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The speed of technical innovation is accelerating, leading to a revolution in the way humans interact with the world in the next 18 years, said noted British futurist Ray Hammond.
Hammond, speaking at the recently concluded Intel Capital Global Summit, said that by the year 2040, he expects everyone to have a personal digital assistant sitting in a nano transplant behind their ear continually speaking to the global brain, which is what people in 2012 call Google.
Glasses attached to that digital assistant will let the wearers look at a person, for instance, and see their name and company. And while a few older people may want to take those glasses off to view the natural world, most will not, Hammond said.
Digital assistant will evolve from today's smartphone, Hammond said. However, what it will be called is anyone's guess, as today's users and developers still have no complete understanding of what such devices will actually do.
"I would argue with you that when you call the smartphone a smartphone, you are being disingenuous," he said.
He cited several examples of how the names for technological innovations changed over time depending on society's understanding of the technology, including the projector, called the "magic lantern" when first introduced 150 years ago, and the automobile, which was originally called the "horseless carriage." "We could only describe it by what it wasn't," he said.
Other examples include the train ("iron horse"), the refrigerator ("ice box"), the radio ("wireless") and the computer ("mechanical brain").
"We always lack the language to describe the technological future. ... We lack the language that allows us to explain it clearly," he said.
The significant innovation that will revolutionize the future over the next couple decades currently seems to be masked by today's financial crisis, but it is happening, Hammond told the audience of technology developers and entrepreneurs.
"You guys are creating like mad," he said. "I think we are quickly at the end of our financial crisis, and that we are in for a long, sustained economic boom."