First of all, I’d like to say a big thanks to everyone who’s been following my site – especially those who’ve provided me with feedback and ideas.
I’ve been developing this timeline for almost two years now, and have watched it grow and grow, both in content and in terms of visitor numbers. Although it’s quite large now, there are still many more technologies and events I intend to add. The 22nd and 23rd centuries, for example, have barely been touched upon.
A major inspiration for me has been The Singularity is Near, by noted futurist Ray Kurzweil. The central theme of this book is the idea that technology progresses exponentially, rather than linearly. The most well-known of these trends is Moore’s Law, but there are dozens of other examples.
Everything from biology to nanotech, computing, the Internet, mobile phones, DNA sequencing… it’s all growing at such a rapidly accelerating rate that we’re in for some truly profound changes in the coming decades. Even during times of economic hardship, these trends have been shown to continue. Concepts that were once the preserve of science fiction may soon become a reality.
Remember how the Internet just seemed to appear out of nowhere? Hardly anybody used it back in the early 90s. Then suddenly – due to exponential growth – it became a worldwide phenomenon. The same is true of cell phones. As recently as 1995, they were used only by a minority. Today, they are owned by nearly 5 billion people, including half the farmers in China, and the latest of these phones come with a bewildering array of features. This kind of rapid emergence of technology is the kind of thing we’ll be seeing a great deal more of during the 21st century. The aim of FutureTimeline is to explore these changes and to give some idea of where it’s all heading, because I don’t think people realise just how rapidly things are developing.
I was skeptical of Kurzweil’s predictions at first (and I’m still in two minds about whether a Singularity will emerge). But the more I read in science journals and the media, the more I can see that his basic idea of exponential growth is true. Our brains have been hardwired through evolution to an “intuitive linear” view of the world – but the reality is that most forms of technology are progressing exponentially.
Even when a plateau is reached, in many cases a new paradigm will emerge to eventually continue the growth.
As Kurzweil himself has said: “If you go back 500 years, not much happened in a century. Now, a lot happens in six months. Technology feeds on itself and it gets faster and faster.”