A lot of the things people said we “would” be able to do are now pretty commonplace. One of my phones (the G2) has an app called “tricorder” that can measure gravity (well, acceleration – good luck telling those apart), magnetism, some kinds of EM spectrum, and can do real-time spectrum analysis of audio. It could probably do real-time spectrum analysis of the camera input, too, but they happen not to have written that yet. You can take a picture of an object and have a decent chance of the software figuring out what it is and telling you where you can buy one. If you can get a barcode, you’re set – it can get exactly that item for you.
It’s not even interesting any more to have a phone that can take pictures of higher quality than we used to be able to make at all for any price and send them around the world in seconds. I mean, you have to spend serious time and effort to find a phone that CAN’T do that. The resolution on the displays of current phones is high enough that I can no longer perceive pixels in them.
What’s been really interesting has been the mix of ways in which we anticipated the effects of these changes and ways in which we totally failed to. The effect of mobile phones on markets in emerging countries seems to have been a bit of a surprise – no one realized they’d replace monetary transactions in places with no real banking, did they? It surprised me, although once you’ve thought of it it’s obvious.
I suppose I should be disappointed that we never really did rocket cars, but the stuff we’ve gotten instead is frankly better.
As Jesse pointed out: For most end-user purposes, the size and shape of a storage device is now a matter of ergonomics, not storage design. You can get 64GB storage devices around the size of a pinky nail; the reason thumb drives are still thumb-sized is purely a matter of convenience to the user, because if you make them too small we lose them.
LED lighting has reduced the energy cost of a given amount of illumination further than I actually expected to see it go in my lifetime… and with any luck, I have a few years left in me. Bandwidth has gotten to the point where I don’t even pay attention to whether I’ve already downloaded a given multi-gigabyte DVD image yet in most cases. Who cares? Storage and bandwidth are too cheap to meter.
That none of this appears to have eliminated war and poverty should, I suppose, not surprise us.