The Future Is Then: Tech That Will Change The World
Your parents were promised flying cars, jet packs, and passenger trips to the moon. They ended up with iPhones, video calling, and an endless database accessible from every corner of the world. The future is slower than the human imagination, which means the retro vision of the future was more akin to what you see on The Jetsons than what you see in reality, but that doesn’t mean that we aren’t living in a science fiction world.
While the dream of the flying car still persists, we most likely won’t see anything quite that audacious in our lifetimes. Here are 4 things that most likely will impact our world in a giant way within the next few decades.
1) Self-driving cars
The buzz for the machines that put the auto in automobile is everywhere right now, with constant headlines of mega corporations— including Ford, Tesla and Google— investing big money into revolutionizing short distance travel. The implications of driverless vehicles are huge, and not yet fully understood, but one thing is certain: they are coming, most likely much sooner than you think.
The impact of self-driving vehicles will most likely be felt in the realm of trucking and shipping first. By eliminating the need for human drivers, and the risks that drivers, who often work 14 to 16 hour shifts, incur, trucking could become a much more efficient way of transporting goods across our highways. While the trucking industry would take a major employment hit, this could lead to decreased prices for consumers worldwide.
Of course, with every technological answer comes questions: some analysts wonder what will happen without the steady stream of organ donors that come from car accidents, and what kind of decision making these cars will be capable of. While self-driving cars raise some interesting philosophical questions, the economic and safety advantages of these machines are too tempting to resist. Look to Tesla to be a major thought leader in this arena.
2) Labor Automation
Much like self-driving cars, automation is set to be a major economic disruptor. Of course, switching out factory workers with robots is not exactly a new idea, but automation’s creep is slated to continue at an exponential rate.
Right now, much of the world’s automated labor is out of sight and out of mind, but there is good reason to believe that industries like service will be impacted majorly in the next 10 years. Next time you’re at a McDonalds, keep an eye out for interactive screens in lieu of spacey teenagers. It’s unclear how far automation will reach, but it might not be a bad idea to look into career routes that are machine-proof, like planning and safety.
3) Virtual Reality
Video games are rapidly transforming in the public eye from mindless entertainment to both art form and sport through innovations like Twitch and an increasing focus on quality narrative. But the true game changer may come in the form of immersive virtual reality. Imagine a video game that looks as good as real life, one that makes everything from dragon riding to space travel feel as realistic as walking to the grocery store.
Science fiction writers have had fun with this concept for years, but now companies like Oculus and Sony are making realistic strides into the world of virtual reality. For now, it’s a favorite of immersive marketing and non- photorealistic video games, but the future should hold entire new worlds at our fingertips. While the implications of virtual reality are a bit more cerebral than those of automation, the possibilities are quite literally endless. Even our cultural mainstays like movies and television could be deepened and altered by the transportive powers of virtual reality.
4) All Solar Everything
Despite the semi-prevalent belief that climate change is a Chinese hoax and not an existential threat, the rise of alternate energy is another inevitability. The sun is already the greatest battery in the galaxy, the question is how to harness its power to fuel all of the tech we’ve covered in this article.
Solar panels have been around for a while, usually appearing in giant crops in the middle of the desert or on top of your weird art teacher’s roof. But we’re finally hitting a point of price reduction to the point where solar may actually be cheaper than gas and coal in the next decade. Huge problems, like grid implementation and power transference, still remain, but the cleanliness of solar energy certainly makes it something to chase after.
Eventually, the goal will be to get solar panels small enough that you could literally cover your (self-driving) car or phone in them without being an eye sore. Imagine a life in which a sunny day makes skipping out on the gas pump a possibility.
Of course, technological advancement is rarely a linear thing. Much like diets, cure-all fads come and go (remember when the Segway was meant to revolutionize how we walk?) but some facts remain. Humans’ greatest ability to evolve is through the creation of tools that aid our development. The Industrial Revolution saw the birth of super-efficient work that we’ve been improving on since. Computers were once the size of refrigerators and man long looked at the moon with a pining curiosity. Now, technology seems to be changing more quickly than ever. Many of our major, every-day institutions, from Facebook to the iPhone, barely existed a decade ago, and no one could have guessed that a kid at Harvard would create a service used by almost two billion people. But that doesn’t mean we can’t look to the future of tech with an excited optimism or make educated guesses. Whatever is to come, one thing is for certain: our future tech has the potential to improve millions, if not billions of lives.