December 27, 2010, 4:00 PM — During the slow-news week between Christmas and New Year's, it becomes astoundingly clear that humans are good at predicting the future of things over which we have no influence -- movement of the planets, behavior of particles we can't see even with our most powerful instruments, the inevitable decay of order into the universe to a state of decoherent chaos and nothingness.
We're incredibly bad at predicting anything that has anything to do directly with us, however, especially when the predictions depend on how technology will develop and what we'll do about it.
In 1950, "Miracles You'll See in the Next 50 Years," included the ability to recycle underwear into candy and the assumption that most women would be housewives.
It also assumed it would be a good way to save the little lady some effort by making dishes out of "cheap plastic that would melt in hot water" so she could just let those carcinogens and long-chain polymers run down the drain and almost unimpeded out into the environment and water supply.
The predictions IBM releases every year are more substantial; they're all technologies IBM is developing in the lab and expects to be able to build into one specialty product or another before long.
Star Wars video chat
Its big news -- the sexiest thing in IBM's list of five things that will be real and practical technologies in five years -- is the three-dimensional hologram that will become the interface of choice for software and video chat.
Sometimes the "futuristic" predictions seem a little retro, like 3D holographic phones that will let us communicate the same way they did in Star Wars -- badly, with a lot of static and horrible catastrophes following immediately after the message.