Forbes has a good article on Intel's "Tomorrow Project," wherein Intel Chief Futurist Brian David Johnson gets science fiction writers and technologists to produce materials about the future of technology as part of the company's future product development plans. I've contributed a short story, Knights of the Rainbow Table (about the moment when human-memorizable passwords become trivially computer-guessable), to the accompanying Tomorrow Project Anthology, which launches at NY Comic-Con today.
"It sounds science-fictiony," he laughs. "But it's ultimately pragmatic. Chip designs have lead times of 5-10 years, so it's important to have an understanding of how people will want to to interact with computers. I'm literally working on chips for 2020 right now."
I obviously couldn't let it lie there. What do you take into account when planning the future? The answer is both intriguing and quite unlike most futurists I know. Johnson's first stop is the social sciences. He works with Dr. Genevieve Bell, a cultural anthropologist who has been at Intel since 1998. Their teams work with ethnographers, social scientists, and others to understand the current state of the culture and try to figure out where it's going.
The next step is then looking at the hardware. Johnson and his team work with computer scientists to look at the current state of the art in hardware, software, and algorithms, as well as the research coming up. The tech data is meshed with the social sciences data to answer a simple question: how can we apply this technology to capture people's imaginations and make their lives better?