Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Imagination Actualization in the Noisy Future

Description of the key assumptions underlying the nature of the future, particularly from the individual consumer standpoint.

I have described the trends that will inform the future, and that frame and bound the predictions made throughout this blog; but to determine a refined clarity as to their specifics, a couple of cogent observations about the future are key. First, it will be noisier, in terms of sales messages, spam, and myriad other often unwanted bombardments from anywhere and everywhere, much noisier than today even. To escape this attention-eating noise, the nesting trend of today will strengthen, perhaps substantially.

In addition, traditional forms of home entertainment, such as TV, will still be around in some presumably more advanced form, but they will be getting tired. True on-demand programming will help, but only so far. Unfortunately, the promise of thousands of TV channels will not help much either. I have 300 or something channels now on cable, and spend much of time clicking through them, and say a "kumbaya" if I find one show worth watching. More channels means that a less rapidly growing advertising budget by companies is sliced thinner and thinner. Since original programming is expensive, with a thinner ad budget the temptation to show reruns is large, and even what original programming remains is of dimished quality, on average. This trend will become worse, maybe not tremendously worse, but in any case there is little reason to believe that it will improve markedly.

The real problem with TV programming, and even things like gaming, are that you are living in someone else's imagination, not your own. These traditional forms of entertainment will definitely still be around, and maybe a few or several forms we haven't thought of yet, but they will not be enough to satisfyingly soak up the free time of millions of consumers as much as the technologies following the trend I will describe next.

Given that we’ll be spending as much time in the home or more in a noisier world than now, where will we go for fulfillment, to feed the social, emotional, and mental needs that the maddening crowds outside cannot?

To fill this deepening need, in addition to doing useful work, much of the direction in consumer technologies will be in a trend that can be described as “actualizing the imagination” – i.e., helping us make our imagining “real” in the sense of pictures, movies, and at some point synchronized interactions between virtual reality systems and droids, for making what's in our heads stunningly realistic and interactive. People’s exploding repository of digital pictures, high-definition video, etc, will be a key input to these advanced systems for bringing those repositories to life for its owners or other’s enjoyment in dramatic new ways. I will describe these in considerable detail in a later post.

As the world becomes more noisy, we will become more nostalgic as well, to do as we’ve always done, look to a simpler past to bring us calm and quiet retrospection. Bringing the past to life, especially our own past, will be a killer application for advanced AI, droid, virtual reality, and other imagination actualization technologies, the uses limited only to – well, our imagination. That’s a big place that is hidden from the world most of the time, and is only vivid to ourselves in a limited way. A major trend in much of entertainment and visualization technology has this goal as the final objective: to see, hear, and touch artificially generated "realities" in photorealistic detail, generated in near-real time, that is so vivid you don’t have to work to suspend your imagination, it actually suspends your imagination for you.

The final introductory post explores the topic of non-invasive vs. invasive technologies to achieve these ends, and which seems more likely.

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