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The RoBlog
Wednesday, September 01, 2004
Life in the Year 2014 Deconstructed, Part 2
Ok, I'm going to see if I can tackle more than one paragraph from Robert J. Sawyer's predictions of what life will be like in the year 2014 as posted on Backbonemag.com.

Sawyer indicates that after your brainwave clock has gently woken you up (see my previous entry for a discussion of this), your robokitchen will have a hot breakfast waiting for you. Presumably it will be able to tell when you are coming out of your sleep with enough time for your breakfast to be prepared.

There's plenty of ambiguity on what this really means, but I'm guessing that if this is available at all, it will be in the form of something that automatically takes a pre-prepared breakfast out of the freezer and heats it up in the microwave.

Sawyer is probably aware that a conventional oven version of this idea already exists from a couple of manufacturers, so I'm guessing he's referring to something a bit more ambitious where the breakfast is freshly prepared on demand.

Just based on my feel for where we are now, I'm guessing that this kind of in-home robotics is still quite a ways off. There are complex safety, manipulation (for example, the refrigerator might have to be entirely rethought to allow robotic manipulation), and cleaning (to name just a few) issues that need to be worked out for this kind of system. It may be theoretically possible in 2014, and there may even be some demos of the technology in University or R&D halls, but the cycle time to bring something like this to market is so long that we'd have to already see this technology in a lab somewhere now for it to be on the market in 2014.

Of course, I don't follow cutting edge kitchen gadgetry very much so Sawyer may be aware of something that I'm not. Feel free to point me at anything that you think may have us farther down the road to this than I might imagine.

Sawyer mentions as an amusing throw away, that your breakfast will be low in carbs. It will be interesting to see how the low carb fad plays out over the next few years. If future is a guide, it will probably still be something we talk about in an increasingly cluttered lexicon of how we talk about foods, much like various forms of fat and calories are today.

Sawyer doesn't appear to give much credence to tablet PCs or flexible, paper-like screens, indicating that your paper will be printed and waiting for you. This is something that has been tried a few times already, and, as far as I know has not caught on. Perhaps Sawyer is banking on the ability of the printed-at-home version to be customized specifically for you. I already get customized news just for me from Findory.com in my inbox, but I don't feel any strong compulsion to have it printed out. Then again, I don't subscribe to any printed paper, so I may well not be the target for this kind of product. Would you use it?

For my money, I expect we'll still get our news electronically or in mass-produced print form (I think it will be hard to beat the newspaper's economy in printing - imagine the cost of printing an entire newspaper-sized publication from your printer every day, it's not a lot, but probably more than getting the paper delivered to your door costs, and that doesn't include the subscription - and besides, newspapers just have a more comfortable feel to them than a similar stack of 8.5"x11" paper). If the landscape is going to shift towards Sawyer's vision, I expect we'll see it well before 2014 as there's nothing in particular preventing it from happening now except interest.

He is right, however, that your custom news (however you receive it) will be culled from foreign sources and automatically translated for you, though the translation will probably still suck in 2014.

Ok, I still didn't get through more than a single paragraph. At this rate I'll either give up soon, or there will be a string of 30 such entries here.
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