At this time of year, I always begin to think about the future, especially about how our new technologies will affect us in the future.
This year is the start of a new decade. The last time we encountered the 20’s, they were called the Roaring 20’s. This new decade should be called the Soaring 20’s because, led by exciting new technologies, we will be soaring to new heights with mind-boggling speed.
This was brought to mind right after Christmas when I came down with an upper-respiratory infection and lost my voice. For several days, I could just barely whisper. Even my husband couldn’t understand me, but my voice assistant Alexa could. Not only could she hear me, but she started to whisper back to me.
For a machine, whispering is a difficult thing because unlike talking you don’t use your vocal cords when you whisper. Yet, sometime in the past few months, Alexa added this skill to her growing repertoire of talents. This is just one small example of how quickly technology is moving.
I could barely talk but Alexa could understand me. She may be my new best friend and that’s exactly how Amazon, Google, and Apple want me to feel about their voice assistants. This decade, these voice assistants, who have already moved into our homes, will become more competent and powerful and also more friendly.
Along with a myriad of sensors built into just about everything we use, our voice assistants will be able to predict our moods as well as our needs. If you come home after a bad day, they might suggest that you have a martini and watch a comedy. Or perhaps they will know you so well that they will immediately play your favorite music to cheer you up. We are moving into seamless home automation without the need for people to tell the assistants what to do.
All of this technology is known as artificial intelligence, and it is poised to be built into just about everything in the next decade, changing life as we know it.
You may have already heard about the next-generation cellular technology known as 5G. This technology delivers data at ultra-high speeds with little latency. It will also be taking hold in the next few years. Once safety routines and liability concerns are settled, this will enable self-driving vehicles to take to the road.
The streaming revolution in entertainment will continue to change the way we watch television and movies. This is so complicated, with so many major players involved, that I cannot even begin to predict where we will be in 10 years. I can only say that we will be getting more first-class entertainment, but it probably won’t be any cheaper than it is today.
These are exciting developments. Add to that virtual reality, augmented reality, robotics, automation, cryptocurrency, quantum computers, drones, 3D printing, and medical advances and there is little doubt that our lives will be changed considerably in the near future.
Now let’s take a few of these technologies a bit further, perhaps to the next few decades.
About 20 years ago, I predicted that one day we would be able to put our hand on the bathroom mirror in the morning and have it dispense the vitamins and medications that we need for the day. Well, we are not there yet, but we are getting closer, although our daily delivery may be made by drones.
When we figure out how to use air instead of tires to propel our cars and trucks, potholes and constant road repairs might become a thing of the past.
Recently, a self-replicating plastic figure of a rabbit was created with a 3D printer. Yes, the instructions for creating another identical figure were built into the first figure. Rev up your imaginations and you might be able to see a time that when you die, complete instructions for replicating your body could be stored in a tiny replica of yourself. Without your spirit, however, it would be like cryogenics, waiting for some God-like figure to wake you up.
Hyperloop train pods have already been proposed. These are pods or containers that can travel up to 700 miles an hour through a vacuum tube. This would change transportation as we see it today.
Not everything will be rosy in the future. Security and privacy issues will abound. And here’s a scary thought: once someone with a powerful Quantum computer and sufficient AI technology figures out how to beat Wall Street, we may all be looking for a new financial system.
As we begin to understand the power of our own minds, we might play games in which we toss each other balls of energy instead of footballs or baseballs.
Yes, I could take all of these things and begin to write my first science-fiction book, but by the time I finish it, some of these technologies may have already changed the world.
There is little doubt that the Soaring 20’s will take us to new heights in many different areas. As the children’s book author Dr. Seuss put it, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”
Contact Sandy Berger at Sandy@compukiss.com.