I think we’re standing the edge of a whole new horizon, preparing for a leap greater than any we’ve had before.
In particular, we seem poised for a new leap in productivity that would have been unimaginable even ten years ago. Not too long ago we entered the age where anyone who wanted to could make a video (and publish it to millions); now we’re about to enter the age where anyone who wants to can design a new product, test it, produce it, sell it, and market it — all from the comfort of her own computer.
Are there no cups that fit your hand just right? No problem, design your own and have a dozen delivered when you want.
Don’t like the color of your car? No problem, design a whole new color, or even a whole new pattern, and have your car painted professional from your design.
(I’m waiting for nano-paint or reactive paint or whatever it is that will allow us to change colors on the fly — imagine having the walls of your room change color throughout the day — or mimic the light of the sun.)
Thought of a new gadget? Design, test, develop, and produce it right from your home.
What will nano-tech bring to the picture? Are we worried about energy and global warming? Won’t they go away when our power requirements shrink to the nano-level?
Worried about old age? It’s possible that people today could live thousands of years. (My daughter has recently demanded that I live to 120. Two years ago, while recovering from surgery my mother called to tell me that I should expect to live to be at least one hundred.)
I know that today (with a lot of effort), I could design, produce, and market a film completely in software — when is that going to become so easy that anyone can do it?
What will happen when we lower the bar to creativity? What new inventions will come along from strange places to surprise us (remember Tetris? From the Soviet Union?)?
At some point we’ll see a movement beyond today’s (very excellent) 3D design software to software that can manage the phsyics and mechanics of objects (think of designing your own engine in software, testing it to destruction, revising the materials, and then having it custom built for you).
Today’s economic downturn is merely the springboard into a tomorrow beyond our imagining. (Any day now, I’m expecting an enterprising 10 year-old to develop a working phaser.)