Thought Leadership

The future is not what it used to be

By Colin Walls

If I think back to my childhood, back in the 1960s, and my expectations for the future, there have been some disappointments. That was the time of the race to get to the Moon and I feel very privileged to have been able to witness – albeit on a fuzzy black and white TV – these historic events. But I expected more. Whatever happened to the flying cars? …

On a personal level, I have very little to complain about. I have good health, great friends and family, I live in a nice place, I am solvent and I have had an interesting career. What more could I ask for?

I have always been fascinated by science and technology and excited by new things as they come along – always wondering what is around the corner. During the Moon shots, I was already looking forward to seeing a man step foot on Mars. This has been a disappointment and I am seriously wondering whether I will see it in my lifetime. I do hope that it does happen. I was a big Star Trek fan [still am in my secret moments] and loved the 23rd Century technology. I so wanted one of their communicators; I have an iPhone 7 in my pocket – I think that rates as a dream come true. I loved the big screen on the Enterprise; you can buy TVs that kind of size for quite a modest price. The touch panel control desk on TNG was so cool; just a very big iPad really. ?

I often wonder, “what next?”, but I am not good at predicting. When I first encountered computers, it was a kind of love at first sight. Being able to own one seemed unimaginable, but, in due course, I did. But I could never have envisaged the ridiculous amount of computing power I now use to write a blog like this.

One person – a personal hero of mine, actually – who seemed to be adept with a crystal ball, was Arthur C Clarke. He had a very clear vision back in the ‘60s of what life might be like now. I will quote him:

We could be in instant contact with each other, wherever we may be, where we can contact our friends anywhere on earth, even if we don’t know their actual physical location. It will be possible in that age, perhaps only 50 years from now, for a man to conduct his business from Tahiti or Bali just as well as he could from London…. Almost any executive skill, any administrative skill, even any physical skill, could be made independent of distance. I am perfectly serious when I suggest that one day we may have brain surgeons in Edinburgh operating on patients in New Zealand.

I think that about nails it …

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at