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Saturday, January 26, 2013

What Could You See in Your Lifetime? A Look Into the Technology of Tomorrow

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It is hard to believe just how many new technologies and innovations have been brought forth during the last decade alone; the world of the 1990s, in which I was born, is so different from the world that we currently live in.  No more does one have to turn on the television to find out what is going on in the world hours after it occurred.  All of the news, media, and social networking that we consume now fits in our pocket.  It’s hard to believe that just a few years ago, I was lugging around a Gameboy Advance and a portable CD player.

Ye Olde Gameboy

We now live in a dynamic world, where everything around us revolves around the latest technology.  Everything from communication to navigation to shopping now holds its center in the digital world, and this center has revolutionized in the last ten years alone.  This is why I hope to take on a job in the field of technology; it is always changing.  By the time you take your computer home, there is probably already something better that is out, which brings me to my point: what will the technology of tomorrow look like?

In the form of a desktop, the computer is beginning to reach a point where it carries more power than the average user needs.  Therefore, for most people, the traditional desktop has reached a maximum in the way it can be used.  Finally, we are beginning to see what the next batch of computers will look like, and the Microsoft Surface is perhaps one of the greatest examples.  After over a month of using mine, I can conclude that while it does have its faults, it is the blueprint of future technology; instead of lugging a massive laptop or computer in the future, tablets will be the forefront of our entertainment and our productivity, which leads me to my next question: why haven’t they already reached this point?  Most tablets are now more powerful than the computers of a decade ago, but it would be impossible to carry on the same level of productivity on most of them as their older counterparts.  This is because computer manufacturers are reluctant to turn tablets into full-fledged computers.  If they do, the sales of laptops may be cannibalized.  This is probably one of the largest reasons that the iPad is an excellent entertainment device but cannot even be compared in terms of productivity to a Mac or PC.

The Surface RT: A Preview of the Future

However, lets look even further into the future: what does it have in store for us?  The video above, while hard to believe, may actually show the technology that our lives will revolve around in a few decades.  While it may seem farfetched, remember that the expansion of technology is not linear; it is exponential, meaning that it expands at an increasingly rapid rate.  This is why the human race has advanced more in the last century than all of history.  One hundred years ago, people could only dream of what we use today.  The phones we now carry in our pockets are more powerful than the computers we used during the mission to land on the moon.

As the video above shows, technology is not simply going to confine itself to devices such as desktops and cellphones; it is going to become everything around us.  Corning is wise in making this prediction, as once it becomes cheap enough (which it will), we may truly have glass walls that make the environment surrounding us more interactive than we can imagine.  Computers will become part of everything and will interact together seamlessly.  Imagine having tablets with wireless technology that interact with everything around you: your bedroom walls, your bathroom mirrors, your kitchen appliances, and everything else in your home.  Your tables will be covered in a glass layer, making them highly interactive and removing the need for a desktop computer.  Your home will be completely digital, notifying you of any issues and unlocking the door automatically when you approach it by communicating with your phone.

The innovations do not stop there though; Google’s Project Glass previews an interactive world where information is available at the blink of an eye.  The idea is to create glasses with an integrated camera and software that interacts with mobile devices to transform your environment into a digital world.  Notifications and news updates will be readily available on the lens, while embedding augmented reality into the experience.  This means that eventually, you will simply be able to look at something, and information about it will magically appear.  Imagine you are walking down a street, looking for a good restaurant in the future.  Someday, you may be able to see reviews, menus, and more just by simply staring at your restaurant of choice!

The Project Glass Prototype

In addition to glasses, technology will be embedded throughout our apparel and maybe even our own bodies.  One KickStarter project, the Pebble, is just a glance of how we will begin to wear technology.  The Pebble is a wristwatch that communicates with your mobile phone, pushing alerts and notifications without needing to remove your device from your pocket.  The idea is somewhat similar to Project Glass, just not as advanced.  We will continue to see technology expand into apparel, as interactive watches, glasses, and even clothing may appear.  Imagine wearing clothing that could monitor your health and alert you when you need to a checkup or when something is not right.  This could have the potential to save millions of lives and prevent cancer and other fatal illnesses.

The Pebble, a Smart Watch That Interacts With Your Phone

This brings me to an even larger question: could technology be used to vastly expand the length of our lives?  Many people seem to believe so, as some scientists estimate that by 2040, technology could exist that could keep us alive for hundreds of years.  While the idea of living hundreds of years is a bit farfetched, technology could still allow us to live significantly longer than we do now.  Someday, we may have microscopic robots traveling through our body and repairing our cells.  If they had the ability to repair our cells, maybe they could even prevent us from growing old.  While this is unlikely possible anytime soon, it may be in the distant future.  Could technology even bring us back from the dead?  Many seem to think so, as some, including Walt Disney, have chosen to freeze themselves for hundreds of thousands of dollars with the hope that one day they may be brought back.  While this is once again farfetched, we have no idea what is possible and impossible at this point.  As I previously stated, technology grows at an exponential rate, meaning that we have not even come close to approaching the limit of what is possible.

By 2020, it is estimated that computers will be more intelligent than people.  By 2040, it is estimated that computers will be more intelligent than the whole human race combined.  This is extremely hard to believe, but if we continue to make strides in computer science and engineering, it will most likely come true.  If we created computers smarter than the entire human race combined, imagine just how fast new inventions could be brought forth.  Artificial intelligence could one day allow computers to create more computers even more advanced than them.

Many of the things in this article are farfetched and hard to imagine.  However, what would you have done if someone walked up to you with an iPhone in the 1980s?  You would have said it was impossible!  Because technology grows at an exponential rate, there really is no saying what could come out tomorrow.  Over the next decade, Moore’s Law may come to an end, as we may finally reach the limit of transistors that can be placed on a silicon chip.  (Moore’s Law was a prediction that has held true for decades, which states the number of transistors that we are able to place on a chip doubles every two years.)  As an effect of this, we may even move to biological computers.  After all, we ourselves can be considered computers, and DNA can store much more information than current chips.  So, in reality, there is no saying what could come out tomorrow.  We may live in the glass world portrayed in Corning’s video, or we may not.  We may develop technology that could allow us to live forever, or we may develop technology that could end the human race.  The world of technology is an endless horizon, and that is why I am fascinated by it and hope to become a major part of it someday.
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