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IBM’s Five Predictions for the Next Five Years: How Likely Are They?

By / 12.21.11

Every year, IBM does a “Five in Five”: they look at current technology and where it’s headed, and make an educated guess or two about what we’re going to see within five years. Inevitably, the titles are grandiose but the actual statements are pretty sensible, but this year’s five are particularly interesting.

Basically, IBM thinks you’ll ditch your password, that your house will be powered by passive energy collection, gadgets will start reading your mind. But how actually likely are they? Let’s break them out, item by item, and see just how likely they really are. We’ll rank them by likelihood.

#5) The Digital Divide Will Cease To Exist

That would be nice, but it’s not going to happen.

Oh, what IBM states is already happening, and fast: the penetration of cell phones into every corner of the world is a very, very real phenomenon and is probably the first decent thing the First World has done for the Third World, technologically speaking. Just us offloading our old cell phones onto Africa has saved countless lives. But the flipside of that is that they’re always going to be a few generations behind.

Let’s face it, nobody’s building a 4G network in Africa; the money isn’t there. And the ability to interact over the Internet, quickly and directly, is becoming increasingly important in the global economy. It’s true we may reach a point where internet access and smartphones are so offensively cheap that everybody has Internet access: the IEEE has created the 802.22 standard to do just that. But in five years? Not likely, unfortunately.

#4) People Power Will Come To Life

What IBM means by this is that passive energy collection will become a major trend, that you’ll strap a battery to your bike or keep a battery on you when you walk around, and that energy collectors will be installed in everything from your plumbing to your doors to gather kinetic energy and turn it into power.

This we also think is unlikely because of practicality and cost. We talk a good game about green technology, but most of us barely recycle. Getting your average American to strap a battery to their belt to power up the house is just asking too much of our lazy butts.

#3) Mind Reading Is No Longer Science Fiction

Basically, we’re getting better and better about sensing brain waves, to the point where people can control mouse cursors with their brains. So IBM thinks this’ll become a common technology.

We’re thinking the fact that this is on the market and mostly has only sold to the disabled tells you how likely it is to catch on. People generally find computers reading their minds to be creepy, and economics adjust accordingly.


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