I was reading a book recently, and it mentioned a “cellular phone.” While it is one of the newer books I have read, I suppose it would be considered an old book now (1992), and the mention made me stop and think about what exactly it meant by a “cellular phone.” When the concept of a mobile phone first came about, they looked more like field radios than what we think of as a cell phone today, but I didn’t know when the cell phone started appearing in recognizable form, so I started wondering whether it was talking about the large field radio type phone or the “traditional” flip phone.
The title picture shows a 1992 cell phone, confirming that the book would have been referring to the former, but it started a very interesting thought process in my mind. I was wondering when the “traditional” cell phone started coming out, but then I realized that what I think of as the traditional cell phone is hardly ever seen any more. This led to the realization that not only are flip phones and all other “dumb phones” disappearing, the entire concept of the cell phone is starting to go away. Everyone still knows what you mean when you say “cell phone,” but more and more, home phones are being replaced by smart phones, and people refer to them simply as “phones.” The home phone is going away, and as a result, so is the concept of a cell phone as opposed to a home phone. Increasingly, we don’t have home phones and cell phones, we just have phones, and the concept is automatically associated with a smart phone. All of this has really happened since the advent of the iPhone in 2007. In less than a decade, we have gone from a standard home phone and a clamshell cell phone to the “home phone” being essentially an office tool, the clamshell cell phone being nonexistent, and the entire idea of a home phone vs. a cell phone being replaced by the standardized idea of a phone being a smart phone.
So what does the future look like?
I would strongly urge you to at least read over Winston Churchill’s essay “50 Years Hence,” in which he predicts with astonishing foresight the technological advances of our time, as well as some advances currently in sight. Now, 86 years later, this post is my version, springboarding off of the future of communication, now that the majority of Churchill’s predictions are simply a part of everyday life.
First, I expect the idea of a home phone to be rendered completely obsolete, possibly even in the next five years. Smart phones will become smarter, “Google glasses,” or whatever they call them now, smart watches, and similar technology will become more and more common, and smart phones may even be on the decline in five years, in favor of wearable technology. I expect the traditional home phone will stick around for awhile as shared phones in offices and the like, but little else.
Eventually, as hologram technology becomes cheaper, more developed and more accessible (and we do have hologram technology already, and it is reasonably accessible as a holographic gun sight), the communications technology of the day will start to be replaced by some sort of holophone, likely wrist based, and offices will use an industrial grade version of that—some sort of console, or even a room devoted to holographic communications (Star Wars Jedi holoconferences are a distinct possibility).
As our understanding of the human brain and our ability to interface with it is further developed, we will start having phones connected to the brain—the new Bluetooth—and from there it would be a short leap to fully integrated phones inside our heads. Originally, I expect they would just be a biologically integrated form of the original “dumb phone”—you talk, the other person hears—no video, no web capabilities, just a simple oral communication device. Pretty soon, however, technology companies would begin to come up with ways to integrate the capabilities of external devices into the Biophone, with video likely coming first. They might access outside camera footage (including the “footage” from other people’s eyes via their Biophones) to construct a 3D image of the person you are talking to and display that in your head, they might provide you the ability to see what the other person is seeing, or they might just decide to do away with the visual aspect altogether. However, as our understanding of and ability to interface with the human brain becomes even more refined (see my Telepathy post), web browsing capabilities, cameras, auxiliary memory space for your brain, and even music would be introduced.
Finally, people will realize that communication no longer needs to be limited to language, and the Biophone will be modified so that direct thought processes can be transferred, instead of constraining the user to talk, or even form the words in the mind, and the word “telephone” will have a whole new meaning. This is the destination of my Telepathy idea.
But why stop there? Why not allow for group calls? Why not fully integrate the brain with the internet? Why not create, in essence, a universal consciousness? The technology is in reach. Holoconferences, as far-fetched and sci-fi as they are now, will become obsolete—the new fax.
It will be a short step from there to simply create an entire world in the internet, upload our collective consciousness to it, and live immortally in the internet. I see this happening in one of two ways: either we have enough confidence in our engineering capabilities that we build a self-sustaining system to keep the internet intact, or the rich and powerful get to be immortalized while the less fortunate have to stay and keep the internet going.
Now, I fully expect Jesus to come back before we actually get to this point. In light of the Tower of Babel, I don’t think God wants us to have a universal consciousness, plus, I doubt He would let the human race drive itself extinct like this, but it could happen. He may wait for another 200 years, or even 2,000. I have no way of knowing. However, this is what I see as the current track of technological development, barring any other factors, be they divine, political, cultural, governmental, etc. If the technology industries are left to their own devices, I could easily see all of this happening in the next 50 years, and definitely the next 100.