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Emerging technology, 2012 - 2040

Image courtesy Envisioning Technology.

This week we bring you the colorful poster from London-based technologist and designer Michell Zappa. Envisioning Emerging Technology, as the poster is called, looks at the emerging technologies from the major fields - from artificial intelligence and ubiquitous computing to materials science and geotechnology, in the columns of the poster.

The timeline, which runs verticially, starts at 2012. There are no real surprises in 2012: tablets, cloud computing and additive manufacturing all get a mention.

Looking over the coming decade, there are a number of interesting technologies we'll be incorporating into our lives. By 2015 we'll likely have flexible screens, which can be rolled up or folded much like newspaper, replacing the old-fashioned, thick and clumsy tablet devices. By 2016 computers will be able to understand human languages and by 2017, Zappa predicts there'll be modular computers -  computing systems where processing, memory, and peripheral units can be added or removed like Lego blocks without disrupting the operation.

Sounds like it's shaping up to be a good decade.

The following decade, though, starts to raise a few eyebrows.  After 2020, Zappa introduces the concepts such as in-vitro meat (animal flesh product that has never been part of a complete, living animal), context-aware computing (computers that are capable of reacting to environmental stimulus) and the first biomaterials (which will interact with biological systems).

Sometime around 2035, he predicts that the field of neuroinformatics will come into its own as a research field and not long afterwards, there'll be a 'utility fog' of microscopic robots that can change shape to perform various tasks, and that we'll all have an 'exocortex', an external system to the brain which will help us all to remember and analyse things (because no one wants to forget where they put their utility fog).

It is a fascinating poster with a great overarching view of what we might experience in the future and is definite food for thought. And that was the point of the poster: "Envisioning technology is meant to facilitate these observations by taking a step back and seeing the wider context. By speculating about what lies beyond the horizon we can make better decisions of what to create today," Zappa wrote on his website.

Let's just hope they don't forget to design some kind of drug to treat future shock as well.

- Jacqui Hayes

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