Published by Eric Bogatin on 30 Mar 2010
Spring Institute of Signal Integrity Classes, April thru May 2010, San Jose, more info and online registration here.
This was the title of a panel on which I was invited to participate at DesignCon 2010. Of all my DesignCon activities, preparing and presenting at this panel was the most fun I had.
Joining me on the panel were Gabe Moretti, owner of GabeOnEDA, Charles Pfeil, engineering director at Mentor, and the author of the wonderful book, BGA Breakouts and Routing, available for free download, and Gentry Lee.
Gentry has a long list of professional accomplishments. He is a chief engineer at the Planetary Flight Systems Directorate at the Jet Propulsion Lab, previously in charge of the Viking Mars Lander program and active on other planetary explorer missions like Galileo. He is also well known for his ten year collaboration with Carl Sagan on projects like the Cosmos series.
In addition, he has an equally rich background as a science fiction author, collaborating with Arthur C Clarke for ten years on the Rama series of science fiction books, authoring a total of eight science fiction books.
Gentry started the panel session with the perspective that “science fiction is about all things that are not impossible,” as contrasted with fantasy which is “that which cannot happen.”
He sees three important trends happening now which will have dramatic impact, one way or another, on our lives within the next fifty years.
“We are in the biological revolution era,” he said, where we will design life as we want it to be. We do genetic engineering on food and animals right now to optimize them for our needs. He suggested that we are very close to enabling genetic engineering of our children.
He can imagine a time in the not too distance future where a couple goes into a doctor’s office, leafs through a catalog of features (online, of course) to select the qualities of their child. Maybe they would select a boy, red hair, blue eye, IQ of 132, interested in geology, with a gift for language and will play the piano. For a price, parents could customize the child they want and have their genes modified for the features.
Of course, we will be able to tailor medicines specific for our own personal biology and change any specific genetic defects we might have using a customized viral probe. Will this grant us effective immortality?
But, in this future, where complete biological engineering is possible, who will be able to afford it? Initially, for sure, it will be expensive, so will this future only be for the rich? Will that leave the rest of us at a greater and greater disadvantage? If access to this incredible enabling technology is only to the rich, will this cause even more polarization and friction in our society?
The second significant trend he sees is the decline and fall of the US as an economic power. More and more manufacturing sectors have left or are leaving the US. Design jobs in these areas will inevitably follow and right behind it, research and development. There go the skilled jobs. What will this leave as the economy base for America?
He suggests that companies looking to develop design tools in the electronics industry would do well to be working with the countries that will have the future designers, which probably will not be the US.
Finally, he notes the third important trend to be the growing influence of virtual reality for kids today. A number of studies have come out in the last two years indicating that more than 10% of kids between the ages of 13 and 23 spend more than 50% of their awake time living in a virtual world. This includes not just World of Warcraft like virtual games, but also interacting on the web, immersed in facebook and online communities.
The young of today choose to spend their time in a virtual world rather than the real world. Unfortunately, it seems that it is usually the brighter students who are the ones we are loosing to virtual alternatives. Some of them say the real world takes too long. Why spend weeks building relationships in the real world when you can go through the complete cycle of meeting, falling in love and falling out of love with someone in hours in a virtual world.
Will this be the end of civilization?
Charles presented a great perspective on virtual tele-presence, such as currently provided by Cisco. While the technology may be in place, will it really be a substitute for building a relationship? Will it ever be really possible to add the human element to a tele-presence meeting? After all, it’s the relationship that is the prime basis of all interactions.
I presented a brief perspective on where I see the future of man- machine interfaces heading. It may not be too far in the future when we have a functional wet-ware interface, a direct brain and electronics interface. When that happens, I might sign up for some extra ram and maybe even a co-processor. I recorded my talk and posted a copy of the slides, which are available for free viewing from my web site.
A good time was had by all!