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9 predictions for the future of programming

Peter Wayner | Jan. 19, 2016
Our coding crystal ball offers developers meaningful bets for the next five years -- but few guarantees given the rate of change for tech

Consider the old world in which medical assistance was delivered at a doctor’s office after waiting for hours. There are hundreds of startups looking for a way to turn the smartphone into a medical device. The microphone can pick up your heartbeat. The camera can look at the back of your throat. The accelerometers can track your exercise. All of these can be linked to a cloud full of doctors who can pass your case onto someone who specializes in what ails you.

Yes, the next generation of smart devices will make the current set look basic. The navigation apps are morphing into route reservation and planning apps that do everything but steer the car. The exercise tracking apps are becoming tools that track all of the rhythms of our body from sleep to work. And perhaps someone will still make apps that have something to do with the fact that these devices may or may not be used to make phone calls.

Prediction No. 5: Bigger, better databases will dominate

Sure the search engines indexed the Web, but now there are databases indexing the world itself, thanks to increasing demand from next-generation location-aware apps and autonomous cars. Apps such as Waze track the flow of all of their users, giving their developers and users a map of the world as it exists, not as it was drawn by a cartographer squinting at an aerial photograph. If a road crew blocks a lane, they know. If a cow stops traffic, they know. If a civil engineer adds a new road, they find out before almost everyone else.

The level of detail from databases such as these will be amazing. Autonomous cars, for example, will need to know the position of lampposts, newspaper vending machines, and fire hydrants if they are going to ever be prepared to spot that proverbial kid chasing a ball into the road. This data will be full of undiscovered promise, beyond autonomous cars. Cities will be able to resurface roads when and where they're needed. Streetlights will be readily replaced when they go out. And yes, the police will have more data than ever about the people walking on the streets.

Soon we’ll have databases recording the location of every pothole in the country. Will the cities fix them? That may be too much for this generation, but the robots are coming.

Prediction No. 6: JavaScript will dominate, but no one will write it

If we don’t write JavaScript, who will? Transcoding robots, that’s who. We’ll write our code in any of a dozen dialects and the transcoding robots will turn it into something that the browser or Node.js understands. More and more code on GitHub can’t run without being “compiled” by something.

 

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