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Microsoft's 2016 predictions: We'll stop talking directly to each other

Technically Incorrect: No flying cars next year, according to Redmond's top brains. But every schoolkid will code and data ethics will suddenly become a big thing.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


We'll communicate through our electronic assistants. That should be fun.

James Martin/CNET

Looking around me, I see an age that's brazen rather than golden.

Microsoft, however, sees "a Golden Age of Technological Advancement."

I know this because the company just published its view of what 2016 will look like, technologically speaking. You must decide how golden next year might be.

Specifically, these predictions come from some of the Redmond, Washington-based company's finest researchers. All day, they think not of what is now, but of what will be.

Some of the predictions follow current technological developments, such as acceleration in natural language processing, neural networks and the cloud.

You will be stunned, though, that one of the predictions is that "stylus-based drawing, annotation and note-taking will assume a broadly supported and appropriate place in the mosaic of how we interact with digital devices."

One can't help but see a slight needle at Apple, which after years of snorting at the idea of a stylus, suddenly came out with one to go with its iPad Pro, several years after Microsoft and Samsung embraced the idea. Naturally, the Cupertino, California, company didn't call it a stylus, preferring the more graphic "pencil."

Oddly, one prediction is "a significant decrease in complexity, increase in value and a liberation that enables people to focus on what is most important: realizing their human potential to the fullest." Now that sounds a touch Apple-like, doesn't it?

I wonder, though, about this liberation thing. Every time I hear people talk about freedom, it always seems to be a freedom that's defined by those in control of one ecosystem or another, rather something universal.

Interestingly, one researcher foresees that "the age of digital baubles, do-dads and planned obsolescence will begin to fade." But how are these companies going to make money without planned obsolescence? Look what happens when a product has a little longevity. The iPad, for example. Sales suddenly dive 20 percent.

Then there's this rather marvelous prognostication: 2016 will apparently be the year in which "the world realizes the potential for technology to help avert the 6th mass extinction and transform the way we monitor, model and manage life on earth."

Does the world ever realize anything en masse? Or do certain ideas trickle through, disappear, only to return with someone new taking the credit for them?

My favorite prediction, though, is this one: "Our online conversations will increasingly be mediated by conversation assistants who will help us laugh and be more productive."

Yes, we're going to have talk-helpers, little voices that will stop us from saying silly things, whip us to work more, exercise more, and never insult anyone with a haphazard, irritable text or email.

Behold a 2016 first date: Instead of boy or girl meets boy or girl, it's going to be Cortana, Siri and Google Girl making the small talk on our behalves.

Now that, when it comes to love, is surely liberation.