What Does the Future Hold? And What Does it Mean?

I think about the future. I think about the future as I wake up, and I fall asleep thinking about the future. I even think about the future while I’m awake, as I dive deeper into science videos and articles about what life might be like 10, 20, even 100 years from now. The future looks extremely bright for science. We are close to reaching a turning point where technology – whether it be medical technology, artificial intelligence, space flight – is going to culminate into the biggest explosion of innovation in history since the Industrial Revolution. I’m constantly learning as much as I can about what the future may hold, and there are a few people who are making the future possible now, like Elon Musk and his self-driving cars, or reusable rocket boosters.[0][0] Or Google, with their quantum computers capable of superimposing qubits, making quantum computers calculate at speeds modern computers can’t compete with. With a new breakthrough in 3-D wiring techniques we are beginning to scale quantum computers down, which means we’ll be able to increase their capacity every time the components get smaller, making more and more room for processing power.[1]

But what does the future actually look like in 10, 20, 100 years? No one knows, because according to Moore’s Law the rate at which technology improves grows exponentially with the passing of time.[2]

The combination of quantum computing and the self-learning algorithms at Google DeepMind or other quantum computing pioneers will someday culminate into a true general Artificial Intelligence, capable of meeting the criteria of the Turing Test and answering some of humanities most burning questions.[3] One of the first things Google got their computer intelligence to teach itself was to master the game Go, a game thought to be too complex for a computer to beat a Go Grandmaster, but it did.[4][4]

But what happens when AI finally overtakes humans and we are not the smartest being we know, that is capable of critical thinking and has a generalized knowledge of how to use collective learning to overcome our most daunting challenges; conquering problems that would take humans years to solve, but a machine months or even days? It’s a big question, and some people think it will spell the end of the world. Other’s think we’ll hit the point of Technological Singularity[5], where machines will overtake humans in every way, and we’ll live a life of ease and comfort, where we become domesticated and our brains shrink.[6] Jobs for humans will become less and less available as machines will outperform them and will also be extremely cost efficient, which will lead to a different economy. What world will we live in after most of our jobs are taken away by machines? How will we earn food to feed ourselves if we don’t have the money to buy it?[7][7] One interesting solution is cryptocurrency[8], which will allow people to exchange funds without the help of a intermediaries like a bank, and are extremely secure. There are many ways to earn different types of cryptocurrency[9], which means jobs in providing information to companies for their supercomputers to analyze may be the way of the future.

There are many other ways technology is bound to change the course of human evolution, and that is the ability to freely edit our genes by re-encoding our DNA. By learning everything we can from our own human gene pool[10], we are able to study the root causes of things such as genetic disease and ways to encourage other genes to take hold, thereby giving us an edge over disease and even death. By controlling our genes, or introducing new strong genes into our DNA, we can change our bodies in unimaginable ways.[11] CRISPR, the technique for modifying DNA, is still a new technology, but there are already technologies that are making this sort of procedure easy and cost effective. One of the ways we could benefit from such powerful tools is the ability to stop the aging process, or even reverse it.

As artificial intelligence gets closer to reality, we steadily progress in other areas of science to a new and much brighter future for all humans. However, it’s very hard for futurists to see what exactly will happen. What will happen when humans stop aging? The population of the earth is over 7 billion people[12], many who are impoverished and would not have access to these new technologies. Currently Google DeepMind is making their work open source, meaning the knowledge of how they are creating collective learning artificial intelligence is freely distributed on the internet. Some futurists claim we will merge with technology, giving us a huge evolutionary edge which might lead to brand new possibilities for existing technologies.[13]

One of my favorite theories is the nano-miniaturization of machines which will live inside our bodies, giving us capabilities we can only dream of now. These nano-machines would be able to monitor our health from inside our body, and give instructions to doctors on how to treat individual patients. Currently medicine is generalized and works for most people, but with drugs specifically tailored to your genetic makeup, medicine will make an enormous leap forward.[14] Another benefit of having nano machines inside your body would be the relaying of signals to your brain through implanted electrodes, signals that could teach your brain to do amazing things, such as feel magnetic fields or see in ultraviolet light. This work is already going on without the use of nano machines, teaching blind people to see their world through their tongue and other remarkable feats.[15] With the advent of 3D printing, people will be able to print their own clothes for much cheaper than buying in the store. For example, 3D printers are already printing food and organs. This technology exists today, but is still in it’s early stages. Scientists have begun printing things from living cells, creating ears and kidneys that have already been implanted and are working.[16] Given a few decades, this technology could print prosthetics which are much better than the body parts we were born with. Scientists are making materials for these prosthetics out of things they find in nature, actually growing human collagen which is what accounts for 30-40% of all proteins in our body, by genetically modifying plants to grow the protein.[17]

In the future, prosthetics could be tailor made with extra sensory inputs, be made of materials that are stronger and better than an average humans, and would feel real to us, giving people perfect motor control. A prosthetic heart could be used as a replacement for people’s old hearts, and they would last much longer and be able to receive instructions directly from a computer linked in our brain.[18] The brain is capable of interfacing with machines, which was already proven by Miguel Nicolelis[19], who implanted electrodes into rhesus monkeys which were then able to control robotic arms with their minds.[20][20]

Travel will become cheaper and much faster, allowing people and cargo to traverse the globe in much less time. In culmination with highly skilled robotic workers, the cost of manufacturing goods would drop significantly, and groundbreaking technology would be widely available to everyone. One such idea to achieve this dream was proposed by Elon Musk, who then allowed the project to become open source. It’s called the Hyperloop, and it’s a train which travels at near supersonic speeds through a vacuum tube. [21]

With the cost of travel and manufacturing down, people are able to afford better technology, such as self-driving cars, which won’t make human errors and allow you to drive from point A to point B automatically using an auto-pilot function inside your car’s computer. The number of car related fatalities in the United States reached 35,092 in 2015.[22] Of those crashes, most of them were related to human error.[23]

Most futurists agree that this will happen relatively soon in human history, and will change our way of life so drastically that it’s very hard to predict what the future will really look like. With the rapid advances in all fields of science and technology we may soon find out what a much more futuristic world looks like in our lifetimes.

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