Optimistic engineers

A survey of IEEE Fellows (distinguished ) is cast as bursting tech bubbles before they balloon but doesn’t really do anything of the sort. Emphasis added:

So although we may not be able to say that in 2015 a space elevator will be shuttling goods and people into orbit or that in 2020 we’ll all have robot servants, we can foresee that in the next several decades we will be building our infrastructure in a new way: we will have unlimited computing resources, live in a sensory-rich computing environment, and reengineer ourselves and the biological world around us.

Even stereotypically science fiction technologies such as self-driving cars and humanoid robot elder care are seen as likely by 26.4% and 27.1% of respondents respectively or given equal chances by 30.2% and 27.9%. I think those responses are for “in the next 50 years”, though it is not made entirely clear.

It would be interesting to compare the survey with prices. At a glance it appears FX traders are more optimistic than IEEE Fellows, though I don’t know of any claims that exactly match survey questions. FX is gives driverless cars by 2015 a 15% chance and a humanly mobile robot by 2036 a 79% chance.

If I read the article correctly about 13% of respondents say commercial machine translation is likely by 2016 (64.8% say it is likely, presumably in the next 50 years, 19.8%, presumably of those who say it is likely, say it is likely in the next 10 years), while the last FX price of machine translation by 2015 is 67.

So perhaps the survey “bursts bubbles” relative to FX traders (who are a very technophilic bunch), but the future it envisions is still one of radical new capabilities — a future that is much better than the present. I particularly like the engineering profession’s appreciation for decentralization.

Via Boing Boing.

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