Learning From our All-Tablet, All-Information Microsoft Future

Imagining the next five years of consumer electronics.


Microsoft released this concept video yesterday to tout the kind of digital future the company would like to create—preferably making billions of dollars in the process. Kurt Delbene, the head of Microsoft's Office division, writes on the company's blogthat the technology in this video already exists, or represents "active research and development happening at Microsoft and other companies."

Of course, Microsoft's future doesn't include corporate frenemy Google's awesome self-driving car: The first scene shows a woman being picked up at the airport by an actual driver, which is definitely a future utopia no-no (there's not much searching or emphasis on 'the cloud' here, either, although data seems readily available). What else can we learn about the years to come from this video?

  • Materials science is about to get crazy. All these wafer-thin, all-screen transparent mini-tablets without visible switches or much room for batteries—not to mention the see-through fridge—suggest we're going to have access to some pretty advanced substances that display images, conduct electricity and respond to human touch. Sounds great.
  • The aesthetics of the future don't belong to Microsoft, they belong to Apple. Does anything in that video look like it was created in Redmond, Washington? It's a testament to what Steve Jobs' achieved that you can't think of the future without Thinking Different. All the minimalism, the slick brushed aluminum and modern metro silver-and-white color palettes in this video seem like they came straight from the mind of Apple designer Jony Ive. That's nice and all, but I'm dinging Microsoft points for originality.
  • Artificial intelligence is about to become way more integrated in our lives. Look at how the various computers react when users highlight items or respond to prompts—without soliciting much information or offering users a choice, the tablets and screens seem to offer exactly the right tool at the right time. There will probably be a little Siri in all our future devices, trying to keep us focused by staying one step ahead of our feeble human minds.
  • Important business will take place in other countries. The main action in this video occurs in Johannesburg, South Africa and Hong Kong. It's realistic—as emerging markets gain more economic clout, we can expect a lot more business to be done abroad. The hope, of course, is that U.S. companies like Microsoft are successful enough in our increasingly globalized future that Americans are needed abroad to solve problems. The next five to 10 years probably do belong to America's tech institutions, but in 25, we might be talking about the latest handheld devices made by a Chinese consumer electronics giant.
  • Reality will be augmented—heavily. As you move through your world, tiny tablet at your side, you'll have access to more instantaneous information about what's happening around you than ever before. It might be overwhelming, but you have your built in AI to help keep it all straight.
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Maybe the biggest shift implied by the video, though, is a massive upgrade to our telecommunications infrastructure. All these devices sharing information wirelessly, all over the world, suggest we need some serious investment in the kind of broadband infrastructure that provides access to the internet at speed, wherever we are. That sounds nice, doesn't it?


The global climate change strikes on Friday are said to have been the largest protest for climate change in history. An estimated four million people participated in 2,500 events across 163 countries on all seven continents. That included an estimated 300,000 Australians, but a total of zero were in Hyde Park in Sydney, despite a viral photo that claims otherwise.

Australian Youth Coal Coalition, a pro-coal Facebook page, posted a photo showing trash strewn across a park after what appears to have been a large event. "Look at the mess today's climate protesters left behind in beautiful Hyde Park," the photo was captioned. "So much plastic. So much landfill. So sad." The only problem is, the photo wasn't taken after a climate change protest. It wasn't even taken in Australia.

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via GOOD / YouTube

Last Friday, millions of people in 150 countries across the globe took to the streets to urge world leaders to enact dramatic solutions to combat climate change.

The Climate Strike was inspired, in part, by Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old girl from Sweden who has captured worldwide attention for her tireless work to hold lawmakers responsible for the climate crisis.

The strike gave people across the planet the opportunity to make their voices heard before the U.N. General Assembly Climate Summit in New York City on Monday.

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Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

As world leaders meet to discuss new ways to tackle climate change at the U.N. Climate Action Summit, they might miss one very big part of healing nature – nature. In a new short film, youth climate change activist Greta Thunberg and George Monbiot, a writer for the Guardian, talked about how we need to use nature as a solution to climate change.

There's a huge push to curb emissions, but it's not the be all end all of handling climate change; we also need to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. While we don't have technology to do that for us, there is another solution. "There is a magic machine that sucks carbon out of the air, costs very little, and builds itself. It's called a tree," Monboit says in the film. Researchers found that we could get rid of two-thirds of the carbon dioxide that we've emitted during the industrial era just by growing trees. That amounts to 205 billion tons of carbon. Right now, deforestation of tropical forests is responsible for 20% of current greenhouse emissions.

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Climate Action Tracker

In 2016, 196 countries signed the Paris Agreement, pledging to combat climate change by taking action to curb the increase in global temperatures. The Paris Agreement requires countries to report on their emissions and what steps they're taking to implement those plans. Now that the countries are coming together again for the U.N. Climate Action Summit in New York City, it's worth taking a look at what kind of progress they've made.

The Climate Action Trackerkeeps tabs on what each country is doing to limit warming, and if they're meeting their self-set goals. Countries are graded based on whether or not their actions would help limit warming to 1.5 degrees C.

According to a recent article from National Geographic, The Gambia, Morocco, and India are at the head of the class. "Even though carbon emissions in The Gambia, Morocco, and India are expected to rise, they'll fall short of exceeding the 1.5-degree Celsius limit," the article reads. Saudi Arabia, Russia and the United States, on the other hand, get a big fat F. "Projected emissions in Saudi Arabia, Russia, and the United States are far greater than what it would take to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius."

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Screenshot via (left) Wikimedia Commons (right)

Greta Thunberg has been dubbed the "Joan of Arc of climate change" for good reason. The 16-year-old activist embodies the courage and conviction of the unlikely underdog heroine, as well as the seemingly innate ability to lead a movement.

Thunberg has dedicated her young life to waking up the world to the climate crisis we face and cutting the crap that gets in the way of fixing it. Her speeches are a unique blend of calm rationality and no-holds-barred bluntness. She speaks truth to power, dispassionately and unflinchingly, and it is glorious.

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