We really seem to be at a turning point in human history, where another revolution, like the industrial revolution was to our forefathers, will change almost every aspect of our lives… so – what will the world look like in 100 years, or sooner?
This is happening now because of the convergence of a number of different technologies, all that will become viable in the next 10-40 years. This short article will highlight ones that I believe will cause the biggest changes. It’s a bit of a brain dump, but I hope you find it interesting…
- Quantum computing.
> This one is more of an enabler of the others, but I wanted to list it here anyway, as it will be responsible for the step change that is required to make the other points viable. Quantum computers are coming – sooner than you might expect (10 years ish) – and are 1billion x more powerful than current computers. When we have this much power, AI will happen, and when AI happens, it will help us solve and accelerate the solving of the other about-to break advances listed here.
- Artificial intelligence.
> Without doubt in my mind, humanity needs to be careful about how we let true AI evolve. Unchecked, it will be a huge threat. Humanity ceasing to be the most intelligent species on the planet will mean we are no longer top of the food chain. Putting this to one side for now, AI will effect us all in the way we work, the jobs we are needed for, and almost every other aspect of our lives. In a positive way it will help us solve technical problems, live more productive lives, drive our cars, fly our drones, improve our technology and cure our diseases. What the humans will actually do or need to do, I’m actually not sure about. There are not many jobs that you could safely say could not be replaced. (did I say that this was the more positive version!?)
- Human / Machine interface.
> If you think about your smart phone – you realise you are one spoken Google away from knowing almost anything that there is to know. Casually wondering what the population is of New Guinea, or what is the speed of light multiplied by Feigenbaum Constant a – then the information is in the palm of your hand in a few seconds.
From there, it’s not such a big leap to realise that once the next interface, direct thought, is working well (it is already working on a basic level) then whatever we think can be sent and replied to in the cloud, directly into our brains.
In the same way cloud computing harnesses external processing power, information and storage, so will our brains… knowledge will be infinite, learning just a download away. More than this though, we will be able to communicate with each other in ways that are currently unthinkable. Now we can Skype chat with a group of people in different countries as if they are in the same room… eventually we will be able to share thoughts with people – maybe 100% of the time, anywhere in the world. Could this lead to new ways of collaborating, of solving problems, of loving?
Taking it further still – a plugged in brain can control any machine. That machine could be an exoskeleton, or even surrogate body – will we even need our bodies at all?
> Mix this with AI, and the rest of this list, and humanity will have actually evolved to something different.
- Advances in medicine.
> As we understand more and more about cellular systems and DNA, and begin to 3D print new organs or limbs, or even just use robot ones and plug them into our brains, what will be left to limit our lives? Control over DNA will eventually lead to control over the ageing process itself – leaving us all in the prime of our life indefinitely (hopefully even less chance of getting run over once all cars are piloted by AI?!)
> Without this limit on our lives, we’ll soon outgrow this planet… I’m not sure what the psychological impact of living forever will be.
- Interplanetary travel.
> As a previous post here commented, there is already a solid push to get humans multi-planetary. I think this one will take longer to become normal than the other items listed here, but it’s starting now. In the same way the first Europeans left for America to forge a new adventure, things might take a few hundred years to become something one just does on a family holiday, but it’s coming… and we won’t recognise ourselves when it does.
These things above are not new in science fiction, but what is amazing, is that right now they are all in active development in one form or another, and the convergence of them all will catapult us from science fiction to reality faster than we (as a species) expect.
For further reading – New Scientist Magazine- and anything by Peter Diamandis