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How will technology develop over the next 20-30 years?

Posted by: Tom Morris
31/08/2016

Remember Clippy, Microsoft’s office assistant? The first assistant of its kind, but now we are used to Apple’s SIRI and Microsoft’s Cortana, both of which are much more sophisticated artificially intelligent personal assistants and far less annoying to boot! But these assistants put recent technological developments into perspective. Considering these technologies, we can assume that what has been developed over the past 30 years will be nothing compared to what will be available 20 years from now.

So where might we be in another 50 years? Well, for these personal assistants, it is expected that by 2033 they will fully respond to our natural body language including colloquialisms and personal traits. Further, they will be able to have conversations with us and possess an incredible level of general intelligence. They will know things about us, our tendencies and preferences and they way in which we as individuals respond to certain situations. If this isn’t scary enough, these assistants will be accessible to us around the clock; performing tasks for us, writing emails, booking appointments and anticipating our needs before we’ve even realised them ourselves.

By 2019 it is expected that the entire world will be online and in the next 20-30 years computers will be everywhere around us, but in ways that are not visible. Currently, we have computers in our phones, cars, fridges and toys but they are still very obvious and when we use them we hold the device or use a keyboard to input information. However, these computers will gradually get smaller; this is called the miniaturisation revolution. This means that computers will soon completely surround us but we won’t necessarily know it as they blend into our everyday lives from being in our clothes to our contact lenses.

By 2020 it is also expected that cash and credit cards will be obsolete and that all 130 million books on this planet will be digitalised. Paper, in fact will become like vinyl records to us and print media will fall to the digital age. People who grew up with both technology and books are known as the Digital Natives (anyone born after 1980). This generation has grown up with the internet and don’t know what life was like before it. The older generation are called the Digital Immigrants, who are still trying to adapt to the developing technology around them.

It is believed that we will become a completely connected wireless world where 5, 6 and 7G enables us to stop worrying about connectivity and speed. 5G is due by 2020 with speeds that are equivalent to fibre broadband connections. The Internet of Everything (IoE) is expected to have a trillion sensor economies and by 2025 it will exceed 100 billion connected devices, each with a dozen or more sensors collecting data. It is further estimated that by this time there will be 8 billion hyper connected people through platforms like Facebook, Space X, Google, Project Loon, Qual Comm and Virgin (one web). These platforms all plan on providing global connectivity to every human on earth at speeds exceeding one megabit per second. This looks set to create a total of 3 to 8 billion connected humans and 5 million new consumers into the global economy, which will represent tens of trillions of newly created data and value.

At present, the most powerful supercomputer takes up huge amounts of space and energy, as well as being costly to produce and maintain. Intel founder, Gordan Moore, who predicted Moore’s law (1965), said that the numbers of transistors able to fit on computer chips will double every 18 months increasing their power. So far, his prediction has been correct and smaller chips are constantly being created, but now scientists believe that this law will breakdown as the limit is too great for the chips to handle, so there is a need to find alternatives to our current silicon technologies. Advanced technologies such as bio computing DNA and photonic computers will make today’s computers seem primitive. Bio computers, which are similar to quantum computers, are using qubits or the quantum computing equivalent to bits. But the qubits are replaced with short strings of living proteins as well as molecular motors called myosin, which are used in living things to carry out mechanical tasks in living cells, these motors then move protein filaments along artificial paths. In traditional computers, electrons perform this task instead but the big advantage of bio computers over traditional is that molecular motors are much more energy efficient making it more sustainable.

So, how will all of these technology advancements affect our daily lives? Is it safe to assume that in the next 50 years we humans will have a computer chip inside our brains taking us to a Google search engine every time we want to retrieve information? Will our own brains become obsolete? We will all end up cyborgs?! Computers and robots are the future, and best selling author Yuval Noah Harari predicts ‘the rise of the useless class’ where artificial intelligence continues to outperform human in all areas.