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Technology is my thing. I love it. It's transformed human life for the better again and again in the last few million years. This is a series in which I try to imagine future technology, and how it might change our lives again.

I can imagine swarms of tiny robots that constantly surveil nuclear power plants inside and outside the buildings, and compare the way things are with some baseline. They compare to the average of last week's configuration, and point out any changes. They notice if people are in places they don't always go. This would be a good security feature. They notice if water is somewhere it doesn't usually go, detecting any drips or leaks right away. They notice changes of temperature, if a certain pipe is hotter or colder than it usually is. Maybe the insulation got knocked off in one spot, or something. They also can read radiation levels, to alert health physics if anything is changing in a way it oughtn't to change. They get to go all into containment when the reactor is running. I can see these being super helpful on all industrial sites, to prevent accidents and catch anything out of the ordinary that maybe human watchers wouldn't see right away. Those would be cool.

I'm working on my Spanish again (hence the title) using duolingo, this time. I can see all learning getting a whole lot easier with excellent games and programs like that. I can see that working much better for languages, so that in a generation or two everyone on earth will speak a dozen or more common languages. Probably English, Spanish, French, Russian, Mandarin, Portuguese, and perhaps Swahili, Tagalog, Japanese, Arabic, not sure what else. I'm probably betraying my Eurocentrism here. What languages do you consider most important in the world? Which have the most speakers? I'm thinking if your ancestors spoke a language without many speakers, that you'd want to learn that one too. So courses-games for Navajo, Hebrew, Homeric Greek, and all the many thousands of tribal languages, all those in danger of dying out soon, everything we can capture, will in 30 years be easy to learn as your twelfth or twentieth language. That means we need to work really hard to capture them all now as fast as we can. We don't want them to be lost to posterity.

Another task I think we're very close to automating is logging what happens in your life. How long ago did we get get groceries last? When did Ghost have his coughing fits and how has the rate changed over time? Did I remember to take insulin when I ate this afternoon? How long am I sleeping this month and has it changed from last month? Print out all the grocery items I added to list lately. It looks like the Amazon Echo is going to have some of this functionality. And the fitbit or other fitness tracker needs to be incorporated into the app, I think. It would be a great help for forgetful old ladies, parents, and really anyone else. Since Echo is going to be half off for Prime users for a limited time, I think I'm getting one. I got Prime this year so I could order my cat litter from Amazon one bag at a time and have some chance the FedEx and UPS people would carry them up the stairs to the front porch. (This saved me the expense of buying a ramp for the back right now, so it was totally worth it.) I'll let you know how well it works. I kind of hope it has unlimited lists it will keep for you, but the ad copy implies it's only grocery and todo. The limitation, it seems, would be how well it can understand what you say. And that funny video of the voice-activated elevator which gets everything all wrong comes to mind immediately. So we'll see how well it actually works when it comes.

Next, I see housekeeping technology as being way, way behind. We haven't had any major improvements other than the microwave oven since WW2. I can picture a combination washer dryer that will handle 3 or 4 loads at once. You sort your clothes into the load baskets on top. They're probably shaped like short cylinders to fit into the machines. You load the detergent, bleach, fabric softener bins, program the type of washing and drying you want (as with existing machines) but for each of the 4 loads. I do pretty much all my loads the same, but then I understand that most people take better care of their clothes than I do. Then you press start and the machine washes and dries each load in turn. When you return, however many hours later, all the loads are dry and sitting again on top of the machine in their individual baskets. Then you hang or fold the clothes and put them away. No more rerunning the same load 3 or 4 times because you left it wet in the washer when it was done. No more doing laundry all day long or for days at a time switching things out every few hours. You just set it up and it's done. In fact, to make it extra easy, they could have a typical setup as default and then label the baskets darks, whites, colors, etc. Or else you could choose your own system and leave it set like that. It would be so much better than we have now.

When I want something to be really sterile, I put it into the dishwasher. So my scrubby mesh sponge thingy that I use in the bath goes through the dishwasher after every few uses. Seems like the dishwasher gets things clean like nothing else. That made me think that we should design our bathrooms and tubs and showers like dishwashers, to wash themselves and get sterile. I can see sealing off anything that can't get wet, like the scale, the toilet paper, towels, etc. They could all be kept a little outside the sealed area that contains only the tub and toilet. Then fill the detergent and rinse cups, seal the door shut and run the cycle once a week or every day or every time you use it. Let it wash then dry itself similar to a big dishwasher. Presto! Sterile bathroom! Leave your scrubby mesh sponge thingy inside to get it sterile at the same time!

What advances in technology can you see in the future? How will they change our lives?
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June 2015

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