What would you be doing five years from now?
Think about disruptive technology, changes in cost and availability measured in orders of magnitude, wide available technology and changing social mores as a result of those, cutting edge technology of today being sold at the local supermarket at a heavy discount, along with such imponderables as cost of energy, political landscape shaped by the economic climate, environmental responses tied closely to the political clout of the minor players, and open source becoming more and more prevalent - money is to be made in fabrication costs and highly sophisticated distribution channels.
Right now, there are 600 million computers with online access. Think that in five years time that figure can grow - let's duplicate it, just because. Moore law - would it mean quantum computing? If so, how expensive? Definitely storage is almost free, completely inconspicuous, and bandwidth is distributed - imagine that instead of storing a files, you just store a hash to it and then a retrieval procedure allow it access that file in unnoticeable time. Distributed computing. Graphics and databases are seamlessly integrated - we are, after all, visual animals (no more powerpoint!). What else?
I am forgetting the flying cars and submarine houses? Our equivalents are nanomachines in our bodies, the space elevator and the house on the moon!
These are all, however, just technologically plausible changes. What happens to the society when disruptive changes are implemented?
There are treatises regarding that subject. How do you extrapolate from the cellphone with SMS to toothing? How do you arrive at relaxed sexual practices because there is the possibility of better communication? Who dreamed of the success of blogging?
One constant though is that each generation accepts and considers natural their attitudes, simply because the constraints are deemed absolute and unmodifiable, and the resources available follow a predetermined path that would simply be too costly to change. However, that same change once executed reduces those costs, often orders of magnitude, allowing for wide dispersion of any technological advance, and further on, widespread acceptance of said technology to do what was being done previously at great expense. In other words, you can now publish a blog that can be read by thousands - yeah, right - whereas a few years back the mere act of (what we call now) blogging was a subject of Wall Street passion and heavy investment.
But if the constraints disappear, what can be said of resources? The Club of Rome became infamous precisely because of those doomsday scenarios, and environmentalists are being often discredited because of that. Perhaps our short term limitations will come from the use and availability of resources, and the distribution of technological advances. Thus, society would continue to be divided into two broad groups, those with access to these disruptive technologies, and those without it. The gap has often been addressed.
We see already the appearance of the net as reference base. Now we need some sort of content, the toothing equivalent of the massive computing ability of five years from now.
Computing power is ubiquitous, semantic processing becomes instantaneous, and computer power reaches amazing heights. Production then ought to follows extreme optimization techniques, thus allowing for more interesting products- no constraints, or new properties. Hence, a more adventurous society - knows it all, risks it all. Jobs shift toward the meta - as always, those that define the use of technology used to create technology have an advantage over those that only apply the under-tech. Discussion over possible futures? What about shifts in production patterns over the world - when the knowledge of the proper conditions for crops gets stored in chips installed in each plant, and sensors help to identify optimal humidity conditions for every plant in a field - thus minimizing spray, and reducing costs when applying water-fertilizer-pesticide. What about organic produce?
And what about the underworld! Organized crime has always benefited from tech. DEA was pressed to run when one famous cartel had analyzed their operation, and created databases of what their activity should be. Imagine surveillance by the bad guys, and the efforts to protect yourself from that - shielding your computer room, encrypting your email with biometric measures, RFID and their pirated versions, laptops with no telltale blinking lights, etc.
Prophecy is very dangerous. Just ask Cassandra.