Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Technological Revolution Is Coming

Let's imagine you had a time machine. Go back to 1815, where nobody had wifi, where the fastest form of transportation you could get had 1 horsepower, and take a guy to the modern age. To him, we might as well be magicians. Talk to somebody 10k miles away? Fly higher than the mountains? Even without talking about the cutting edge of science, he would be blown away.

Now take a guy from the 1600s, bring him to the 1800s, and show him around. Compared to the other person's reaction, and you would be duly disappointed. Although he'd be impressed with scientific advancements, he wouldn't be blown away.

In order to blow somebody away by bring them to the 1800s, you'd have to go a lot further back, to the hunter-gatherer period. People from that period would indeed be blown away by the 1800s. Settlements? Cities? Large scale sea travel? All of these concepts would be novel.

This illustrates what's often called the "Law of Accelerating Returns". If you graphed human advancement on a graph, it would look something like:

Source: Uday I/O

If you zoomed out the timeline even further, it would look similar. However, humans tend to consistently underestimate how fast technological growth happens.

Artificial intelligence is an interesting related topic that I might write a separate blog post about. However, here is the main question?

What do you see as the future of technology?

Some opinions on the future of technology:

Picture 1:


Eric Chen 1 said...

That's quite the broad question, but I think that there are a few areas in which technological advancement will be particularly strong.

First off, energy and "green" technology. Sustainability is a massive issue going into the future, so as the problem gets worse, more and more resources will be funneled into these fields. It's a problem that has to be solved, and I'd like to believe that we will succeed in it.

Manufacturing and automation are two more fields that I believe will continue to grow quickly. For instance, 3D printing is already improving rapidly and showing excellent results. New manufacturing techniques and their subsequent automation are always being developed, as it allows for cheaper production and/or the creation of technology that could not be realized otherwise (nanoscale, unique materials, etc.).

As for ultra intelligent AI, it still feels quite far off in the future. With the rate of our technological growth, its possible we will see it realized within our lifetimes, but I cannot fathom how it would be realized. But like you mentioned, that is probably true of people from 100 or 200 years ago and current technology, so it's definitely worth consideration. In the case that machines become able to replace humans in most aspects of life, there would not be many jobs left for people to do. Thus, we could see a society in which people no longer need to work, leading to questions of questions of what people live for or want to do. If humans are no longer necessary for continuing advancement, then what is left? Alternatively, if machines completely take over (I don't really see this happening, but who knows), it would be interesting to see what they would try and do, as the human aspect of survival could be off the table. The threat of AI is worth some thought, but I think we are still too far away right now to make accurate predictions. If AI ever advances to a point where the Singularity is a truly tangible threat, then we will definitely see it coming.

Rachael Howard said...

I think the future of technology holds many developments in the area of biotechnology. This industry is growing rapidly and I expect that there will be many new medical advancements to prolong/improve life in the near future.
However if you asked me about technology such as the iphone or other things of that nature, I honestly dont see that many improvements. I only see improvements such as thinner, faster, and easier to charge.

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Anonymous said...

In general, technology has been the result of some need or desire to complete a task more efficiently. I predict the future of technology will continue with this trend.

As Eric has mentioned above, manufacturing and automation are areas in which we can expect to see some technological advances. There will always be people desperate to find newer and more efficient ways of producing products, for this results in more profit. Recently I have heard about machines replacing jobs such as cashiering in the fast food industry, specifically in chains such as McDonald's and Panera Bread. Instead of paying wages to human cashiers, employers have the potential option of replacing them with computers. These computers could lower the rate of errors which occur, further incentivizing employers to consider this option.

While replacement of human employees with machines may be profitable to employers, the dangers this idea poses to workers is immense. Changes like these would leave millions out of jobs, assuming this practice becomes more common in other forms of service. With the possibility of human replacement with machines in mind, it will be essential for policymakers to regulate technology of this kind and purpose. While technological advancement is typically seen as a positive, we must be wary of its implications. Could that which has always made life more efficient make it too efficient? We'll have to wait and see.


Lea Tan said...

We live in an era of technology that prioritizes technological advancements. I agree with Eric that hopefully, more funds go towards sustainable technology that can help reduce climate change. However, as TJ mentioned, as we create more robots and artificial intelligence that can take the place of human workers, we are putting ourselves at risk. Companies such as Boston Dynamics are currently designing a US military robot dog that they believe can and will be used in military defense once it is finished. Robots have already replaced humans in performing tasks that put human lives too much at risk or most people don't want to do. But even though this is an improvement, increasing AI means fewer jobs available for the workforce in areas like the food industry, military, and even other routine jobs that companies could save money on by employing robots rather than humans. I don't think we will create AI that is smarter than humans within our lifetimes, but I do think that it will happen in the future, and that is something to be wary about.

Lea Tan said...

video of robot dog we watched in EngTech:

Christopher Griffis said...

Technology is a very interesting topic as the term can have a very broad definition. Technology can relate to the phones that everyone has in there pocket or it can also refer to the mundane things such as the wheel or screw. The advancement from the technology of the wheel being revolutionary is what creates this curiosity for the future of this technology. Whether or not we have flying cars in the next 100 years is a different question.

Initially inventions, such as the wheel or the light bulb, were developed from necessity; people needed to work in the night and wheels were needed for wagons. However we are starting to reach a time when technology has caught up to necessity. The car can always have new features but will not be reinvented a everyone does not need a new design for a method of transportation. In other words there are not as many new inventions as there are improvements because the current product is not broken. This makes the change toward green cars difficult as climate change is not an immediate side effect but more of a "later problem."

Adjon Tahiraj said...

A.I. is not possible. I believe technology will continue to grow exponentially but not to that extent.

Other areas where technology will grow is in fuel technology and green energy. I think this is something in which we have only hit the tip of the iceberg. Green fuel will allow for a great advancement in other aspects of technology as well.

But A.I. will not happen.

Jessica Westmont said...

I believe that the technology of solar energy is something that will advance significantly in the next couple decades. With the energy crisis becoming more and more of a problem, the world is looking for another way to keep our energy fueled lives running. Solar energy could be incorporated into phones or mobile devices. Nobody will have to charge their phones because it will be charged by solar energy. Solar energy has been advancing rapidly in the past 10 years and I wouldn't be surprised if it was an even bigger part of our lives in throughout this century.

Anonymous said...

Agreeing with everyone else, I too believe that technology is a big and interesting topic with many fields within it. However, I would first like to start off that we are already living in a very technologically advanced modern day. I would like to further indicate that I would hope anymore advances would not affect modern society in a negative way. Meaning I hope that technology would not become so advanced that we as humans would grow an even stronger dependency on it, then we already have. I personally would like to find the line where we do not need technology for everything. Just because something is newer and more advanced doesn't mean it is any better than the older.

After having said that I would like to voice the areas that I hope and/or think should/would be advanced in. One of those areas would be medical technological advancements. For instance, a couple of years ago I remember hearing that medical science has gotten so advance that scientist could now use technology to restore a persons face almost completely. Another place that I feel should/would be advanced would be human's creation to generate energy. As we are currently running out of options for energy mankind would clearly look for an alternative for energy as we depend on it, hopefully a more clean method as well. Finally, I also think that the area of transportation will also be advanced. As mankind is always looking for a method to make travel more comfortable and easier accessible.