Forum: I'm outta here, see you all next year

Next year will see startling advances in artificial intelligence, quantum computing and robotics

Well, this is it: the last issue of Computerworld for the year and as soon as it goes to the printer, I’m taking a break. We’ll be back on January 21 in print, but of course we’ll keep delivering you all the ICT news that’s fit to print online — and maybe some that isn’t.

It’s been a good year for ICT. Despite a few speed wobbles, we are seeing some promising changes in broadband and connectivity, with New Zealand taking a few small steps up the international rankings.

Business has been good too. In talking to industry figures around the traps and in preparation for our “Outlook 2008” roundup, you get a sense of quiet confidence. Nobody is picking an economic downturn and most expect at least modest growth. The outliers tend to be bulls rather than bears.

After a year at the helm, I’m pretty bullish about Computerworld too. We’ve broken some good stories this year and, through refocusing on core ICT content, seen ourselves creeping up the rankings as well — both online and in print.

And as we’ve asked everyone else for their predictions and forecasts for next year, it’s only fair that I step up and deliver some of my own:

• Next year will see startling advances in artificial intelligence, quantum computing, robotics and all the areas of science we used to read about only in comics. As I write we have just sent to print a story about a scientist who patched into the brain of a moth, and this is just one of several stories on the science front this year that make me feel we, as a species, are on the cusp of some radical new understandings and capabilities.

• Google is the company to watch if you want to understand the shape of the future internet. That company’s moves into mobile phone platforms and its indication that it will be bidding for US wireless spectrum will shake up a market that is in desperate need of some shaking. And that’s before we talk about Google Docs and Google Maps and so forth. Far from being the next bubble, Google is the next IT and media powerhouse and if that is not already clear, it will become so next year.

On the downside, the internet was a great hope for many in the 1990s, promising to subvert totalitarian regimes, spread media freedom and empower individuals. There is now a danger that dream will fade. The Great Firewall of China, the failure of multinationals such as Google and Yahoo to defend freedom on their platforms and diminishing online privacy all threaten the great internet dream.

Also threatening that dream is the ever-growing sophistication of internet attacks. In 2008 we will see atacks of the kind and scale we’ve never seen before, attacks that will truly give us pause about connecting, either as individuals or as businesses.

When I began reporting IT in the 1990s it was a niche interest. It is now not only mainstream, it is visibly reshaping our world. My final prediction is that we will bring you more great stories about those changes next year. So have a great and safe Christmas. See you in 2008.

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