Forecasting Tomorrow’s Technology Today

As it’s been said, prediction is very difficult, especially about the future

3 min read
Forecasting Tomorrow’s Technology Today
Photo: Volker Möhrke/Corbis

Early in 2014, IEEE Spectrum teamed up with SciCast, the “Bayesian combinatorial prediction market” group based at George Mason University, in Fairfax, Va. And when our January Top Tech 2015 issue hit the Web, IEEE Spectrum added something new to a few of its articles: the opportunity for readers to participate in IEEE Spectrum SciCast forecasting and match wits with experts by making their own predictions about the future of technology.

SciCast founders Robin Hanson, Kathryn Laskey, and Charles Twardy built the system to allow large numbers of forecasters (some 10,000 have signed on so far) to collectively prognosticate on technological progress. Initial support for SciCast came from the U.S. Intelligence Research Projects Activity.

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Two men fix metal rods to a gold-foiled satellite component in a warehouse/clean room environment

Technicians at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems facilities in Redondo Beach, Calif., work on a mockup of the JWST spacecraft bus—home of the observatory’s power, flight, data, and communications systems.

NASA

For a deep dive into the engineering behind the James Webb Space Telescope, see our collection of posts here.

When the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) reveals its first images on 12 July, they will be the by-product of carefully crafted mirrors and scientific instruments. But all of its data-collecting prowess would be moot without the spacecraft’s communications subsystem.

The Webb’s comms aren’t flashy. Rather, the data and communication systems are designed to be incredibly, unquestionably dependable and reliable. And while some aspects of them are relatively new—it’s the first mission to use Ka-band frequencies for such high data rates so far from Earth, for example—above all else, JWST’s comms provide the foundation upon which JWST’s scientific endeavors sit.

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