Forecasting technology is a notoriously tricky business. In spite of all the predictions, we still don't have fusion power or flying cars, but in 2010 you can kick around a virtual soccer ball using a handheld camera phone, and who saw that coming?
It's the job of the Air Force Chief Scientist and his colleagues to look around periodically, see what technology is current and what lies just ahead, and try to extrapolate as best they can. The last such planning exercise was in 1995. Now, after a year-long study, the Chief Scientist has come out with a new "Technology Horizons" report, a roadmap for navigating the technological landscape the Air Force can expect between now and 2030.
There are enough gadgets in the 171-page report to make any tech freak's heart beat faster, from brainwave-controlled machines to hyper-precise bombs to atomic clocks that fit on a computer chip. Many have the same overarching theme: The Air Force expects to rely much more on computers and less on humans (say goodbye to pilots). This is far beyond remotely piloted airplanes, folks. A quote from the report: "By 2030 machine capabilities will have increased to the point that humans will have become the weakest component in a wide array of systems and processes. Closer human-machine coupling and augmentation of human performance will become possible and essential." And of course, our enemies will have access to abundant, cheap technology, too, which will make the job even harder.
If it sounds like the opening scenes of The Terminator, well...remember that Ahnold's persistent cyborg came from the year 2029.
Download a PDF of the Technology Horizons report here.