When talking about earth-shaking new gadgets and devices, we like to imagine a far-off future, with technology that has no relation to our devices of today. What we often don’t think about is what technology will be like in twenty or thirty years, and how it’s likely to impact our day to day lives. While this may seem boring, in this article I’ll talk about five technologies that already exist, and the way they’re going to change everything in the world today.
Young people have been dreaming of virtual reality since the idea was originally came up with, and why shouldn’t they? It’d be great to play a game inside of its virtual world, instead of controlling an avatar with a controller.
In fact, the virtual reality market could go from fantasy to reality within a few years, due to the Oculus Rift entering the market. For those of you who don’t know, the Oculus Rift is a virtual reality headset, designed mainly for gaming. It’s fully functional and has already been released to programmers for software development.
So, I know many of you are asking yourselves, “Why should I care? I don’t play video games.” The main reason you should care is because while virtual reality is currently an expensive toy, remember that 30 years ago, home computers were just expensive toys too.
This technology, more likely than not, will change the way you use anything and everything in the world. Whether it be replacing video conferences with virtual reality meetings, interacting with friends and family through social media, or the way we work, live, and socialize, our society and the world as a whole will eventually get to a place within the next few decades where the technology of today will seem to our children the way steam engines seem to us.
No, I’m not talking about the smart phone operating system when I say androids, I’m talking about the kinds of androids you see in science fiction movies. Believe it or not, Honda is already developing a humanoid robot called “ASIMO”. This robot is shown in demonstration, available to watch online, and can do things like serve drinks and fetch items. The real complaint about ASIMO is the fact that it doesn’t look very human.
But, when it comes to looking human, mind-blowing advancements are already being made in this field as well. The Huffington Post reported in June of 2014 about a robotic and eerily human-looking newscaster developed in Japan by Osaka University Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro. This android looks almost identical to the model used in its design, and feels like a real human to the touch.
Imagine if you were to combine the abilities of Honda’s ASIMO, the life-like hardware developed by Hiroshi Ishiguro, and the speaking abilities and speech comprehension of an app like Siri. Not only would these kinds of robots make day to day life easier, but they would also be able to do so much good as nurses assistants, receptionists, factory workers, and live-in nurses for the elderly.
While it may take two or three decades for this vision to be recognized, there’s a very good chance that by the time today’s generation of young people retire to nursing homes, most or all of the staff could be androids.
The idea of making real life objects using only a laptop, a 3D printer, and some filament is certainly one that causes understandable excitement. But not only is this technology going to impact people’s personal lives, this little beauty is likely to change the very way we see the process of production. This technology, as it becomes less expensive over time, will be used in factories to create parts, in the workplace to create supplies, and virtually everywhere else you can think of.
Some people in the technology field are taking these ideas even a step further, suggesting that industrial-sized printers could be used in the construction industry, to create cheap and effective housing. While it may take 5 hours to print a Spork right now, this technology will become more efficient and more affordable as time goes on. It’s totally feasible that within fifteen or twenty years 3D printers will become as common as home printers and copiers.
By now, you probably know that Google’s developed a self-driving car, and is planning to sell to the public by the end of the decade. But few of us really realize the massive impact these autonomous vehicles will have, not only on our personal lives, but on industry as well.
Let’s start in the area of personal life, since that’s the most applicable to the common person. These cars will be extremely affordable, if the cost estimates by Google are correct. A study has found that for any vehicle, adding the driverless feature will add around $7,000 to the sticker price of cars in 2025. This means, for example, for a car that costs $20,000, making it self-driving would raise the price to $27,000. The study further found that by 2035, it would only add $3,000 to the sticker price of a car.
Not only are these cars affordable, they’re hundreds of times safer than human drivers. Don’t believe me? The National Highway and Safety Administration in the United States found that over thirty thousand drivers died in car accident in the U.S. in 2013 alone. That number isn’t unusual either, when you consider the fact that even going back to 1994, the number of deaths never drops below twenty-nine thousand.
How safe is Google’s self-driving car? Google has had its driverless cars on the roads since 2009, and since that time the fleet has gotten into a total of eleven accidents over the course of 1.7 million miles. Believe it or not, that’s a better driving record than virtually every human driver, and out of all 11 accidents, it was determined that the driverless car was at fault for none of them.
So it’s very likely that, when society gets to the point where we are all using self-driving cars, (and that day will come) we could see the fatality rate from driving drop to an almost non-existent rate.
So, now that we’ve talked about the impact of driverless cars on personal and daily life, let’s talk about the impact they’ll have on industry. Once these amazing vehicles become accepted by the mainstream, it’s very plausible that you could see self-driving semi-trucks, delivering goods and resources to businesses almost autonomously, with someone simply being paid to gas them up.
Another industry that these autonomous vehicles could impact is the aviation industry. Pilots could, for the most part, become nearly obsolete, with the entire flight being automated and the pilot only being on board to handle emergency situations.
So, it’s totally feasible that we can expect to see most transportation jobs partially if not fully automated by the 2040’s or 2050’s.
A concept that you everyday man is probably familiar with is the idea of Artificial Intelligence. What most people don’t realize is that this technology is highly sought-after by the military and that for the last few years the masters of war have been making development attempts at a specialized type of AI termed by those in the know as “Killer AI”.
This step forward (or backwards, depending on your view) in technology at the governments disposal is exactly what it sounds like; “Killer AI” is Artificial Intelligence designed for the specific purpose of waging war and killing enemy combatants.
While this may not seem like an important issue, to those in the technology sector, this type of weapons system is a big deal, to the point where hundreds of intellectuals in every field from physics to biology to computer programming have signed an online petition asking the government to ban the use of Killer AI.
The main problem with the use of AI designed to kill isn’t so much its use in war, as much as the fact that, when developing a system as complicated and random as the human mind (even an artificial one), unpredicted actions will eventually be taken by the system, and bugs in the code could easily cause one of these machines to “go rogue”.
Ultimately, while it’s still uncertain if we’ll be seeing these synthetic dogs of war on the battlefield any time soon, it’d be in the interest of everybody if those developing these systems made very clear and transparent policies regarding their use.
Looking into the future of technology and science can be very fun and exciting, and is always beneficial, but when doing so, we need to keep a few things in mind. The first thing to remember is that nothing stays the same, even the trend in technology and the results of new gadgets, so always take predictions like those in this article with a grain of salt. The other thing to remember is that things tend to be either far better or far worse than we imagine they will be, so even though things may look bad, they probably won’t be quite as horrible as you think.