In seven years, it’ll be 2015, when the events of Back to the Future part II are set. Blade Runner is set four more years after that. I don’t think we’ll have flying cars for individuals or emotion-riddled robots, so what will we be doing with all that computer power.
Given that the computer I’m using now has 4,194,304 times as much memory than my first home computer, and probably runs that many times faster, and the rate of acceleration of computer power, it’s fun to think of what a computer a million times faster with a million times the memory could do.
How about this:
Imagine combining a MRI scanner with 3D modeling software to convert all our analogue archives to digital. Once scanners are able to recognise a wide range of molecules and accurately detect their position in three dimensions, I foresee a device that you could rent to scan your personal archives.
Imagine a cardboard box full of photos, scribbled notes, floppy disks, magazines and ticket stubs. If the scanner was good enough and the software smart enough, all the information in the box could be converted to digital formats.
The simplest to convert would be the digital media. All the molecules, their positions and their magnetic fields in a pile of old floppy discs, laserdiscs, SyQyest, Jaz, Zip or hard drives could be recognised and converted.
Then the position of the paper would be found. Then the ink molecules on the pages of the notes, books and magazines would be investigated. From the curve of the paper, the words typeset, printed and doodled could be compiled into separate files. The chemicals in the photos could be read so that all the colours can be combined into digital images (whether on photographic paper or on undeveloped film).
Imagine how much recycling could be possible if we knew that all the information stored in all the archives, governmental, corporate and personal could be preserved without all the boxes and boxes of stuff that we keep hanging around.
Instead of the paperless office, would could have paperless lives… at least we could choose exactly what we wanted to have on paper and no more.
PS: For those predicting the total collapse of technology, civilisation and knowledge; paper still isn’t good enough. For those seeking ten-thousand year solutions, visit The Long Now Foundation – which includes The Long Server.