It may sound futuristic, but 2020 is only 4 years away. But in an age of fast technological advances we could be left with a world that is changed and seriously cool.
Improving technology comes down to whether or not we are able to maintain (or improve upon) the consistent rate of connection and processing speed improvement that we have seen over the last several years. And that’s no easy feat.
If we do manage to keep up, our connections in 4 years could be fast enough to push some fresh technologies into maturity.
Here are some of the biggest changes we might have to look forward to…
1. We'll be seeing more human-like Artificial Intelligence
As faster speeds allow for faster connections and processing, we’ll start to see an increase in sophistication with some of the tech toys we already enjoy today. One idea that frequently appears in our narratives about the near future is smarter personal assistants.
"We are starting to see the beginnings of this with Siri, Cortana and with Alexa. All indications are that as natural language recognition, computer power and predictive algorithms improve, our lives will be increasingly supported with ubiquitous 'bot buddies' that we permit to learn from our likes and dislikes."
As if that's not enough, it is believed that in the future we'll see AI applications branching out into other areas of our life, including healthcare.
AI applications are becoming better than physicians at sorting symptoms and diagnosing health conditions. We all carry smartphones with which we interact constantly, and that today have limited ability to monitor our health. Some of us also wear health- and exercise-monitoring devices. As computing power increases, we will see a major leap ahead in this capability to monitor our health, probably using the smartphone and wearable successors as the key technology, but linked via the 'Internet of Everything' to powerful diagnostic and predictive tools.
2. Robots will become ubiquitous in the workplace
Especially for jobs that involve repetitive activities, Steven J. Hausman, Ph.D., consultant on emerging technologies and president of Hausman Technology Presentations, believes we better get used to seeing robots as part of the workforce.
This would be especially true of autonomous robots, which actually already exist. They are already widely used on automobile assembly lines, for example, but it is likely they will even become used in areas where relatively low-paid employees are being used today, such as fast food establishments and in some aspects of the beauty salon industry, like hair washing. The use of robots will have major implications for future job growth in many arenas.
In fact, robots are already starting to take over some jobs.
"The most recent addition to the robot field is one that does surgery," said Dr. Hausman. "And not just surgery where the machine is controlled by a human being, but where the robot is completely autonomous."
Military uses for robots will continue to grow, as well. Now they are used to transport heavy supplies, but autonomous fighter planes and drones are under development, as well.
3. Robots will also play a larger role in influencing the way students learn and the way we teach
With the growing emphasis on STEM education, we could see robots in the next four years continuing to manifest in the educational curriculum in mainstream classrooms.
Robots are ideally situated as a mechanism for demonstrating different STEM concepts and difficult abstract concepts in science and math. As the capabilities of robots increase, they give instructors a tool to get students interested, thus creating a channel to delve into the math and science behind it.
It is also predicted that there will be a rise in the number of degree programs that equip students to develop the next generation of robots.
4. Automobiles will advance even further
While Glen Hiemstra, Founder and CEO of Futurist.com, thinks the timeline for fully autonomous cars is still a ways away, he does believe we're getting closer every day.
"As with artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles have to process enormous amounts of data almost instantly, and store all the routes and all the variations of those routes and all the possible scenarios of what can happen in traffic, and be able to process all of that on an instant and continuous basis in order to really work as autonomous vehicles," he says. "Faster speed is required of this to work. Eventually, the computing and communication speed will become so robust that traffic lights are no longer needed — the systems just thread the cars through the intersection at high speeds without anyone hitting anyone else. (Of course the integration of pedestrians into this will mean that there are some lights that stop all traffic at intervals.)”
5. We'll have access to a more realistic virtual reality
Of all the things that could possibly see a boost from increased connection speed – virtual reality (or VR), may be the biggest.
Rendering artificial realities so that they appear real requires enormous computing capacity. Faster speed is really the key to more personalized digital experience, as it allows faster processing and communication of visual images. The best visual experiences are those with no latency in signal — compare a visual teleconference using fibre optic links to those on a wireless system and it is easy to experience the difference. So improving network speed is critical.
Chips that are four times as powerful as today’s will make this easier, to the point that some in the VR field wonder if the artificial realities created will become so good that VR will be indistinguishable from the real world when you are in it.
6. Watching professional sports will become more personalized
If you love sports, this prediction is sure to make you jump for joy: VR cameras and viewing options will become more readily available and sophisticated, the way we watch sports will become more personalized, as well.
The vastly increased connection speed of 2020 computing will enable perhaps millions of individual views of the same game or event to be generated simultaneously, so that for a football game, for example, one viewer sees the game as a running back, another as a defensive lineman, and so on. It takes vast computer power and speed to make that feasible.
Whatever changes the future brings, it's up to us to be smart about how we handle the advances.
There will be social and economic adjustments necessary in a world of smarter devices, but if we mesh the human economy with the digital in an intelligent way, we could create a world of greater creative potential.
The alternative — a world where computer power and performance no longer improve — would be a greater challenge to society!
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