Martin’s Weblog

2012 – The Genie Escapes the Bottle and Everything Goes Square

With our lives increasingly mediated by technology and with that technology radically evolving this blog outlines the case that in 2012 we should expect more “real world” effects and disruption from our technology as the gravitational force from the not too distant singularity pulls us into a Web Squared Technium.

The Genie Escapes The Bottle

Computers are shaking off their mortal coils – we are letting them out of the fixed, high maintenance boxes we have kept them in all these years and giving the finger to the mouse. Computers need not be WIMPs. There is new creativity and imagination in the development of more natural computer interfaces and forms –  many of these are growing from Apple seeds.

I think that in 2012 we will see the start of quickening radical shift in the way we interact with computers – near past predictions are already looking wildly conservative – e.g. Gartners prediction that 50% of computers bought for those under 15 years of age will be touch , Read Write Web’s predication that gestural interfaces for your living room are five years away.and Augmented Planet’s predication that Augmented reality glasses are 20 years away

The combination of natural interfaces and new computer forms are revolutionising what we think of as computers and their impact – here are some of the major developments


Using a finger to point to something is one of our earliest actions – no wonder there are plenty of examples of babies using iPads and even with other species – Orangutans  take easily to iPads as well. Today’s children are the “touch generation” –  Haptic interfaces are so natural that development is bound to be exponential and they will develop as these children grow up


“A picture paints a thousand words”  and in many cases its just so difficult to describe an action in words. In his TED video Chris Anderson describes how web video powers global innovation by empowering everyone both literate and non literate. I’ve also noticed how many people are using Skype and Facetime and how useful Google video chat and G+ Video hangouts are for meetings – I’m sure that we will see an explosion in the use of video and visual communications and interfaces in 2012 and one of the most exciting maybe video glasses – Lumus are expected to show their glasses at CES in January for OEM production later in the year.


Things get really interesting when our computers start to “understand” what they are “seeing”. Facial recognition is scareably accurate and Google and Apple dveloping  facial recognition for their smartphones. Things get even more interesting when our computers understand our gestures – Microsoft’s Kinect has ushered in a new interface era and the race is on to augment our technology interfaces with gesture – expect to see gesture appearing  everywhere from games (of course) to TVs computers and smartphones.


Voice interfaces have been developed over a very, very long time but failed to go mainstream. As is often the case Apple have seeded a revolution and with Siri Apple has breathed new life into voice. Some consider this to be “The invisible interface of the future” and has of course kick started competition – Google are expected to release their answer to Siri ,“Majel” early in 2012

Computers come to their senses (and our senses)

Traditional desktop computers suffer terrible sensory deprivation compared with mobiles which are bristling with sensors and connectivity. New technology can see us, hear us and understand our gestures. Putting all this together means 2012 may mark a change in our relationship with technology we will really start to be able to interact more naturally with our technology  – much like we interact with people and animals.

In 2010 Google’s Reto Meier predicted The Future of Mobile: Invisible, connected devices with infinite screens but his time frames look conservative now. I won’t attempt to say when but below are some of the what – all this may happen quicker than we think.

Touchscreens with  textures

Touchable holograms


Flexible and wearable displays

Gesture interfaces that read our emotions

Gesture interfaces that read our lips

Google Augmented reality Glasses

Augmented reality glasses

Augmented reality contact lenses

Wearable computing

Electronic cotton for the ultimate wearable computer

Mind reading

Mind Control

Mind control and robotics


Technology and Social Powers

Dion Hinchcliffe lists and describes most of the well known power “laws” in Digital technology and social theory in his post Twenty-two power laws of the emerging social economy – here are a few of the main ones taken from Dion’s list

Moores law

The processing power of a microchip doubles every 18 months such that computers become faster and the price of a given level of computing power halves every 18 months.

Gilder’s Law

The total bandwidth of communication systems triples every 12 months.

Metcalf’s law

The potential value of a network grows exponentially according to its size so that as a network grows, the value of being connected to it grows exponentially, while the cost per user remains the same or even reduces.

Reeds Law

The network effect of social systems is much higher than would otherwise be expected such that The Utility of a (social) network scales exponentially with the overall size of a network.

Reflexivity (social theory)

Describes how social systems are often self reinforcing, how social actions influence the fundamental behavior of social systems and how social systems can tend towards disequilibrium.

The Pareto Principle

Roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes – the famous “80:20” rule.

Principle of Least Effort

People basically vote with their feet to the easiest solution in the least exacting way available.

Everything Goes Square

While some believe there will be apocalypse in 2012 I think there are signs of major a transformation in human affairs facilitated and catalysed by technology.

With our lives increasing mediated by technology and with that technology radically changing the signs are set for a period of significant and fast (even exponential) change from self-reinforcing social and technology power laws.

Tim O’Reilly and John Battelle describe this era as Web Squared – an era of exponential technology and real world change from the combination of Web 2.0 technology and philosophies with social, mobile, real-time and sensors.

It’s as if technology has its own irresistible momentum – something which Kevin Kelly describes in “What Technology Wants” – a Technium  with “its own inherent agenda and urges”. Kelly’s Technium describes the intersection of humanity with technology:

The  technium may be described as an integral view of technology and humanity in which technology is a natural and inherent dimension of what it means to be human .. the technium is integral to human existence and evolution”

Ray Kurzweil argues that Accelerating Returns on exponential growth will eventually create a tipping point to what he calls The Singularity – a time when the change graph over time is vertical change and we reach an era of unpredictability, apparent chaos and uncertainty that only our machines will understand. Kurzweil makes a compelling case –  “It took the printing press 400 years to reach a large audience, it took the telephone 50 years, the mobile phone seven years, and social networks only three. The pace of innovation will only continue to accelerate, he says, because exponential evolution is built into the very nature of technology”

While we are a long way from the type of rapid change Kurzweil predicts, O’Reilly and Battelle’s Web Squared is already being felt. Time’s 2011 person of the year (The Protester) is symbolic of the changes in which technology is implicated when web meets world – helping a “generation to find its voice”. David Weinberger doesn’t hold back in “Too Big To Know” and describes how the Internet Is Ruining Everything. If 2011 is anything to go by we should expect more “real world” effects and disruption from our technology as the gravitational force from the not too distant singularity pulls us into a Web Squared Technium.


January 15, 2012 Posted by | culture, future, IT and society, predictions, society | 3 Comments