Science Fiction, Today’s Technology - Sept. 2014 Editorial

Predicting the future
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Bob Kovacs

Before diving into this month’s topic, I want to encourage you to take our online survey. This is really important for us, as we will use your feedback to guide the content that we plan for 2015. Help us make Government Video as useful as possible in your job and career.

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We have had the survey active for some time now, and the results so far are interesting. I will share the final results with you in an upcoming editorial.


I am a big fan of Isaac Asimov, an educator and prolific author credited with writing hundreds of books. Asimov wrote about nearly everything, but is probably best known for his science fiction. He was also an excellent public speaker, and I had the opportunity to see him speak many years ago. Asimov made it look so easy that one of my college professors grumbled that maybe he (the professor) should be out there giving talks at $5,000 a pop.

Since Asimov was a favorite among science fiction fans and held a bona fide academic degree in the science world (Ph.D. in biochemistry from Columbia University), he was often asked to predict the future of technology. However, he liked to point out that simply predicting a new gizmo is easy; but the effects of that new gizmo can be much more interesting and difficult to predict.

An example Asimov gave was the car. By the late 19th century, some authors and technologists were predicting that there would be personally operated motorized transport. That was okay, Asimov said, but predicting the car and then writing about crowded highways and the difficulty of parking would have been a more brilliant prediction.

In other words, it’s not the basic technology―it’s the effect on society that is more interesting and difficult to predict.

Crowded highways and parking problems weren’t an issue until the car became affordable. In fact, once the price of any useful technology comes down in price, applications for that technology multiply rapidly.

This morning, I looked for a source for a 32 GB flash drive and found a popular retailer selling them for $15. This was for a USB 3.0 flash drive.

A year ago, that drive would have cost $60, and two years ago you couldn’t get a 32 GB USB 3.0 flash drive at any price. In 2003, I remember being thrilled to have a 64 MB (that’s MB, not GB) flash drive, and marveled at how much it simplified transferring files.

Now that fast flash memory costs 50 cents per GB, how will that affect the way we collect, store and distribute video? Now that you can buy a cell phone for $350 that shoots 4K video, how will that affect the way we shoot video? Who among us has the vision to take these increasingly high-quality and low-cost tools, and use them in novel ways?

I would love to be that pioneer, but will be pleased to learn that it’s you.

Don’t forget to send me your suggestions via our survey!