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2012: The year ahead in technology

Molly Wood Jan 2, 2012

2012 will be a crazy busy year in technology. A lot of amazing stuff going on. How do we know it’s going to be a big year? It’s technology! They’re ALL big years.

We talked to some of the guests you hear often on our show and asked them to gaze into their crystal balls and tell us the big story of 2012.

“The top story of 2012 will absolutely be the increasing erosion of your privacy. Or, depending on whether you take an optimistic view, maybe the rebirth of your digital privacy. There will be a ton of attention on data-gathering, and personal privacy, and what companies do with data that they gather around you, and it may be that we find out things are a lot worse than we thought, but maybe we’ll get some rules and regulations out of it.” – Molly Wood, executive editor, CNET.com

“My prediction for the biggest story in 2012 is surveillance. Two senators earlier this year blew the whistle on what they believe is a secret interpretation of the PATRIOT Act by the Obama administration. They’ve hinted at uses of this law to engage in massive surveillance of Americans’ location information. We still don’t know exactly the scale of the program or what’s happening, but once the program does get exposed, it could likely be on the scale of the warrantless wire-tapping scandal that blew up several years ago.” – Chris Soghoian, privacy researcher

“A tech story of 2012 is looking for mesh networking to maybe start finding an audience. Ad-hoc mesh networking is the practice of using the radios and the devices that we already have very well-distributed among us — that includes mobile phones, computers, iPads, things like that, using their network connectivity NOT to talk to a Wi-Fi access point, or to a 3G cell phone tower, but rather to one another. The kinds of networks you can build don’t look exactly like what we’re used to, but can be much more robust — if a hurricane comes through, or a dictator throws a kill switch — there are ways in which those networks can survive and the people within them can find one another and communicate. So I would look for advances in development and deployment of mesh networks in 2012.” – Jonathan Zittrain, professor of law and computer science at Harvard University, co-founder of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society

“I think the big story in 2012, in terms of technology, is going to be robotics. So today, robots are in widespread use by the military, by the industrial manufacturing sector, but more and more you’re going to see robots out in public actually interacting with people. You might see that in the form of drones being used domestically, you might see it in the form of autonomous vehicles, and I think you might just see it in the form of there really being viable commercial personal robots the way there were commercially viable personal computers in the ’80s. ” – Ryan Calo runs privacy and robotics research at the Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society

“In 2012, I think one of the big stories is going to be the continued and maybe complete implosion of Research in Motion, the makers of Blackberry mobile communicators. The company’s had a terrible strategy for years, but they’re still selling millions upon millions of devices to business users who replied upon them. They had a number of technical stumbles and their next-gen operating system that works more like Android, iPhone and Windows Phone 7 has now been delayed until the end of 2012. They’ve missed the boat. So the Blackberry and Crackberry jokes will go away and they’ll be replaced by everyone using touch screens and more intuitive devices.” – Glenn Fleishman, writer for TheEconomist.com

We’ll bring you all those stories as they happen over the next year.

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