It is not surprising that area readers are not stumbling over each other in order to get their thoughts into print under the topic "Looking to the Future." Future predicting or even vision is not an easy task. If
predicting the future were easy, many would have invested much more heavily in certain stocks in the market this past year, and would now be quite wealthy.
Before voyaging into the unknown world of the future, it is imperative that I acknowledge one of the reasons so many residents have chosen the Brainerd lakes area as home for themselves and their families. That reason is the "Quality of Life" of this area. Whether one describes quality of life as being home with nature, or far enough away from others to feel my own independence, or a slower lifestyle than that of the metropolitan area, or enjoyment of the trees, flowers and other wildlife, each of these are reasons future generations will also choose to live in this area.
Now to the future....
Just as the industrial revolution dramatically impacted the lakes area changing early settler lifestyles, so will the remaining impact of the information revolution change our lifestyles by the year 2025. Computers of just 20 years ago stored data on tape recorders, and were lucky to have memory capacity of 16 kBytes - and only a few people owned one! Computers of the future will be so small and operate at such speeds as to replicate similar speeds at which the human brain thinks. Sensors will be woven in to the clothing of area citizens that will collect medical, personal, and image information for immediate transmission to doctors, our home or to friends via virtual monitoring networks throughout the lakes area, designed to warn us when it is time to seek a medical evaluation of our changing health or to
change medications as monitored by our doctors. Such sensors will be as common as clothing buttons or zippers are today, yet they will be optional for those who fear intrusions into their personal privacy.
Advances in nanotechnology and telecommunications (without unsightly towers) will shrink the size of government, making it mobile and available throughout the county. Both the efficiency of government and the method in which government interacts with citizens will be improved. Unlike current perceptions of government as an unending bureaucracy unavailable to the majority of people, advances in technology will allow seamless access to local and state government (and perhaps federal at a future date) at the speed of thought. This will lead to an increase in citizen interest and democratic decision making on issues.
The Brainerd Lakes area will see a significant increase in "infrachatter," information being sent as quickly as it is collected between government, science, medicine, etc., and machines and objects which will immediately use the information to help reduce congested traffic, or turn off area lawn sprinklers when a rain storm is detected in the area. It will warn drivers when a deer is preparing to cross the road in front of them or when an oncoming car has entered their lane presenting a danger, or where current patterns of criminal activity have occurred.
High speed technology will make speech recognition practical by allowing us to talk to a computer device using a search engine so powerful that information such as a request for considerations in building a robot factory in Merrifield will instantly provide local, state and federal ordinances or laws, building standards and setbacks, soil and water sample information, possible building plans and expected costs to complete the project. It will also provide information as to worker needs and expected employment costs based on current trends, housing considerations, school impact and special environmental considerations.
Voters will not need to leave home to research information about any election issue or any candidate. Instead of driving to a local voting poll, voters will access information and vote from their local television
(actually the television will be the electronic, 3 - dimension communication center of the average 2025 home), via a high speed, secure, scrambled and encrypted chip which allows one to vote, shop electronically, receive advanced education or lifelong learning improvements, monitor security, contact friends and family, and file tax reports at home.
With all this technological advancement, the Brainerd lakes area will grow in population at a significant rate - due to its "Quality of Life". It
will be more important than ever to carefully anticipate and plan for such growth.
If any of my predictions prove to be inaccurate in the year 2025, please take time to let me know and I'll revise them.
(Sluss, a Crow Wing County commissioner and Baxter resident, wrote this opinion piece as a private citizen.)
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