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DCS 860A Emerging Technologies
Homework Assignment 2
Due Sunday, September 17, 2000
Stephen Parshley


Part 1.  Create a one-sentence definition of Emerging Information Technologies.

Response:  An Emerging Information Technology is an information technology that has moved beyond concept (discovery/invention) but has yet to be fully realized in practice, application, acceptance, or appreciation by society.

Part 2.  Create an ordered list (most important first) of what you consider the 5-10 most important emerging technologies (be specific: e-commerce is not sufficient.)

Response:  I note that you did not restrict the emerging technologies to emerging information technologies.  Therefore, at the risk of violating your intent, I am casting the net a bit more widely than simply focusing on information technologies in the strictest sense.

1.  Genetic Engineering – specifically, the human genome project’s consequences.  Understanding our own DNA may lead to paradigmatic shifts in how we represent, store, and process information.  The invention/discovery phase is complete.

2.  Neuroimaging.  (mapping human brain behaviors)

3.  Voice Recognition Systems (continuous natural speech)

4.  CAVE Virtual Reality (Cave Automatic Virtual Environment – a recursive acronym)

5.  Real-time vision systems  - automated visual guidance systems (continuous high resolution image collection and analysis)

6.  Information imaging (graphical representation of data mining activities)

7.  Flat Panel Displays / HDTV High Definition Television.  As mundane as this sounds, I believe that the emergence of large area, economical, lightweight, essentially two-dimensional displays will be absolutely fundamental as an implementing technology to break down the fundamental barrier between TV and computers.  I think of this as a truly emerging technology with profound effects on how we live and work.

8.  Deep computing – the implications for a host of applications are overwhelming (weather forecasting, nuclear decay, neural mapping, cognitive modeling, astronomy)  While deep computing is mature relative to previous computing power, this technology has yet to be fully realized in practice, particularly for massive parallel computing.

9.  Micromachines – in information technology terms, think of these as information agents.  If properly implemented, the amount of information these machines could gather is staggering in the field of bioengineering.  The utility for mechanical engineering and electrical engineering is awesome.

10.  Battery technology.  A quantum leap here would make high-powered, full-time, real-time, wearable computing a reality.

Part 3:  For each of the first three items on your list, explain (approximately one page each) why you think it is important and include what you mean by “important.”


1.  Genetic Engineering – specifically, the human genome project’s consequences.  Understanding our own DNA may lead to paradigmatic shifts in how we represent, store, and process information.  The invention/discovery phase is complete, but the application of the technology (ability to investigate, map, and eventually manipulate genetic code) is definitely still emerging.  Improvements in understanding of genetic sequencing and its manifestation in biology may lead to improved understanding of how to provide “machine language” inputs to a completely different kind of computer.  Extending this idea to the purely hypothetical, when spiritual machines appear, they will select the genetic attributes of their offspring by coding the information necessary for the young machine to learn and grow up to be a productive entity with a specific function.  The paradigm of operating system and application would become obsolete; the machine would have the potential to learn.  The rest is information gathering and intelligence development through experience.

2.  Neuroimaging.  Map the mind and you have the potential to understand cognition paradigms that may change how we think about computers as a tool for people.  Neuroimaging is an emerging technology relative to this project.  As a general diagnostic tool, neuroimaging is in the acceptance phase, but not yet sublime.  I think the emergence of neuroimaging will occur as the full potential of several (at least five distinct) non-invasive imaging techniques is realized.  While we normally think only of the medical aspects of neuroimaging, we need to think about the computing implications.  Neural networking may benefit from neuroimaging in the same way that the Wright brothers benefited from learning about lift by examining a bird’s wing.

3.  Voice recognition of continuous natural speech is only now becoming good enough to suggest imminent acceptance.  This is definitely still emerging.  Why is it important?  I can think of no greater impediment to communication between people and computers than the computer’s inability to recognize and respond to continuous natural speech.   Of course, we are a long way from realizing speech recognition in the literal sense – to RE- cognize entails having had a previous cognition of natural language, and that is a holy grail for computing.  KNOWING WHAT I SAID is not the great hurdle for speech recognition; UNDERSTANDING WHAT I MEANT is.  If we can clear these two hurdles, computing will never look back.  Think of the number of persons for whom the keyboard is a disabling factor.  Furthermore, think of the degree to which acceptance of computing per se (the ubiquity of PC’s notwithstanding) would increase if one could talk to a computer.  Current voice recognition is excessively crude relative to even a small child’s expectations.  We have a long way to go with this technology.