The author, a member of the Department of Sociology of the National University of Distance Education in Madrid (Departamento de sociology, Universidad Nacional de Education a Distancia), presents the results of the work on the technology forecasting program that has been carried out at the mentioned university over the past three years. The scope of the program covered information and telecommunication technologies (ITT), robotics and biotechnology, however, in the reviewed article, only the first of these groups is considered, which includes six main areas: computerization of the home, telework, tele-education, the use of ITT in health care and medicine, “friendly “to the user of the system and means of personal telecommunications.
The author briefly characterizes five of the predicted directions for the development of socially significant technologies.
I. Electronic commerce. This refers to the introduction of a reliable and secure technology for all kinds of commercial transactions, including cash settlements. In this case, computer networks of the “open”, i.e. public type, similar to the Internet. The spread of e-commerce will bring qualitative changes to the entire sphere of the sale and purchase of goods and services.
There will be no need for many administrative and organizational intermediary structures, in much of the business documentation used today. approximately half of the vehicles in use in Spain will be equipped with interactive navigation and collision avoidance systems. Navigation systems (their prototypes are already available) will tell the driver the best route to the destination, and also, if there is a traffic jam or other obstacle on the way, they will show alternative route options.
2. Electronization and “intellectualization” of the dwelling. The advent of the information age and the formation of the information society brings with it a fundamental change in the nature of our home, a change that the author regards as “dramatic”. Today it is a “closed” space, reserved for the family, for personal life, including intimate.
Another direction in the transformation of the home is the automation of its physical functions, the introduction of “intelligent” systems that would allow controlling all the heating, lighting, etc. devices available in the house from one control point, and to a large extent automatically.
Further, many changes are associated with the emergence of various types of television activities – tele-education, tele-labor, tele-purchases, tele-diagnostics, etc. “The prefix “tele” breaks into our lives. The prefix, meaning “at a distance”, “remotely”, will characterize the society of the future.” All of the above “tele” are, in the author’s opinion, the forerunners of “telepresence”, a concept that at first glance does not seem real, but as ITT improves, it becomes more and more likely. “Telepresence” should by 2010 allow about a third of the employed population to work without leaving home.
3. Humane interfaces. Over the next decade, human-machine interaction systems will increasingly take on an “anthropomorphic character.” There will be “smart” interfaces that can adapt to the user, their widespread use is expected by 2008. Of particular great interest are the development of interfaces that allow you to control machines using ordinary voice commands, so to speak, to talk to them.
Assessing the forecasts related to the development of ITT in general, the author believes that experts are optimistic and believe that the improvement of this field of technology will lead to a significant improvement in the quality of life. The data of the mass survey of the population conducted in the course of the study show that the opinion of the majority of Spaniards coincides with the indicated opinion of experts.
Forecast of the most important technological advances in Spain up to 2020:
1. At least 15% of the energy consumed will come from renewable sources
2. Bioprostheses will be implanted to replace lost limbs
3. Means and methods of treatment for almost all types of cancer will be created
4. Biotechnology will become the fastest growing sector of the economy
5. About 10-15% of secondary schools will have access to the Internet, e-mail and remote databases and use these technologies in the learning process
6. About 10-15% of large enterprises operating in Spain will use electronic networks (corporate or public) when receiving and providing various kinds of services.
Forecast of other technological advances in Spain up to 2020:
1. Approximately 50% of the vehicle fleet will be equipped with computer-assisted driver assistance systems, such as a collision avoidance system or a navigation system.2. Most homes will be equipped with “intelligent” computers that control all the appliances and power plants used in the home. About 30% of the working population will work from home (telework).
3. Intricate “virtual reality” devices will appear.
4. Synthetic foodstuffs will be widespread and familiar.
5. From 10% to 15% of students will receive education at home using electronic learning systems, in which video consultations and video conferences will play an important role.
6. Collective forms of labor based on the use of computer networks will spread more widely.
7. Approximately 50% of higher education students will use CAL (Computer assisted learning) systems. There will be software that can adapt to the individual characteristics of the user (adaptive expert systems).
8. It will be possible to use automatic translation programs from one language to another over the telephone network.
9. 50% of Spanish households will use high definition large screen TVs.
The most significant advances in science and technology expected in the next 10 years:
1. Revolution in the field of communications; global communication networks based on the use of artificial Earth satellites, universal telephone communication via mobile phones, faster and cheaper communication, multimedia capabilities (sound, video, etc.).
2. “Breakthroughs” in medicine that will lead to the cure of diseases such as cancer and AIDS, to the improvement of organ transplant technology and to a higher level of disease prevention.
3. Widespread ITT in the areas of work, recreation, entertainment, business, education, assistance to the disabled, improving the quality of life in general.
4. New discoveries in the field of biotechnology and their practical use.
5. Significant progress in understanding the processes that ensure the functioning of the human brain and the problems of genetics.
6. Analysis and study of the human genome.
7. Further expansion of the Internet and facilitating access to it.
8. Systematic use of environmentally friendly energy sources and development of new types of such sources.