(Hat tip to Curtis Palmer for the photo)
Robots, bionics and avatars
Avatar seems a little less sci-fi after the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) budgeted seven million dollars to develop robotic surrogates for soldiers to control remotely. Outside the military usage, it’s possible to imagine that we might one day have personal surrogates.
The nightmarish mechanical hound from Ray Bradbury’s Farenheit 451 also seems a little closer with Boston Dynamics testing out the capabilities of its new ‘WildCat’ robot. Will this mean fun mechanical pets or terrifying dogs of war? I guess it depends on where the funding comes from.
On a brighter note, advances in bionic limbs and artificial and grown organs means that we could eventually swap out our broken hearts and ailing livers for brand new ones, cutting down the waiting time for transplants. It also means we’re one step closer to creating a fully-functional bionic man.
Space travel for all!
Well, cheaper space travel at the very least. Eventually. Hopefully. With cuts to NASA’s budget, a few intrepid explorers and private companies are taking on the challenge. For now, the chance to go into space is limited to those with Mariana-Trench-deep pockets, but here’s hoping that the cost decreases when space tourism becomes more established.
Since their inception, the physical size of computers has been shrinking dramatically – from taking up an entire room to fitting on your fingertip. This will soon mean we can put intelligence into anything: fridges, lights, doors and even our own skin.
Quantum information processing
Yes, it’s as complicated as it sounds, but it could revolutionise computing. To keep it simple, physicists are hoping to manipulate quantum packets of light and sound and the information they carry to operate the circuitry of computers.
Nanotechnology and the intricate, detailed manufacturing it allows will be a boon for almost all industries. ‘Nanofactories’ might be able to mass produce sustainable, efficient, miniscule computer chips and delicate areas of medicine like neurosurgery and cancer treatment could be transformed by bespoke nanotools.
Big data and ‘hacktivism’
We’re at a point already where the data we produce and share everyday is overwhelming our processing abilities, which is both exciting and a little bit scary. Cyber attacks are on the rise – from state-sponsored groups to ‘hacktivists’ like Anonymous – and all of this sitting data is a ripe target for the attackers. As everything goes digital and cloud computing becomes the norm, it’s very likely cyber crime will become much more common, sophisticated and damaging.
Mind reading and neurohacking
It all sounds very Ghost in the Shell and, granted, actual ‘mind reading’ is still very far away, but we are getting much better at translating electrical activity in the brain by monitoring and decoding the brain waves. This sort of technology is increasingly being used to help dementia patients who can’t properly articulate their thoughts, but with future improvements we might be able to more accurately read each others’ thoughts and hack them, which would be a giant leap for neuromarketing.
Microsoft has already demoed some prototype software that records the speaker’s voice and then translates it into a different language whilst (roughly) preserving the original accent and tone. Unsurprisingly, the military are excited as it would allow soldiers to speak with locals in combat zones, but it would also be a great benefit to businesses wanting to trade and expand abroad. No more relying on Google Translate!
Over to you…
What are your tech predictions? What’s on your wishlist for the future? Brain uploading? Hoverboard?