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The News – 11/03/00

Rosy Technology Predictions May Be Pessimistic

In a recent paper, George Washington University examines predictions for 85 emerging technologies over the years. Some of their findings indicate the hype isn’t intense enough for some technologies. This feeling is shared by Wired Magazine’s Kevin Kelly, who said in a keynote at the Delphi Corporate Portals Conference, “The Web is underhyped.”

The GWU study cites a few instances of underhyped technology:

Forecasts can often be overly pessimistic, and nowhere has this been more true than in information technology. Microprocessor development has proved so successful that chips are now three times faster than they were predicted to be in the early 1980s. It is as if we have in 1997 computers from the year 2000. By some measures, computer performance has improved a million times since their invention fifty years ago. The problem of pessimism is so notorious that the attitudes of prominent scientists often seem quaint in retrospect. In 1923, Robert Milikin, a Nobel Prize winner in physics, claimed “there is no likelihood man can ever tap the power of the atom.” In 1895, Lord Kelvin, President of the Royal Society, said “heavier than air flying machines are impossible.”

The flip side often reflects an optimism bordering on naiveté. Many people still recall predictions in the 1950s that the world would enjoy nuclear power “too cheap to meter.” Or that we would fly personal jets to work and return from 20-hour workweeks to smart homes and robot servants that would prepare dinner automatically.

So the computer on your desk is the equivalent of a million of the room-filling behemoths of the early ‘50s. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

Here are some of the computing related predictions for this decade from the experts in the study:



Entertainment On-Demand




PC Convergence


Distance Learning


Advanced Data Storage


Standard Digital Protocol


PCS Gains Markets


Groupware Systems


Computer Sensory Recognition


Modular Software


Parallel Processing Computing


Information Superhighway


Personal Digital Assistants


Intelligent Agents


Ubiquitous Computing Environment


Broadband Networks


Electronic Banking/Cash


Expert Systems


George Washington University


Airflash Teams with Excite and Orange on Location-Based Services

Even more progress on the Personal Area Network front. This announcement doesn’t detail exactly how the network will determine proximity. I suspect the user will somehow input his or her location. Still, the future’s coming fast.



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In the unlikely event that you want more of my opinions, Iíve started a Weblog. Itís the fashionable thing for pundits to do, and Iím doing it too. A Weblog is a datestamped collection of somewhat random thoughts and ideas assembled on a Web page. If youíd like to subject the world to your thoughts, as I do, you can create your own Weblog. You need to have a Web site that allows you FTP access, and the free software from This allows you to right click on a Web page and append your pithy thoughts to your Weblog.

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March 14, 1928 - July 5, 2003

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Jane C. Ellsworth

July 20, 1928 - July 20, 2003