4 Tech advancements that are going to turn this world upside down

4 Tech advancements that are going to turn this world upside down

CultureSeptember 29, 2016 By Ethan Desmond

It’s no hidden fact humans are progressing at an exponential rate. Just look at what happened to cell phones, computers, and medicine over the last 20 years. Things that were deemed to be real only in science fiction are now a very real part of everyday life.

And it doesn't look like there will be a finite point at where it stops, either. Just think, in just a few short decades, these things are going to completely flip what we consider normal now into another realm of possiblities ...

1) Virtual Reality

Virtual reality, even in its infancy, is changing the world. Video games aside, psychologists use virtual reality to treat people with intense phobias.

One of the most successful treatments for a phobia is “exposure therapy.” This works by gradually exposing someone to more and more intense stimuli of their fear — like extreme heights, which is too impractical and dangerous to really expose people to.

But now, with virtual reality, one can gradually expose someone to their phobia in the safety of a clinician's office.

Dr. Merel Krijn, a researcher at the University of Amsterdam says that, “Promising results show virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET) is as effective as exposure in vivo in treating fear of heights and fear of flying. The cost effectiveness in fear of flying is a particular advantage of VRET.”

Virtual reality is changing our recreational life too. PlayStation is set to release the first major console-ready virtual reality system this year. Gamers will now be able to fully immerse themselves 360 degrees in a game, which is pretty immaculate when the first Nintendo system came out only 31 years ago.

But video games and clinicians aren’t the only ones interested in virtual reality. According to U.S investment agency, Piper Jaffray, the porn industry, the NFL and even the live music scene are expected to be making a billion dollars a year in revenue through virtual reality by 2025.

 

Gene Munster, an analyst from Piper Jaffary, says virtual reality is going to be the next major tech theme in America, much like what cell phones were 15 years ago. Hold on.

2) Artificial Intelligence

Imagine having a robot that can cater to your every will, cleaning up after your slovenly ways and cooking for you after a bender — hell it could even take care of your kids while you spend all day watching virtual reality porn.

It sounds like something from The Jetsons or I, Robot, but AI is going to be a very real part of our life.

AI is already all around us. GPS uses it to calculate the fastest routes, Apple iPhones have Siri, which processes our voices and makes quick decisions based off what we say, and ATMs use it to photograph checks and process our handwriting.

The Pew Research Center believes that by 2025, “AI and robotics will be integrated into nearly every aspect of most people’s daily lives.”

Unfortunately, when it comes to AI, it isn’t all free labor and robot butlers.

Movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Terminator and I, Robot feature a very real fear for some scientists: An AI revolution.

To think, if we created a brilliant robot, one that could access all the information on the Internet and process it in under a second, how long would it take for that robot to build an even smarter, faster robot? Or for it to realize that humans aren’t necessary for its own survival? dun dun dun

Stephen Hawking, theoretical physicist and arguably one of the smartest men alive, claims, “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race … Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn't compete, and would be superseded.”

Luckily for humanity, a coalition was recently formed by Google, Microsoft, Amazon, IBM, and Facebook to make sure that artificial intelligence is used ethically and for the benefit all of society.

But even if we have some of the smartest people on the planet working to keep AI safe, will it be enough?

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, thinks “we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I were to guess at what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that. With artificial intelligence, we are summoning the demon.”

3) Self-Driving Cars

Some engineers believe it won't be long until human-driven cars are a thing of the past. Imagine how much faster commuting would be if cars seamlessly operated at high speeds just feet apart from each other, with no human interaction to make a mistake or cause an accident.

Vint Cerf, vice president of Google, says self-driving cars are very likely to be around and fully integrated into our lives by 2025.

At the rate computers are advancing, we would be able to build cars that can sense the world around them and make a million precise decisions in a second. People would be able to efficiently travel from place to place at much higher speeds because the chances of a mistake would be close to nonexistent.

But there are some ethical problems with self-driving cars. As a popular example, in the case of an emergency, should the car be able to drive off of the road, possibly killing the driver to prevent causing greater damage?

Lets say your automated car is driving through a neighborhood when a child runs into the street to get their ball. Should your car slam on the breaks and risk hitting the kid? Should it swerve into oncoming traffic and risk your life and other drivers? Should it swerve to side and risk hitting a tree or someone on the sidewalk? How do we put value on what should happen next in the case of living beings?

These are the ethical problems that are making self-driving cars a huge controversy, but regardless of the ethical dilemmas, many scientists believe they will be sorted and robotic cars will be a part of everyone's future.

4) Medicine

Giving amputees robotic limbs or sending in microscopic robots to fight cancer and even wiping out entire diseases with vaccines are things science is already accomplishing, and this is just the beginning.

Most people have seen Star Wars, and the scene where Luke Skywalker has his hand cut off and is quickly replaced by a fancy new robotic one. This isn’t just science fiction anymore.

Amputees can now have robotic arms that are connected to the brain, which interpret brain signals to make the hands open and close. Although these prosthetic arms are still considered “primitive” because they can only perform one function at a time, they are a miracle by today's medical standards.

“A new generation of much more sophisticated and lifelike prosthetic arms, sponsored by the Department of Defense’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), may be available within the next five to 10 years,” writes Emily Singer of MIT’s Technology Review website. 

Humans are even starting to wipe out diseases that once plagued our existence. This September, measles was officially wiped out in both North and South America, a huge marker in the advancement of medicine.

Other researchers, like Harvard’s Shawn Douglas, are looking to wipe out the biggest killer of them all: cancer. Douglas and his team have designed microscopic machines, made of DNA, that can enter your body and track down malfunctioning cells and kill them.

“We want to be able to fix things when they break — when cells go haywire due to cancer or other diseases where things just aren’t working correctly. To do that, I think it makes sense to master this kind of nanoscale construction,” Douglas says.

The world around is advancing at an alarming rate. For better or for worse this is the future that we are building for ourselves. A future where humans could see our biggest causes of death wiped out, but at the same time we ourselves could be wiped out by our own creative ambition.

“The Future is ours to shape. I feel that we are in a race that we need to win. It’s a race between the growing power of technology and the growing wisdom we need to manage it. Right now, almost all the resources tend to go into growing the power of tech”

Max Tegmark, professor and cosmologist at MIT