over the next decade, expect many other schools to follow MIT’s lead.

9. Better Food through Science

Earth is running out of farmable land and fresh water. This is partly because our food production systems are incredibly inefficient. It takes an astounding 1799 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef.

Fortunately, a variety of new technologies are being developed to improve our food system.
For example, entrepreneurs are developing new food products that are tasty and nutritious substitutes for traditional foods but far more environmentally friendly. The startup Impossible Foods invented meat products that look and taste like the real thing but are actually made of plants.

Impossible Foods An Impossible Foods burger. Screenshot / YouTube

Their burger uses 95% less land, 74% less water, and produces 87% less greenhouse gas emissions than traditional burgers. Other startups are creating plant-based replacements for milk, eggs, and other common foods. Soylent is a healthy, inexpensive meal replacement that uses advanced engineered ingredients that are much friendlier to the environment than traditional ingredients.

Some of these products are developed using genetic modification, a powerful scientific technique that has been widely mischaracterized as dangerous. According to a study by the Pew Organization, 88% of scientists think genetically modified foods are safe.

Another exciting development in food production is automated indoor farming. Due to advances in solar energy, sensors, lighting, robotics, and artificial intelligence, indoor farms have become viable alternatives to traditional outdoor farms.

Compared to traditional farms, automated indoor farms use roughly 10 times less water and land. Crops are harvested many more times per year, there is no dependency on weather, and no need to use pesticides.

10. Computerized Medicine

Until recently, computers have only been at the periphery of medicine, used primarily for research and record keeping. Today, the combination of computer science and medicine is leading to a variety of breakthroughs.

For example, just fifteen years ago, it cost $3B to sequence a human genome. Today, the cost is about a thousand dollars and continues to drop. Genetic sequencing will soon be a routine part of medicine.

Genetic sequencing generates massive amounts of data that can be analyzed using powerful data analysis software. One application is analyzing blood samples for early detection of cancer. Further genetic analysis can help determine the best course of treatment.

Another application of computers to medicine is in prosthetic limbs.

Soon we’ll have the technology to control prothetic limbs with just our thoughts using brain-to-machine interfaces.
Computers are also becoming increasingly effective at diagnosing diseases. An artificial intelligence system recently diagnosed a rare disease that human doctors failed to diagnose by finding hidden patterns in 20 million cancer records.

11. A New Space Age

Since the beginning of the space age in the 1950s, the vast majority of space funding has come from governments. But that funding has been in decline: for example, NASA’s budget dropped from about 4.5% of the federal budget in the 1960s to about 0.5% of the federal budget today.

The good news is that private space companies have started filling the void. These companies provide a wide range of products and services, including rocket launches, scientific research, communications and imaging satellites, and emerging speculative business models like asteroid mining.

The most famous private space company is Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which successfully sent rockets into space that can return home to be reused.

SpaceX A SpaceX launch. SpaceX
Perhaps the most intriguing private space company is Planetary Resources, which is trying to pioneer a new industry: mining minerals from asteroids.

If successful, asteroid mining could lead to a new gold rush in outer space. Like previous gold rushes, this could lead to speculative excess, but also dramatically increased funding for new technologies and infrastructure.

These are just a few of the amazing technologies we’ll see developed in the coming decades. 2016 is just the beginning of a new age of wonders. As futurist Kevin Kelly says:

“If we could climb into a time machine, journey 30 years into the future, and from that vantage look back to today, we’d realize that most of the greatest products running the lives of citizens in 2050 were not invented until after 2016. People in the future will look at their holodecks and wearable virtual reality contact lenses and downloadable avatars and AI interfaces and say, ‘Oh, you didn’t really have the internet’ — or whatever they’ll call it — ’back then.’

“So, the truth: Right now, today, in 2016 is the best time to start up. There has never been a better day in the whole history of the world to invent something. There has never been a better time with more opportunities, more openings, lower barriers, higher benefit/ risk ratios, better returns, greater upside than now. Right now, this minute. This is the moment that folks in the future will look back at and say, ‘Oh, to have been alive and well back then!’

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Apple wants to be selling cars in 5 years

apple car steve jobs bmwREUTERS/Toru HanaiSomeone put Steve Jobs’ portrait on a BMW. Apple plans to start producing electric cars as soon as 2020, according to a new report by Bloomberg. It is just the latest in a recent string of reports about Apple’s plans to enter the automotive industry. What seemed like a crazy rumor a couple of weeks ago, when an Apple employee first emailed Business Insider about it, has now been confirmed by multiple news outlets. Bloomberg says Apple has 200 people working on the project, matching earlier reports that said “hundreds” of people were on the team. Apple could still scrap the project if it’s not working, as the company has done with other secret projects. The project is being led by Steve Zadesky, who ran iPhone and iPod development at the company and started his career as an engineer at Ford.

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VC Firms Rain Down Cash on Tech Startups, Is Bubble Brewing?

By BRANDON BAILEY AP Technology Writer

Cash rained down on startups in 2014, as venture capitalists poured a whopping $48.3 billion into new U.S. companies — levels not seen since before the dot-com bubble burst in 2001. Strong technology IPOs are luring investors chasing the next big return, but with valuations this high, critics suggest some investors may be setting themselves up for a major fall.

“It’s not that many businesses aren’t viable, but the question is, what are you paying for them?” said Mark Cannice, a professor of entrepreneurship at the University of San Francisco.

Venture funding surged more than 60 percent in 2014 from the prior year, most often fueling software and biotechnology companies, according to a new “MoneyTree Report” issued by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association, based on data from Thomson Reuters. But the money wasn’t spread around to buoy many more companies. A few just got huge piles of cash.

Last year saw a record 47 “mega-deals,” defined as investments of more than $100 million. That’s nearly twice as many as reported in 2013, said Mark McCaffrey of PricewaterhouseCoopers, who leads the accounting and consulting firm’s global software practice.

Uber Technologies, the ride-hailing service disrupting the transportation industry and generating plenty of press, received the top two biggest rounds of investment last year. Each raised $1.2 billion for Uber, and the company’s value is now pegged at $41 billion. Other major deals included $542 million (mostly from Google Inc.) invested in Magic Leap Inc., a secretive startup working on virtual reality technology; $500 million in Vice Media, which operates online news and video channels; and $485 million in SnapChat, the popular messaging service.

What’s driving those deals?

U.S. tech startups are proving they can reach vast global markets and reap sizable revenue, said McCaffrey. And there are more investors eager to get a piece of that return — private equity and hedge funds and corporate investment divisions are vying with traditional venture capitalists to back promising startups. But critics say some companies may never make enough money to justify the sky-high valuations.

The worries harken back to the go-go year of 2000, when the dot-com boom drove venture funding to a peak of $105 billion. But then a wave of new Internet companies crested and collapsed, many of them failing to ever make money. Venture funding bottomed at $19.7 billion by 2003 and spent the last decade bobbing in a $20 billion to $30 billion range before making the big leap last year.

Several experts expect funding this year to continue at a similar rate. Commercial software companies, especially those that offer cybersecurity services and tools for analyzing large amounts of data, are expected to be big draws in 2015, along with biotech and health technology.

So are we approaching another bubble?

Most experts won’t go that far, but are raising concerns about so-called “froth” in the market. Robert Ackerman, managing director and founder of Silicon Valley venture firm Allegis Capital, is convinced new software and communications startups are revolutionizing the world’s economy. However, beyond the risk of investors losing money, Ackerman said some companies may see these cash windfalls as permission to burn through money at an excessive rate, rather than spending at a level justified by their own realistic earnings potential.

“There really is an unprecedented level of innovation that is taking place,” he said. “What I worry about is how the excess of capital is affecting valuations and expectations.”

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The technology industry is clearly prospering, but has it entered a period of irrational exuberance? There are good reasons to worry that it has and that the bursting of this bubble could be painful, to investors in and employees of tech firms as well as to the broader economy.

By several measures — stock prices, multibillion-dollar acquisitions, the compensation of employees, the money being spent by start-ups that have little revenue or profits — the technology industry is in a period that is starting to feel like the late 1990s. Even some industry elders who lived through the previous boom and bust, including the venture capitalists Marc Andreessen and Bill Gurley, are warning that Silicon Valley might be overheating.

There are, of course, differences between the current boom and the earlier one. Most tech companies that have gone public in recent years, like Facebook and Twitter, are more mature than companies that created a frenzy on the stock market some 15 years ago before fizzling out, like Pets.com and Webvan. Tech companies that go public these days are more likely to be profitable or at least have been in business long enough to have some kind of track record.

Stock market valuations, measured by long-term corporate earnings, are high by historical standards but much lower than they were in early 2000, according to data collected by Robert Shiller, the Yale economist. That should provide some comfort to investors, though not much. At the end of trading on Friday, the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index was down 7 percent from its recent high last month.

The problems are not limited to publicly traded companies. Many privately held tech companies have such easy access to venture capital that they are spending lavishly and burning through cash without a clear plan for turning a profit. Office rents in San Francisco jumped 10 percent in the first nine months of this year, according to the CBRE Group, which estimates that rents in that city could be higher than rents in Manhattan by the end of 2015. In a series of tweets, Mr. Andreessen recently said that many tech start-ups would probably fail and have to fire employees. He ended by telling his followers, “Worry.”

Much more of the current tech boom is concentrated in Silicon Valley than it was in the late 1990s. About half of the $22.7 billion that venture capital firms invested in start-ups in the first six months of this year went to businesses located there. By contrast, Silicon Valley’s share of venture capital investments was less than 35 percent during the late 1990s, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers report. This suggests that a tech downturn could be particularly bad for the economy of Northern California.

It’s impossible to predict with precision when business cycles will turn. But as many investors learned more than a decade ago, the valuations of companies can outstrip their ability to make money for only so long.

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