News and commentary about the Great Frontiers

ISS007-E-10807 (21 July 2003) --- This view of Earth's horizon as the sunsets over the Pacific Ocean was taken by an Expedition 7 crewmember onboard the International Space Station (ISS). Anvil tops of thunderclouds are also visible. Credit: Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center

Image Credit: ISS007-E-10807 (21 July 2003) – Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center

Technology Trends in 2014 (from 2012)


Read Richard’s current thoughts about transhumanism and related fringe topics here.

(While these trends are United States-centric, most of them also apply to other developed countries, and will soon apply to developing countries as well.)


A significant fraction of households now have 100-200 mbps broadband connections, with pockets of 400 mpbs connections spreading to some cities, and more, but still rare, 1 gbps connections. The arrival of 4K video online and the rapid refashioning of the web into an interactive multi-medium will increase the consumer and business demand for 1 gbps.

The rollout of LTE-Advanced, with average speeds in excess of 100 mbps will begin. There will be few devices that support this speed.

The Internet of Things and Sensor Web are much more commonly discussed. There are truly more sensors and tracking of objects using the internet, but these are just the early days of a revolution in what the internet is capable of becoming. Our environment will be more aware due to a push by marketers, but AR, lifelogging and ads will be the only beneficiaries at this stage.

Digital Media

In 2014, the Cloud is the primary platform for all digital media, with 1080p, 5.1 surround sound being the standard. 4K video will arrive, with affordable TVs and other displays providing QFHD (3840 x 2160 pixels) or 4K (4096 x 2160 pixels) resolution. Television stations and cable companies will have been testing 4K and the first 4K channels will likely be offered by the end of the year. The first 4K digital downloads will arrive to begin filling up the resolution real estate of 4KTVs and other displays. Consumer electronics companies will be talking about their new 4K physical disk formats, but it is likely these will never catch on as streaming and downloads will become overwhelmingly more popular.


Intelligent Agents will pass Social Networks as the most commented upon, reported, hyped, and business-oriented and consumer-facing trend. When merged with Augmented Reality, we will begin to see the spread of cartoon critters that leap around our devices and displays to serve as assistants and entertainment.

Lifelogging continues to improve with the arrival of the Internet of Things and Sensor Web. Activities like waking and falling asleep, health metrics, and activities are commonly collected by consumer electronics and these data have become the foundation for the transformation of Social Networks into Lifelogging Platforms.


In 2014, the 4K Video Era will arrive, with affordable TVs and other displays providing QFHD (3840 x 2160 pixels) or 4K (4096 x 2160 pixels) resolution. A 42-inch 4KTV will have similar resolutions to desktop computer monitors several years earlier: 105+ pixels per inch. Tablets will be at over 300 ppi (iPhone 4 and 4S are at 326 ppi today) for near-magazine-level crispness in text, and smartphones will be over 600 ppi. Displays will integrate multitouch and haptics for virtual textures and buttons you can “touch”, leading to tablets that can truly compete at the level of productivity currently offered by computers with keyboards. In fact, the tablet could replace the keyboard for our TVs and desktop computers.

Semiconductor manufacturing processes reaches the 14 nanometer node, helping consumer electronics to reach incredible thinness and flexibility. This will allow for the beginning of a proliferation of form factors for computers, including those that can bend, roll up, and fold. Desktops and laptops come standard with 4 to 6 TB of storage capacity, but SSDs in the TB range are even more popular and quickly become the standard. Smartphones and tablets reach 256 GB of flash RAM, which allows for storage of several HD movies or a tens of television shows.

Memristors and ReRAM arrive in consumer electronics, helping to shrink these devices even further, while using less energy than their ancestor devices of 2012. 3D transistors are all the rage, and strontium germanide MISFET transistors arrive.

USB 3.0 and Light Peak are common in devices. Tablets are the new laptop and outsell them now that they are haptic-enabled. TVs are the new desktop and all-in-one.

Sunglasses-style heads-up displays arrive with 1080p resolution and 3D support. They are not widely popular at first as the details are worked out, but their eventual thinness and power will soon make them the new smartphone (probably by 2016).


Torsobots are working side-by-side with humans and other robots for consumers are rapidly improving in capabilities, including doing things like washing dishes and windows, folding clothing, and holding and using tools. These are still mostly in the lab, but some consumer-directed offerings arrive. While robots are primarily still single duty, there is a trend already beginning toward general-purpose robots.

Robots begin to migrate out to take care of tedious tasks like maintaining and inspecting high voltage transmission lines, water mains, and sewers. There is a revolution in “hidden” robotics, but we are just a few years away from them taking a more active and public role in labor.


Genome sequencing now costs well under $1000 for the individual and can be purchased in doctor’s offices. Many new companies arrive offering this service to individuals, and many more are offering lifelogging platform-oriented analysis of individual genomes.

Very expensive 3-D printing of complex organs arrives. Stem-cell research after languishing for a few years is back in the news with new successes, new methods for obtaining and generating them, and more widespread use despite the lack of FDA approval. In fact, plastic surgeons will begin to make use of these cells more often, including breast reconstruction that avoids the need for implants.

Advanced prostheses that are mind-controlled are in human trials by the end of 2014. The results of suspended animation experiments are published and FDA approval is likely.

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