The Crazy Science-Fictional Future Is Coming Sooner Than You Think, Says Analog Editor

Stanley Schmidt, longtime editor of Analog Science Fiction And Fact, just published a new futurist work, predicting huge technological shifts "not in some hazy future... but tomorrow, next year, and the rest of our lives."

Schmidt's book, The Coming Convergence, is trying to popularize the idea of the Convergence, in which vastly different technologies come together to produce unforeseen advances. Writing an op-ed in the Athens Banner-Herald, he gives a couple of already-existing examples of such combinations:

To get any idea what the future might be like, you need to look at all the "currents" of research that are going on at the same time, and think about what might happen when they converge. These convergences can be very beneficial, or very dangerous. The CAT scan, a vital lifesaving tool of modern medicine, is a result of one such convergence (of X-ray imaging, medicine and high-speed computing). The 9/11 World Trade Center attack was made possible by another (of aviation and large-scale building).

He adds that both "exhilarating and terrifying possibilities lie not far ahead, and we all need to think about where we're going so we can avoid being blindsided and reap the rewards while avoiding the dangers." He sees biotech, information technology, genetic engineering, nanotechnology and cognitive science coming together in ways we can't predict, to create new technologies that will change our world:

We soon may have the ability to live much longer lives - but are we ready to deal with the resulting increase in problems caused by rapid population growth? We as individuals may be able to have great material wealth while having to work very little to get and maintain it. But how can we get from our present social and economic system, which depends on most people having full-time jobs, to the very different one that such a change would require?

New surveillance and data-mining methods can make life much more difficult for would-be criminals - but how much freedom and privacy are the remainder of us willing to give up for more security?

These sorts of issues are already discussed by "techies" and science-fiction fans, but everybody else needs to be talking about them as well, argues Schmidt. [Online Athens]