Endstate Tech

One of the things I have to think about when plotting out the setting of my novel is what endstate tech will look like.
What I mean is, what will happen when a given technology is so old and so developed that there are no more major improvements to make.
For example the internal combustion engine has been around for well over a hundred years. At this point the only real improvements you can expect from a purely internal combustion car are small incremental improvements.

The thing that I find interesting is what happens when we get to this point with other technology; for example, computers.
Thanks to Moore’s law, computers have been getting smaller and more powerful for decades. Of course that can not continue forever. The smaller computers get the narrower the conductors get. That however can only go so far. You can’t have a wire less then an atom thick after all.
At this point if you want a faster computer you would need to make a new type of computer, like a practical optical or quantum computer.
When this happened in my novel’s universe, a single company had control over it because the crystals that optical computers ran on had to be grown in orbit, and they were the only ones with the facilities. While the monopoly lasted the company had more power then most governments. The least of their computers were several orders of magnitude better then the best electronic computer.
That is one of the issues you have to consider for setting anything in the future. Some technology will be fully explored and used and you will have to transition to something new. This is not a bad thing. It can be the source of very interesting stories.
Never forget that just because something is outdated in most area’s does not mean it is useless. After all, we still use propellers on some planes even though jets are a superior technology in almost all cases. What if you were working with one of the older technologies and the new one comes along? Do you stick with what you know and limp along even though there is almost no demand for it anymore or do you go back to school at age 60 and learn about the replacement?
One thing that I see sometimes is people just plot out the future and assume everything we have now is faster and smaller, which is a shame. In some cases you would not even want to improve every part of a devise. For example we have been able to make cars go much faster then 70 mph for a while but we don’t increase the speed limit because human reaction speed has not changed. Even in the future some things are not likely to change.

Another aspect of endstate tech is how things will be more normalized and combined. For example I own three computers, my phone, my tablet and my laptop.
The idea is that many things are duplicated among those three. Once we get to the point where you can fit the guts of a laptop in a cell phone we will be able to combine them.
By the year 2600 we will have been to this point with optical computers for more then a century. This means that the form and function of them are pretty well set in stone.
Now the important question? What will they look like?
In my books they are about the size of a cell phone but very thin. They are flexible enough to wrap around your wrist and can snap in place. They can stretch to tablet size. When you want a keyboard you tether it to your computer.
It may seem a minor issue but if you don’t think about things like this your future will seem a little too much like today. If I was walking around a ship from 2600 I would expect to find everything at least a little different after all.

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