Imagine a future world where cyberhumans–part organic and part machine–routinely interface with a pervasive power network in order to adjust their personal energy quotient for carrying out activities both virtual and real: From “distance travel” in a holodeck which feels, smells and looks startlingly like “the real thing,” to actual ground-, water- and air-based travel utilizing bionic appendages which safely propel individuals and groups across real geographic spaces.
In this future, we may no longer speak of “electric vehicles” as an innovation external to bio-mechanical engineering. We may instead look to the convergence of “life enhancement” research, ubiquitous computing and distributed energy services to deliver us rechargeable, removable cyber-appendages — like high-powered wheels, fins or wings that snap onto and off of the human frame — which we can recharge anywhere, at any time, to allow single- or multiple-passenger transport all over the Earth, and beyond.
We might imagine the emergence of personal energy measurement devices — either external to or embedded in the human body — which track individual power generation and consumption down to the level of the electron, and allow us, even remotely, to exchange energy with “the grid,” depending on our individual or community’s immediate energy situation. In this context, thanks to advances in human metabolic sciences, what one ate for lunch could literally play a role in how significantly one could contribute to defining the environment of a shared human event, virtual or real, a few hours later.
In the future, participants in such hyper-real, “shared human events” will individually customize their and others’ roles in the event and, based upon consensus and collective energy availability, will jointly model their shared event environment as well: To be warm or cool, brightly or darkly lit, on a “tropical island” or in a “corporate boardroom” — effectively based upon any criteria that will indeed be relevant in the future, across temporal and geographic boundaries, and in “real” time…
The foregoing scenarios are not excerpts from a science fiction novel or imaginings about the far-off future. And they are admittedly modest at illustrating what actually, eventually will be the “reality” of life in a period twenty-one years from now — when Kurzweil’s vision for a single technology will be more fully realized, and the technological advances of the past two decades will have been effectively dwarfed by the continuing acceleration of Moore’s Law. These scenarios are, however, the vision of a future of converged Energy, Life Enhancement, Natural Resources Management, Food Security and ICT, as formulated by experts from science, government and industry at the COST “Foresight 2030” Conference held in Bruges, Belgium, from 30 June to 2 July 2009.
The COST Conference, entitled “Benefitting from the Digital Revolution,” followed on the heels of a previous Foresight 2030 event, called “Harnessing the Digital Revolution,” which occurred in April 2009. The April conference identified ICT megatrends for their potential application to the emergence of “Computer and Communication Sciences and Technologies.”
Participants in the most recent conference were asked to explore how the ICT megatrends identified in April could enable achievement of the kind of visions illustrated above — in the fields of Energy, Life Enhancement, Natural Resources Management and Food Security — and to identify where synergies towards achieving these visions might exist among the four fields.
A final COST Foresight 2030 event, whose purpose is to place the outcomes of the preceding two COST Foresight gatherings in a greater social context, is planned for October 2009.
A report I wrote — entitled “Information is Power” — covers the discussions held by the “Energy & ICT” Expert Group from the most recent Foresight 2030 Conference. The foregoing is the Introduction to that report which will be released in its entirety by COST in the coming weeks.