The development from the first transistor to the modern cell phone (July 2015) took about 70 years. In the 90's, people walked around everywhere talking in their cell phones and today people walk around everywhere looking at the phones. What relation will people have to the corresponding device in 15-20 years?

How intimate will future devices interact with the user and what consequences, positive and negative, will come from that?

Will the devices become mandatory? Will you be a suspected individual if you don't wear a device or if you turn it of?

  • $\begingroup$ Since the end of vacuum tubes people welcomed transitors because these devices can be carried around, nowadays we wear informations such as weather forecast, shopping list, news, etc. In the near future informations wear us down with overwhelming data (downside) actually these accurate predictive technology is going to lead us by the nose. So the relationship is going to be very intimate. $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Jul 13 '15 at 2:52
  • $\begingroup$ I don't recall cell phones being a thing until the late nineties. $\endgroup$
    – James
    Jul 13 '15 at 14:25
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    $\begingroup$ Who exactly are you considering as 'people' here? Because the world, or at least my part of it, is filled with people who didn't walk around talking into cell phones in the '90s, or looking at them today. Yes, I see SOME people who do that, but they are outliers. The majority might answer the phone if it rings, or check something occasionally, but it is not a major life relationship. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Jul 13 '15 at 19:07
  • $\begingroup$ @jamesqf, litterally you are absolutely right, but my text is supposed to be brief and figurative. $\endgroup$
    – Lehs
    Jul 13 '15 at 19:43
  • $\begingroup$ @Lehs: Certainly, but it's still implicitly assuming that, as in Dorian's answer below, "everyone" buys and gets intimately involved with the new device. That's completely unrealistic: many people will only use it intermittently, when it offers some benefit; others will ignore it entirely because it has no relevance to their life. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Jul 13 '15 at 22:30

I can imagine three scenarios.

My first idea (and the most likely one) would be that our smartphones get better, faster, smaller. The display technology will evolve, so that we might have devices the size of a lighter, which can be pulled apart to unroll a flexible touchscreen display to work with.

My second idea (i don't know if twenty years is enough time for that) is that we somehow manage to build a brain-computer-Interface which is connected to other brains via the internet so we don't need to google our questions but we instantly know the answers to our questions because other brains know them. Maybe you can not only connect to other brains but also to computers, so you can use them as a memory extension or for calculating things or to load a virtual reality to play games.

The third scenario (i hope it doesn't become thruth) is that we will be attacked by terrorists and won't have to worry about smartphones or something, because our most personal device will be a gun or maybe arrows and a bow to survive the next day.

I don't think that an augmented reality heads-up display will be very common because the Google Glass didn't sell very well. (But i also didn't think that everybody would run around with a smartphone. I have had a smartphone before the first iPhone was released and i only knew three other people who were interested in that. Then the iPhone was released and suddenly everybody wanted to buy a smartphone)

  • $\begingroup$ "But i also didn't think that everybody would run around with a smartphone. I have had a smartphone before the first iPhone was released and i only knew three other people who were interested in that. Then the iPhone was released and suddenly everybody wanted to buy a smartphone". The old Marketing deparment, and mob mentality. $\endgroup$ 3 hours ago

What would work for a story very well is an augmented reality heads-up display. This is seen in some novels, such as with Stross's police officer novels. She sees "tags" and info augmenting people, buildings, evidence of any kind. The pros have data feeds in addition to the common feeds, and it's a technology everyone uses.

I would love to have "navigation" show up in my glasses rather than on a separate little screen, and blended in with the real view would be even better.

I already look things up when shopping in person at a store — otherwise it's a handicap compared with shopping on line! Sub-penny RFID tags and qr codes will replace labeling and documentation of all kinds.

Some specific thoughts: mega stores like Walmart dictate how goods are packaged and the various standards that must be followed. Once they want RFID, it will be everywhere and in everything. Stores, warehouses, and shipping will use "tunnels" to get a comp, etc. inventory of every item on a palette, and to check out an entire cart of shopping instantly. There are plans and the tech exists, so you can look up details. The only thing is to wait for "penny" RFID tags.

When everything is outfitted, you can continue to use that in your own life. Insteas of in packaging the tag will be sewn into a garmant or molded into plastic housings of all kinds of consumer goods.


This is a totally speculative answer, as it is about predicting the future, but I will take a stab at it.

Further Interaction of Information

Depending on the demographic, the phone will be more than "one-way." I don't mean to suggest that it's not interactive already, but that more data from our phones will be collectable. My blood sugar level from a sensor, her rapid HIV scan, his appraisal of the room ("is the light in this cafe optimal for reading?"), and our wine's preliminary taste-by-phone ("how high is the sulfide level; how many tannins are there; how many calories does this have?"). And so on.

Further Utility

Watching when mobile phones incorporated cameras was fascinating. Soon, they should be able to do more things, like a Swiss Army knife. Some phones (or watches, or devices) may be able to read a book out-loud to a child, repel mosquitoes (ha), even clean the air around you; these are things that require larger devices today, but remember how big a camera was in 1980?

Under-developed Regions

Perhaps a phone can not only detect water quality, but purify or sterilize it: again, of course this requires a lot of work today, but maybe in the future, it requires a tiny device: don't underestimate materials-science. Similarly, it may provide educational interactive information and way-finding for civic resources.


I'd really love phones/watches/devices to incorporate an easy button or gesture that alerts emergency services to you ASAP. Of course, since I butt-dial people all the time, I would hope it's a procedure that is easy, but not accidentally activated.

This is all purely speculative, of course.

  • $\begingroup$ So, a nightmare distopy? $\endgroup$ 4 hours ago

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