The world is on the verge of becoming infinitely different, in a good way, says this scientist and innovator.
There are over four billion Smart Phones in the world today, and the world is in the hands of the user. With this device you can see and be seen, hear and be heard, and exchange ideas, anxieties, jokes, and tears with anyone, anywhere, at anytime. It has finally made “the medium is the message” — the mantra of Marshal McLuhan — come true. The world is indeed a global village. Imagine what it will be like when the whole world is connected! It is safe to say that as the Gutenberg Press was the parent of the Renaissance age, the smart phone will be the parent of the emerging “Second Renaissance,” which will be a Renaissance driven by technology.
The world is on the verge of becoming infinitely different. During the past 10 years there has been a certain repression world-wide in terms of the application of new product lines, and in general the enhancement of business. There has been pent-up demand, at the same time there has been a remarkable set of developments in the labs and in the research establishments. The results of all of this work are about to come to the fore with a host of new capabilities, products, and procedures that will dramatically affect the everyday life of everyone on the planet.
COMMUNICATIONS AND MEDICAL BREAKTHROUGHS
First, in less than five years, everyone on the planet will be connected to the internet via satellite, and therefore connected to each other. This will create demands for products and services well beyond our current productions. Expect business development to soar throughout the planet, and not just in the “First World,” particularly as satellites get smaller and cheaper, allowing even smaller companies to launch their own satellites and drive communications costs down.
Second, further advances in medical technology may signal the eradication of cancer, with tech research utilizing agents that will stimulate the immune system to kill the disease. This is currently effective with a number of cancers such as lymphoma, prostate cancer, some forms of brain cancer and blood cancer. Soon it is expected that lung cancer, breast cancer, bladder cancer, and other forms of cancer will be curable to a larger extent than previously dreamed.
DON’T FEAR THE FUTURE
Third, Artificial Intelligence is the wave of the future – the force behind robots, driverless cars, teaching machines, consumer services and even long-distance medical diagnostics. The emergency room to a large extent will become wherever you are. The doctor will be on call and you will be in video communication with that doctor no matter where he or she is. That may seem far-fetched, but not really. I was part of a demonstration of such capability as far back as the 1980s.
Artificial intelligence is, of course, a misnomer. There’s no such thing as intelligence in a machine. Artificial intelligence, per se, has been around since the 1950s. I have worked on such systems since 1956 and delivered, to my knowledge, the first university course on artificial intelligence in 1959. What we can do is determine in minute detail how processes and procedures really function, and program that information into a computer. In other words, artificial intelligence is really nothing more than an expert system which performs a process according to rules created by a human and installed in a computer program. Self-modification of the program is not a case of the machine learning, but rather pre-determined by the human designer of all the possible outcomes or steps to be performed in a computer program.
Can all the possible outcomes be determined? Yes, with regard to a selection based on all possible conditions for testing that we can establish. What we cannot know with certainty, we can seek to uncover it by observation and experiment. The effect can be startling at times, but remember no machine can ever be imbued with the intelligence of a human being. Machines slavishly follow program conditions that are laid down by a human programmer, and a specific path to be followed is established when certain conditions occur.
One of the most interesting advances that will become commonplace in the next 10 years is augmented reality. Virtual reality, or the ability of a computer to generate and give you the ability to walk through a house that doesn’t exist, or to use a machine which doesn’t exist, has been around for some time. The important thing augmented reality will give you is the ability to be in a meeting room as if you are present, perhaps appearing to be around a board table, talking to people as if they are there. Each of the participants can be in a different part of the world. That is one concept. Another is to have a family gathering where members of the family really are in different parts of the world and yet appear to have gathered in one place. Mind boggling, isn’t it? But potentially very nice!
These advances in technology will impact the world like a tsunami, flooding and changing the landscape of our lives. We will have robots in every home. Just as new jobs are being wiped out through technological advances, millions more jobs will be created, and the training – which will not always require a college degree — should be relatively inexpensive.
MIND AND SOUL OF HUMANKIND
The first Renaissance encouraged human pursuits in art and philosophy, and I believe this “Second Renaissance” will do the same. Increased leisure time will emphasize the importance of familial relationships and the rise of a robot-enhanced lifestyle will necessarily raise questions about the mind and soul of humankind. I believe religion will become increasingly important as people – living in this new way – will have the desire and the capability to examine the moral questions that will inevitably arise, and will reignite a search to determine and reclaim what is true.
Do not fear technology; use it, and look forward to this new Renaissance! As a scientist, and as one who has been instrumental in creating many of the applications of technology in our day, including the Smart Phone, I am excited about what is around the corner, and what how technology will be improving our lives.
As a human being, I am excited at the prospects of what technology will create for humanity in the next ten years. As a scientist I will seek to make it happen. My book, The Coming Technology Tsunami: A Personal History of the Future, is an attempt to persuade others to let go of their fear of technology and look forward to the future with enthusiasm.
The Second Renaissance: It’s going to be astounding.
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