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Bill Carmada]"Buckle up for the ride of your life." So begins Beyond Calculation, a collection of essays that seek to do the impossible: predict the next 50 years of computing. Of course, nobody knows how well Beyond Calculation will succeed; check back in 50 years. But these two dozen visionaries-folks like Vinton Cerf, Gordon Bell, Bob Frankston and Terry Winograd-do have one advantage: they've already created one computing future: the world we live in now. Diverse as these expert views may be, they agree on one thing: you ain't seen nothin' yet.
You'll start by checking out the 21st century's "killer apps." Telepresence. Realistic video, synthesized in real-time. Eyeglasses that query the rooms they're in. Computers as cheap as paper clips. Thousands of processors in your home, all linked, all humming along to smooth out the bumps in your life. (Not sure you need a networked toaster? Fair enough. But remember that folks objected to the telegraph, too: "What would Maine have to say to Texas?")
Next, some heavyweight thinkers take on the fast-changing relationship between computers and human identity. Sherry Turkle watches children try to understand just what kind of beings computers really are. Donald Norman tells us it's about time computers started adapting to humans, not vice versa. And David Gelernter shows how free association and creativity might be harnessed by computers.
Possibly the best of these essays are the last, which show how the continuing revolution may change business, the art of leadership, the role of work and education. Fernando Flores talks about what it'll really take to lead tomorrow's companies (it isn't vision statements or reengineering skills!) Abbe Mowshowitz worries about a world where only one institution still has the power to protect you: the global corporation. And Peter Denning, a founder of the field of computer science (see his essay on page 2), proposes how universities may reinvent themselves for the 21st century.
In a world of ubiquitous computing, artificial intelligence, and information warfare, I know which prediction I like best: Vinton Cerf's Web-connected VCR. It sets its own clock!
Bill Carmada @ Cyberian Express