Looking ahead with 2020 vision


Tomorrow A decade from now, doctors could well be giving checkups to the bacteria in your digestive tract, super-smart computers could be responding to your unspoken thoughts, and a new green revolution could be well under way. At least that's the way more than a dozen experts on science and technology see it in a series of essays offered up today by the journal Nature. As great as all that sounds, the experts make it clear that not everything about the world in 2020 will be bright and shiny. In some cases, you might not think the future is worth the price you'd have to pay.

For example, take the idea of direct brain-computer interfaces. “The majority of search queries will be spoken, not typed, and an experimental minority will be through direct monitoring of brain signals,” Peter Norvig, director of research at Google, writes in his essay about the future of Internet search. “Users will decide how much of their lives they want to share with search engines, and in what ways.” That last part hints at the privacy debate ahead: If computers can read your mind, how can you be sure you've closed the door to your brain? Today's experiments with brainwave-computer interfaces, such as the system that lets you “tweet with your brain,” could open the door to tomorrow's cyber-snoops.

More here.