One thing that technology hasn't come up with is a good sequel to words.
Sure, we've got those new-fangled moving pictures, now, and we can record various auditory (and even olfactory) sensations and play them back in order to communicate a story, concept, or experience... but none of that jive and jibber-jabber holds a candle to words.
Words are TINY, and yet they trigger a massive series of images in our heads. Of course, they aren't images, really. When I say, "Big red balloon!", it isn't an image of a red balloon that appears in your head, it's a sort of mental construct, layered with all kinds of experiences and understanding, like what a red balloon feels like, your emotions when one pops, or that cool book/movie by that one French dude that you vaguely remember from your childhood.
Television will never replace books because books contain a unique and often superior experience. Books are a communion and collaboration between the writer and the reader. The writer sends a few words out, and the reader uses their incredibly complex brains to interpret and create an entire sub-universe, a home of our own, a shared reality between the author and the reader. It's a really, really wonderful activity and it works astonishingly well.
It says a lot about the power of words that people could watch a movie like "Lord of the Rings" and say, "They got that exactly right. They got that exactly wrong." Other than tweaking age and doing other Hollywood-isms, how would you know, really? By what authority do you speak? Peter Jackson read the same book as you. He read the same words.
Here's my point: Something, someday, could replace books... and new technology could take us there. We're a pretty darn creative species, we're going to find new ways of communicating between the brain of an author and the brain of a reader. And it won't be a replacement for books, exactly. It will be a replacement for WORDS. A sequel to words.
Movies and video games are not a sequel to words. Nope. They are juicy and wonderful, of course, and certainly an artistic medium, but they don't appeal very deeply to the reader's own stored imagery and emotion the way words must in order to even speak. If they do, it is only in a simplistic way: The movie reminded me of my grandmother's struggle without me even realizing it and I started to cry. That's great. But I didn't create Elijah Wood's features, and I got to create Frodo Baggins's features, over and over, shaping his downcast expression in my mind, in the book. And all I was given was a few black marks on paper. What if I could read a story, however, and actually cause my grandmother to appear? What if the author could put together a data stream that evoked deep creation from me, even deeper than the way words do?
This is hard. If I could imagine what the sequel to words would be, it would already have happened. That's the wonderful mystery of major paradigm shifts. Can you describe an agrarian community to a nomadic tribe that's never known one? Not quite. They can understand every detail you describe but still be utterly mystified as to how such a life could continue. Similarly, to try and imagine a sequel to words is actually an act of inventing one.
I sawed away at a cyberpunk short story last week, and I sort of started to figure out what I wanted. The "Snow Crash, Matrix, Holodeck" universe is not enough... their entire focus is on consumption, how we will be given input that utilizes our five senses better and better. More immersive sensory stimulation. That's actually the wrong direction... words and books (in essence) don't utilize ANY of our sense, or don't intrinsically need to, anyway. (Books don't need visual, they can be on tape! Words don't need audio, they can be books!) And yet without any senses at all, books still manage that "world we create together" magic better than any new technology has managed.
What if we could receive input in a stream, directly into our brains, and what if that input constantly interacted with our own subconscious minds, drawing in and out of what we are and what we know? The recent movie, "Inception" spends some time with this idea, though they retreat to Matrix-esque territory pretty quick so they don't confuse the audience too much.
Books are amazing, but what if an author's intentions and our own creative powers could perform an even more complicated dance than they do with books? I'm not talking about choose-your-own adventures, like video games, I'm talking about the way that words tell us there is a dog and our mind created the dog. What if the author of the future could tell us a bunch of other things about the dog, dog paradigms, the Tao of dog, and then play a kind of tug-of-war with our brains, on a shared canvas, in order to create the dog more clearly?
What if there could be a new artistic medium that did what words do, but did it better?