A Future that Might Be

What does the future look like? This question comes up more and more now traditional resources are getting scarce and Artificial Intelligence (AI) is rapidly developing. These are just two examples of many more changes in our world. As a Business IT consultant, I’m always interested in (technological) innovation and how it affects us, humans.

So how will our world look in 10, 20 or even 50 years? Are we witnessing a new Industrial Revolution without realising it? We can already tell we are on the verge of some major changes which will impact everyone, but also a lot of theoretical ideas which are still in their infancy. Let’s highlight a few of these developments and how they might shape our future world.

 

Renewable energy

Traditional resources will become less available which is fuelling the search for alternatives. Setting aside any economic influence there is a lot of progress with for example solar energy and wind energy. Perhaps the moon will become our primary source of energy, as a planet filled with solar panel farms. How about the human as a source of energy? By moving around all day (some more than others) we generate energy. Although it’s not much, the future of nanotechnology might improve the efficiency of storing such energy.

 

Transportation

How will we go from point A to point B 20 years from now? Most likely a lot faster and with a lot less human labour (we’ll get to that later). Perhaps the world will look like a Star Wars movie where the roads are not bound to the ground anymore and there is an aerial infrastructure. Our cars will be transformed into drone-like vehicles running on a new form of energy. A holiday overseas suddenly has a completely different meaning. By then a holiday far away will probably involve interplanetary travelling.

 

Artificial Intelligence

Currently one of the hottest topics is Artificial Intelligence (AI). Although experts say AI is still far from becoming a true independent intelligence, this technology is rapidly developing. Probably the greatest fear is that “the machines” will take over our world and will dominate humans (or as pessimists would say “wipe us out”). In the near future, we will most likely witness different forms of AI taking over different jobs currently performed by humans. Currently, this is already happening in the Customer Service sector, where a lot of companies use a bot to cover the basic questions and complaints of their clients.

Transportation will also be impacted by AI, like self-driving cars (e.g. Tesla) and more advanced autopilots in planes, trains and metros. This will make the human labour we currently have redundant since vehicles will think for themselves, likely under the watchful eyes of people behind laptops with a kill switch, in case things go wrong.

 

Hybrid Intelligence

A very interesting topic which does not get a lot of attention nowadays is Hybrid Intelligence. Hybrid Intelligence combines AI with the human brain. Imagine you can tap into unlimited data sources by just thinking about it or turn on the heating, lights and music in your house by a thought anywhere in the world. This might sound great but might pose a greater threat than AI on its own. Will we be able to use our full brain capacity, in combination with data resources (Internet of Things)? This would create unlimited possibilities, but would also require a lot of rules and regulation to prevent anarchy and chaos.

 

Human Interaction

Technology is developing rapidly, but how will this impact us? Humans are still the primary users of technology. Which leads to an interesting question: How will we interact with each other in 20 years’ time? It might be that we will only have physical interaction with the ones closest to us, but all other interaction happens via technology. The world might start to look like the Bruce Willis movie “Surrogates”: People don’t physically leave their house but step into a machine to control their (robotic) surrogate. On the other hand, the increasing usage of technology might lead to an urge to (re-)start interacting with each other the “old fashioned” way.

 

Gesture Control & Holograms

Over the past 30 years, we have witnessed the rise and evolution of all kinds of gadgets and we control these gadgets by using remotes, keyboards or touchscreen. Recently an acceptable version of voice control was introduced (e.g. Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa). The next step in controlling our devices could be by gestures. No more additional remote to control your television or a mouse to browse the internet. This would be a stepping stone to increase computer screens, since our range of motion is a lot bigger than a simple mouse. And what if you are able to combine this with hologram technology? This would revolutionise the (graphic) design and engineering world. Not to mention if we could extend this to our communication systems. An interplanetary Skype call suddenly gets a whole different meaning!

 

Welcome to the Future

According to Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, we are currently witnessing and living The Fourth Industrial Revolution. This is the revolution where physical, digital and biological systems are brought together. It’s an interesting and grasping view on the future.

Whether you like it or not, we are living the future. Changes are happening at a pace we can’t grasp. We are spoiled when it comes to computers, smartphones and all kinds of gadgets and we expect significant innovation every year. The possible future sketched in this article might sound far away, but will become reality sooner than we think.

– Michiel Does

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