Steve Pardoe's 2018 Writing Competition Page (from 1998) Steve in Famous Author Mode
Steve, who was at the time the Technical Director of Able Systems Limited, won first prize in a writing competition in Electronics Times Magazine (20th Anniversary Edition of 28/9/1998, p92), on the theme of what life will be like 20 years hence.    The prize was a weekend for two in New York.    The text is reproduced below, with the Editor's permission.

Click here to see a gallery of images from the trip.

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20:18 Vision

Who will be well-connected in 2018?

In 1978, the electronics industry was tiny, and relatively self-contained : you could look around and identify a few electronic items, and other things simply weren't.   Today, it has an extraordinary pervasion of other industries, and this will be far greater by 2018.  Hardly any durable item will not be electronic in some way.  But let's peer beyond Moore's Law, "a mainframe in your fingernail" and other extrapolation, and think about what will really distinguish life from how it is now, and how shall we feel about it.

Environmental and social costs of moving people to their activities, and a declining manual content of "work", will dramatically increase tele-working, -shopping and so on; this will be a driver for ever cheaper comms bandwidth, so we can look forward to reading and writing, seeing and saying whatever we want, wherever we are.  I don't foresee an Internet browser in every wristwatch ; more likely is a version of today's wireless computer notebook, intelligent enough constantly to download any information it expects its user to want, interact with other peoples' notebooks, and form a background comms net of which the user is barely aware.  Now, we have to log-on and "point" our browser : in 2018, the information will just be there, like Radar O'Reilly in M*A*S*H.  Want to phone someone?  It offers a shortlist appropriate to your activity and the time of day.  Need a restaurant?  It knows the nearest ones to you, their menus, and whether they are busy at the moment.  Want to be alone?  No problem, it fends off callers.  Will you like this?  You bet.

With less need to travel, we'll have more time ; but however much the computer is a lever for our minds, we'll still need a fulcrum.  What could be worse than a world with every chore done for us, every decision made, no secrets hid?  Perhaps one in which only some people benefit.

Social position in 2018 will be defined by connectivity.  The corollary of the vast improvement in bandwidth is that the gap between data-rich and -poor, hyper-linked and separate, will lead to envy.  We can already see the desperate effects on society of a socio-economic underclass, for whom there is no work, no wealth, no fun.  What if they become the majority?  Will "society", whatever that will mean, share the data riches, release the bandwidth, remove the friction for all?  Who will be well-connected in 2018?  These, I think, are among the great issues of the next two decades.

So, who's up for 2018?  I am, and looking forward to it - even though I'll be 70.  Between now and then, we need to think about what we want to find when we get there.

Article © S.J. Pardoe 1998
More of Steve's thoughts are here

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