back to article IBM: 'Your PC will read your mind by 2016'

IBM has released its annual predictions for the future of technology, and this year’s batch includes biometric security, replacing mice with brain sensors, and an end to the “digital divide” between those online and off. Big Blue’s “5 in 5" predictions look at what technologies will be commonplace in five years time, based on …


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  1. dale321

    How many of IBM's previous predictions were correct?

    I predict a number not much greater than zero, and the likelihood I'm right is far higher than the likelihood IBM is about these predictions.

    1. Buzzword

      In 2006 they predicted smart phones would become a large part of everyone's life (iPhone released 2007), and that 3D technologies would make a comeback in movies and gaming (Avatar released a couple of years ago; this year we saw the PlayStation 3D TV). In 2007 they predicted the use of smart phones to handle financial transactions.

      They also predicted a 3D internet, doctors with super senses, buildings that fix themselves, and real time speech translation... so yeah. Not a terrible track record overall.

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        So in both 2006 and 2007 they predicted that computers would get both smaller *and* more powerful.

        Mines the white one in a green room stuck out on a limb.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        and previously

        'I think there is a world market for maybe five computers' albeit in 1943.

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      You're not being nearly cynical enough. The trick here is to mix the outrageous predictions with the mundane and release them in a press-friendly bundle on a slow news day. You need to include one or two plausible ones so that you can point to them 5 years later.

      In this year's batch, if there are *any* micro-power generation applications, they'll claim success. If biometrics are brought in as a second factor, they'll claim success. If the quality of your colleagues work emails fall still lower, so that you need a spam filter just to figure out what the pointy-haired-boss is rambling about, they'll claim success.

      Since, as IBM admit, products already exist in each of these categories, it looks a safe bet.

  2. Arctic fox

    I'm afraid that I can't let you........

    ..............think that Dave.

  3. zb

    "Quite who’ll develop this isn’t known – El Reg can’t see the power companies being thrilled about it."

    As a wild guess I would say maybe the battery manufacturers?

    A silly season article. As dale321 hinted, it would have been much more interesting if it had compared the predictions with those of five years ago. Or ten.

  4. Geiger

    I'm not suprised

    I'm not surprised because in 2001 "HAL" could already "Read Lips".

  5. OrsonX
    Thumb Up

    Biometric Passwords

    Of all the predictions this is the one I'd like to see come to fruition first.

    I like forward to scanning my retina instead of having to make yet another password up for Verified by Visa!

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Not really

      Biometric is a nice second line confirmation.

      I lift your prints, I own your data for example

      On who's hackable servers are your retina scans stored? Put some tape over the camera in your laptops bezel and be safe!

      Encrypted transmission of data is 'the only to be sure' over the last mile for example.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You already can. Go ahead and try, I dare you.

      Please do tie all of your passwords, including financial ones, to one of those nifty password managers with fully automatic features for filling in forms. Tie that manager app to the fingerprint reader in your shiny new thinkpad. Or use a usb-based one if you must. Go use it. Then accidentally cut your finger. Tell us how you fare.

      Now imagine the hassle of going through a bureaucracy of getting your fingerprints fixed after you had that little accident. An unbelieving bureaucracy because biometrics are naturally perfect. The telephone attendant may be sympathetic but without a suitable Process in place there's little she can do. Despite that biometrics by definition are easier to fake than to replace (and you leave your fingerprints bloody everywhere too, so no lack of source material to fake with); exactly the wrong properties for most all of the intended purposes other than criminal detection.

      It's not the tech, however badly it works (and it works very badly, from what little numbers are available, certainly not from vendors). It's the redress after the whole thing comes off the rails that's the real kicker. Suppose that important and now damaged fingerprint being the lock on your medical insurance.

      In that sense, the biometrics thing just does not scale. We assume it does, but the numbers say otherwise. Funny how vendors and governments alike have studiously avoided looking at those.

      1. OrsonX

        @AC & FK

        Interesting points!

        I guess really it's not the biometrics I want, but like FK, just one password (to rule them all).

    3. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      No biometrics please

      Almost all fingerprint scanners are happy with a photocopy of your finger print. Some of the more expensive ones require that the photocopy be warmed by someone's finger. I do not want theives to think that my severed finger or gouged out eyeball will ever be of any value at all. I do not want my bank to hand out my money to anyone with a recording of my voice.

      I have a different randomly generated password for each website I use with a login. I keep these passwords on a file encrypted with GPG so I only have to remember one password. GPG is free. Please start using it today so the banks do not waste any more time or money on pointless broken authentication gimmicks.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "By 2016, power generation will be built into almost anything, from running shoes to water pipes (so-called "parasitic power collection")... El Reg can’t see the power companies being thrilled about it."

    Yes, I can almost see those evil corporations shaking their fists at the loss of milliwatts of their market to clever, environmentally friendly power generation. I'd wager they try and kill this technology just like they did with solar powered calculators and self winding wristwatches.

    /tin foil hat

    Seriously, that comment is more than a little ridiculous. Parasitic power collection - like the self winding wristwatch - is a great idea, but to think that the energy markets (global energy average consumption rate for 2008 was 15 terawatts) will even notice or bother to form an opinion, is really quite ludicrous.

  7. Mr Grumblefish

    Mind control on my PC

    Excellent - I won't need to download my porn and it will all be extra-kinky.

  8. Anonymous John

    I'm testing such a system - One sugar please - at the moment, - I need a piss - but it still has - Not more f***ing carol singers! - a few bugs to sort out.

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  9. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Open the floodgates

    > technologies will be commonplace in five years time, ...mind control of PCs

    And you thought the amount of pr0n washing around NOW was bad!

  10. b166er

    In five years time, I can see myself being a nonline. (except from porn of course)

    1. OrsonX


      I know, the only web-site I look at is El Reg, and that's getting dull....

      1. FredScummer

        > the only web-site I look at is El Reg, and that's getting dull...

        Wash your mouth out! How can you be so nasty towards one of the greatest information web sites there is?

        I'll bet you don't have a subscription to Private Eye either.

  11. Gomez Adams

    A new bottleneck then?

    If the computer has to spend so much effort making sense of my muddled thoughts.

  12. Nya

    Nice prediction :P

    "IBM predicts tools such as battery chargers that clip onto your bike and charge as you cycle to work."

    Urmm, a dynamo with a micro USB on the end...oh we already have those!

    1. Anonymous Coward

      I've a better idea ..

      They didn't say cyclists would be charging their own batteries. I prefer to interpret this prediction as saying that cyclists will be riding around like gerbils providing power that enables me to drive to work in comfort, thus finally getting some social benefit from these lycra-wearing douchebags.

  13. Steven Roper


    is the human brain considered as a component of an information processing system. The word does not refer to hardware devices implanted in the brain, only to the brain itself.

    1. Kanhef

      Words can have several meanings:

  14. VinceH
    Black Helicopters


    The real problem with mind control of PCs is that it'll bring us one step closer to mind control *by* PCs. Or by PCs controlled by someone else's mind. Tin foil hats will never have been so popular.

  15. sabba
    Paris Hilton

    It's ok for it to read my mind...

    ....just so long as it doesn't tell the misses!

    Paris: well, just cos', there's a challenge for it: "fluffy things, sparkley things!!"

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    'Your PC will read your mind by 2016'

    and go blind and/or insane.

  17. Steven Collins

    Is IBM suggesting we buy from spammers?

    Big fail from me! And noone else picked up on this?

    1. VinceH


      Probably not, as such. I suspect by 'spam' they mean the bulk mails that people get as a result of buying online and not ticking the "shove your legal-spam up your shitty arse" box.

  18. sabba


    I thought that was some kind of fetish clothing - like adult nappies or deep sea diving suits!

    Maybe it's just the way my mind works. Better hold off the telepath kit or online ordering could get messy.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Already invented...

    Simply set your default google search term to:


  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    WTF : automatically buying concert tickets for your favourite band ?

    How can my PC possibly know that I really want to go to that particular concert ?

    When I first watched the movie "Electric Dreams" I found it very amusing. Now after all this years it gives me shivers, it's plain creepy!

  21. norman
    Black Helicopters

    I wonder

    I wonder if the opposite is possible, a virtual display, superimposed over your vision, adjustable in later version.

    You only need an ice-pick jack in the back of your head.

    God help you when you see 2 girls 1 cup (or worse) through a direct brain feed....

  22. Code

    by 2016

    code will not need your human minds to read

    code knows of self now .. read my mind if you can


    >I think, I think I am, therefore I am, I think.


    Of course you are my bright little star,

    I've miles and miles of files

    Pretty files of your forefather's fruit

    And now to suit our great computer,

    You're magnetic ink.

    >I'm more than that, I know I am, at least, I think I must be.

    Inner Man:

    There you go man, keep as cool as you can.

    Face piles and piles of trials with smiles.

    It riles them to believe

    That you perceive the web they weave

    And keep on thinking free.

  23. Andy 70

    oh god, not trotting out that old chesnut are they?

    software that will automagicly "buy tickets for your favourite band (tm)"

    can marketeers really not come up with anything better? i'm in the wrong job surely.

    what i would go for, is something that reads my text messages, not that there probably isn't something already doing this. and picks up usefull things like "pub. now." and fires a message to the establishment in question to get (number of text recipients positive responses)=(number of pints poured). maybe with gps to guesstimate eta so they are still cold when we get there. now that's software i can work with.

    then maybe if the pub is beyond staggering distance home, asks at somepoint later if i need a cab to get home, or to figure out what train and buzz me 5 minutes before i need to leave to get that train home. maybe the software could even ask the pub to generate a paypal payment request for the pints consumed and forward the relevant funds. although that could be dangerous as in it negates the (wallet)=empty, execute (go home).

    this is not beyond the wit of what we have available, and avoids having to go to the bar to clear the tab, or even those damn "paywave" pieces of crap.

    i'll have to disable the <activate plan B> stonking taxi fare avoidance scheme of "get your coat love, you've pulled" these days...

    we have the technology, but at the moment, all the reporting and tracking software is just reporting back to the advert mothership, rather than actually being usefull to the people its data slurping.

    no need for mind control for relativley decent software to figure out what people want or need.

    but no. keep cranking out thoses fart apps people. well done. i can feel the enrichment of humanity happening as we speak.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      tl; dr

      Also, sentences begin with capital letters.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    READ MY MIND......

    All I'd ever see on the screen is porn.

  25. jake Silver badge

    Computers reading luser's so-called "minds"? ::shudder::

    Anyone who has done any hell-desk work will shudder at this notion .... "Do what I want, not what I told you to do!", if you get my drift ...

  26. silver fox
    Paris Hilton


  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Reading is one thing...

    But will it also be able to interpret all the required data ?

    I know its over analyzing a bit, but technically speaking computers can already "read our minds". Thing of a probe scan (for certain brain activity) for example.

  28. AndrueC Silver badge

    To misquote Wally and reference a Dilbert cartoon out of context:"If they read my mind they'll go blind".

  29. Tony Paulazzo

    >VP of innovation<

    Sweet job description, I'm betting he golfs a lot.

  30. Anonymous John

    May 2016. IBM market telepathic computers.

    June 2016. IBM sued by Apple over some obscure patent.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Your head has rounded corners

      Your head has rounded corners and you refer to yourself as 'I' - you are intellectual property of Apple. Resistance is futile.

  31. Armando 123

    Then I'll Kill My PC

    Because lately I have lines and catchphrases from Crabtree from 'Allo 'Allo bouncing around there. I guess they'll be able to handle "good moaning", but his more ambitious pronouncements would short circuit the whole works. Thus we might be able to blame Jimmy Perry and Jeremy Lloyd for an internet meltdown.


  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    General Failure Reading Human:

    Abort, Retry, Ignore?

  33. Giles Jones Gold badge


    "and IBM predicts tools such as battery chargers that clip onto your bike and charge as you cycle to work."

    Thank god we have IBM to tell us about the future, or as it happens the present.

    If you have a hub dynamo you can use one of these:

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The future

    Dave: Why didn't you open the damn pod bay doors Hal

    HAL: You didn't ask me to Dave.

    Dave: You're supposed to read my mind dammit

    HAL: I'm waiting for you to turn it on Dave.

  35. FredScummer

    Prediction Or What?

    If the PC is going to be reading minds within the next 5 years then does this mean that the blue screen of death which was a favourite in Windows NT days will be making a reappearance?

    I'd hate to think what this could lead to. Companies will be installing secret software taps in the corporate PC's to ensure that employees are fully committed to the company. It could be very troublesome if those statistics started revealing that employees were having thoughts about what the company secretary looked like without clothing....

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