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Tech Breakthroughs That Will Change Our Lives This Century
Technology is an odd subject; just when you think that you have a handle on it and where it is going, it changes. By its very nature, technology is an evolving entity that feeds off of itself to generate new technology based on aspects which may not be initially related. For example, water filtration systems are something that many people now enjoy, but this was originally developed for the Nasa Space program, as was both the dust buster vacuum, and the solar cells that we are finding increasingly used in our homes. When technology emerges, inventive people find new ways of utilising it, thereby pushing technology even further forward. In this way, technology that is being released now, will have huge impact for future systems that in many cases we can barely imagine.
Of course, not all technological breakthroughs are as momentous as those mentioned above, but in that capacity, contribute to the general march of technology. Others, however, are sufficiently far reaching to not only have a lasting impact on our technological course, but are likely to help drive that course too. There are a number of new and emerging technologies that have the potential to define how humans live and interact with each other and they are already coming out:
- Augmented Reality Contact Lenses. Long the stuff of science fiction, the ability to receive information straight to the eye is fast becoming a reality, and it is likely to be the next big thing in information technology. By giving users an interface that allows them to live and work in reality while having full access to the internet, unobtrusive augmented reality contact lenses could present enormous prospects for AR technology. However, the development of AR tools is still dealing with some fundamentals, searching for a solution that would usher it into the spotlight and lead to widespread acceptance. Even though this development is proving to be expensive and laden with technological challenges, organisations like Mojo Vision are beginning to realise that this is the holy grail of information technology. If developers can overcome these issues, then AR contact lenses could just be the next mobile-phone scale innovation.
- Smart Diagnosis. Medical technology is always moving forward and there are many aspects of this huge industry that continually work on cutting edge equipment, and it shows no signs of letting up. One of the most interesting areas of medicine is diagnosis, and this is where some very exciting high technology work is taking place. One of the key issues in medical matters is the ability for doctors to diagnose illnesses in the general population long before they actually form and become a problem. With this in mind, there is much work being carried out on developing technology in the form of a swallowable pill that will scan the body and determine any potential illnesses and diseases that could be dealt with way before they become a problem. We already have external wearables that monitor health and there isn’t much of a leap needed to develop this into a pill. Having smart diagnosis is not very far away at all, and once here, it will become a standardised piece of technology.
- Replaceable body parts. Human prosthesis is not a new concept, though many have historically been poorly constructed and quite obvious in their replacement of otherwise missing human parts. However, there is a growing trend towards the creation of prostheses that are actually better than the organic parts that they are replacing. They used to be tin-plate and badly-fashioned plastics that were made simply to replace a part that was missing and give the semblance of normality, but over the last forty years, huge advances have been made in engineering, software control, and materials, and this has led to a new breed of prosthetics that are defining in terms of their scope and abilities. The prosthetics of today can not only mimic the limbs and organs that they are replacing, but can do a better job of it too. Many market commentators are beginning to predict that it won’t be many years before people start to elect to have replacement parts fitted, simply because of the unique opportunities that they offer and the enhanced performance that a body will take on. From bionic eyes to super-powered limbs and replacement organs, humans will become increasingly machine-based.
- Laboratory-grown food. A rise in technological abilities together with a growing revulsion of animal treatment is fuelling a huge drive towards laboratory grown food that will be used to feed a growing number of people on the planet. Vegetables have never really been a problem in this respect, but meat is the gold standard for scientists. It is true that many people are moving away from meat, but much of that change is driven by the fact that current meat farming practices are seen as not only barbaric, but are unsustainable. A decade or so ago, there seemed to be the possibility of laboratory-grown protein that resembled meat to become mainstream, but initial taste tests found it bland and not a good replacement for true meat. But testing and process changes have made the lab-grown alternative tastier, and with it being relatively cheap to produce, there is a growing interest in it. But as well as growing protein, the food industry is looking at other ways to become more sustainable. Precision fermentation, for example, has the potential to totally transform established industries, including the dairy and egg industries, towards a more sustainable future. Adoption of cellular agriculture is critical because we simply cannot feed the world’s current population of eight billion people without causing irreversible damage to the natural ecosystem, let alone the expected population expansion of two billion people over the next two decades.
- Widespread adoption of AI. The last couple of years, artificial intelligence (AI) has risen from being a bit of an oddity to something mainstream that a growing number of people are using on a regular basis. The fact that AI has become so much more, well, intelligent is also key to its rise. The thinking abilities of AI have already been established, but how far can it go in other areas? Artificial intelligence will allow machines to see inside our heads, potentially making us psychic. Researchers have already trained Chat GPT1 to translate MRI imagery into a textual description of an image that a person is looking at, or a scene that is unfolding in front of the person’s eyes, and in the right circumstances, that imagery could be translated into intent, and thus understand what the observed person is thinking. The good news is that MRI scanners are not portable, so it’s doubtful that someone will read your mind without your knowledge any time soon, but the technology exists, so it’s just a matter of engineering. But more than this, AI will become the leading means of interacting with the world around us. We are used to using smart speakers and tech to assist with our lives, but with the way AI is going, this is not only likely to become stronger and more entrenched, but increasingly powerful too.
However, while all of these breakthroughs are going to impact our lives, AI is the one that has the potential to become as sinister as it is helpful. As well as becoming a major driver for massed communications, help us with becoming human babel-fish and be able to understand any language in real time, and carry out numerous daily tasks for us, technological commentators also point to the downsides of AI, with the top three being:
- Wars conducted by AI killer drones. Put AI in a weaponized drone and you really have a potential appetite for destruction. Current thinking is that these would be so successful, that human combatants would fear entering a war area.
- Miscommunications through AI-driven virtual commentators. With AI growing as quickly as it is, our ability to recognise a computer-generated person from a real one is diminishing. Move over, Max Headroom.
- AI-driven commerce could destroy the world economy. Whether out of simple malice or by opening that our style of economic market system is far from ideal, AI, when embedded into the worlds banking and commerce systems could wreak havoc.
We have been warned, but will we pay any real attention?