With every passing day, we’re reminded that the future is here. Yeah, that’s sort of a redundant thing to say. What I really mean is that new innovations and disruptions are popping up every day, and they’re materializing at a rate never seen before.
I mean, think about the fact that the modern computer, which was created in either 1942 or 1946, depending on who you ask, used to cost a fortune and fill up an entire room. It was almost 50 years before that computer would be reduced to the size of an affordable desktop in 1995. 20 years after that, it’s been engineered to fit in your pocket and is hundreds of times more powerful than that room-sized computer it was derived from. Technological innovation is happening faster than it ever has before, and it’s only speeding up.
Right now, we have the unique opportunity of looking at new technology and seeing it both as the public saw the “computer” in 1946, and as the modern person sees the computer now. We can look at these technologies and predict just how much they will change society. Without further ado, here are five crazy future tech trends to start preparing for now!
1. Virtual and Augmented Reality
Virtual reality is already here. Samsung has been leading the charge with consumer VR with the Samsung Gear VR for the Galaxy S6 and S7 lines supporting virtual reality applications already. These apps include games like Minecraft, as well as entertainment applications like VR concerts from Live Nation. It’s great to see these things finally hitting the scene after years and years of hearing talk about them, and you can even trace their roots all the way back to the Nintendo Power Glove. The application for VR is limitless it seems and, as more realistic virtual environments come into play, we can expect to see it more in training scenarios and education as well.
Augmented reality, on the other hand, has not quite reached peak popularity yet. Sure, Snapchat filters that change your face into a dog counts, sort of, and Pokemon Go! showed promise. But while Google Glass showed us what the world could look like with a virtual overlay, it brought short-lived hype along with it. The world wasn’t ready for universal AR glasses and has stuck with purpose-specific AR headsets for now. Fortunately though, the hype is still alive with Apple announcing AR-offerings that should materialize by 2018, and other manufacturers lining up to do the same.
The worst part about VR and AR are those clunky headsets that you have to wear, if you ask me… but what if I told you that in the future you won’t have to wear those headsets to see VR/AR? What if I took it a step further and told you that you’ll be able to make phone calls just by tapping your ear and listening to signals vibrating through your jaw bone? What about sending emails with your mind?
Transhumanism, like VR and AR, is still in its infancy, and some are taking it way further than others. The most simple way to describe transhumanism is by saying it advocates the creation of cyborgs, or technological implants in organic bodies. Some people call this “biohacking”. This idea goes a long way back, but people like Rich Lee and Neil Harbisson have made it a reality by becoming some of the world’s first cyborgs. As computers get smaller and smaller, it’s not absurd to think that we may dump nanocomputers into our bloodstream, or implant small microchips subdermally.
3. CRISPR Gene Editing
For those unfamiliar with CRISPR and have about 15 minutes to spare, check out this informative video by Kurzgesagt.
For those that don’t have 15 minutes, here’s the cut and dry version: a new technique in gene-editing called CRISPR has allowed us to perform very precise gene-editing and has also made it much, much cheaper than it used to be. The first human testing occurred at the end of 2016 in China to combat aggressive lung cancer in clinical trials, and CRISPR also shows promise in fighting bladder, prostate, renal-cell, and mesothelioma cancers.
The hope is that eventually we’ll be able to fight back against any negative genetic predisposition, as well as to even modify ourselves in ways that may not be natural. This includes physical traits, and even extending our lives. Of course, there are plenty of consequences that pop up when we think about tampering with genetics–scenes from Jurassic Park immediately come to mind–but many are not as obvious as you’d think. The creation of designer babies, for example, presents interesting ethical quandaries, including whether or not those who opt out of genetic “optimization” would be discriminated against. It’s an interesting thought and one that is definitely worth exploring more before we embark further down the genetically modified path.
4. Artificial Intelligence
Smart homes. Smart cars. Smart…everything! Nowadays, it seems like it’s impossible to get away from the “smart” trend, and for good reason: everything is connected to the Internet, recording and sharing data, automating itself based on that data, and doing things that we previously reserved for science fiction. With Google’s foray into Nest, Amazon’s with Alexa, and others with their integrative “personal assistant” type devices, our homes gained ears. Now they’re gaining eyes, and soon will be driving our cars too!
The news that self-driving truck startup Otto completed its first delivery at the end of last year without any snags means that the self-driving industry is ready to blow up, especially because of what Otto’s ready-to-install systems can do for other trucking companies’ KPI. Now, this isn’t technically “true” A.I., but could be considered “expert systems” confined to our homes and our cars. Nevertheless, Ray Kurzweil, who has generally been pretty “on” with his predictions, thinks “true” A.I. will be invented by around 2045.
When true A.I. is invented–or, I should say if, and that’s a big if, because some people claim it cannot be done–we will have reach what some people have dubbed, “The Singularity”. Nobody knows what will happen if a super-intelligent computer becomes self-aware. Will we have a Skynet/Terminator situation on our hands? Or will our robot overlords be benevolent in nature and help us reach our full potential? There’s plenty of debate out there–but one thing is for sure: after the singularity, nothing will be the same.
5. Space: The Final Frontier
The awesome thing about these future tech trends is that they work very synergistically, meaning that A.I. and automation, genetic-editing, and techno-implants could all work in unison to help us achieve even bigger undertakings. As we’re already pretty intent on setting foot on Mars by the mid-2030’s, you can’t help but think that pretty futuristic tech is going to have to get us there. Perhaps nanobots that protect the body from harmful cosmic radiation, or even genetic-editing that would allow people to live in the thin Martian climate. Even local space adventuring, like Zero G orbital manufacturing, is well-within our grasp.
Of course, these are all just predictions, even if they are well-informed. What’s important is that we guide these predictions and control our technology instead of letting that technology control us. When it comes right down to it, the future is in our hands.