I count Steve Jobs among the top leaders of the PC revolution along with the likes of Gates, Berners-Lee, Metcalfe and Trovald. Why do we owe so much to Steve Jobs? Simple, Steve Jobs saw the future in the PARC Alto workstation when all Xerox could see was a failed way to sell Xerox machines! Steve Jobs genius was in taking that $50,000 Alto workstation and making it fit on a microprocessor platform. In short, Steve Jobs made personal computing desirable and affordable whereas Gate made it ubiquitous. Now if Steve Jobs had just paid more attention to the Ethernet cable running through the PARC facility we could have had the Internet sooner!
So what’s the future of computing and humanity without Steve Jobs? Well here is my take on the future and there are no big surprises here since these ideas have been espoused by many other futurists. So here is my take on the future of computing and Homo sapiens beginning with two new phases:
The Computer Tool Phase – Present usage of computers and interconnectivity that maintains the physical distinction between the silicon and the corporal entity that comprises the human body. Monitors, keyboards GUI and speakers provide the interface between humans and computers. Tactilely they are not much different from our old usage of typewriters, paper and TV.
Synergy Phase–it‘s starting now with medical implant technology that will evolve into personal neural connections that will allow individuals to harness information directly without the need for manual interface such as GUI’s, mice, speakers and keyboards. Instead, a combination of an individual’s gestures and brainwaves connected via implants to a host of processors will drive the future of computer interfaces. Expect this to hit big time by 2050!
Symbiosis Phase– the evolution of implant technology plus universal connectivity combined with quantum computers will make us increasingly a hybrid of organic and silicon constructs. Sensory feedback from our brains will be wholly addressed by implants starting with sight and sound but expect that to evolve into the truly strange in terms of sensory experiences for the individual. New senses such as connectedness will develop that don’t simple have an equivalent in our present analog world. Interestingly, this new sensory interface will merge our personal sex lives with the porn industry into a new personal service offering that would do Woody Allen proud! Recreational drug will disappear to be replaced by a continuous chemical tonic flow controlled by this new personal hardware interface.
Not surprisingly, instead of there being more for everyone, human existence will increasingly become a tale of the have and have-nots. Hey, it’s starting already and as the human population grows so does the demand for food and resources. The breadth and power of one’s implants combined with the speed of our personal connection to the new Internet will be the ultimate measure of one’s wealth, happiness and longevity.
As for the Internet it will evolve into three very distinct intranets or domains that will respectively be the province of government, commerce and private individual control. The issue of monitoring for health and security concerns will clash big time with the need for privacy and personal freedom. Hacking will truly become personal since a hacker can control the individual’s hardware interface. The demands of cultural memes and the disruptive opportunities that war affords the opportunistic means little will change regarding human carnage in the near future. War is not just an integral part of the industrial complex but it is also a growing cottage industry for the Third World nations as well. Civilian casualties will go from the present ratio of 10 civilians killed to 1 combatant to a far harsher 99 to 1 ratio. Once one side of the human controlled robot armies wins a decisive battle expect civilian massacres to go on unabated for days on end. After all, it will be robots doing the killing.
As to the immediate future of Apple without Steve Jobs, well it will putter along for a couple of years but the mass psychology that drives so much of the stock’s present success will turn against Apple and ultimately drive down the company that is now missing a corporate messiah. Frankly, any other CEO will pale in comparison to Steve Jobs in the years ahead; his death will only serve to magnify those inequities.