Technology by definition is hard. Computation in order to complete even the most simple tasks can take millions of calculations that occur instantaneously while the distances and speeds travelled across the web are almost inconceivable. Chances are wherever you are in the world reading this the information reached you at just below the speed of light having travelled thousands of kilometres reaching you quicker than you could blink. What humanity has achieved is astonishing.
The future is no different, envisioning it is as hard as creating the products that will become widespread. How can you imagine the future without first understanding the capabilities of technology or the historical precedent of evolution? To project and foresee developments you must first understand what is capable now and how we got here. Only by understanding what is possible can you understand where the road is heading and with luck contribute to its construction.
The future will be marked by change, which is the only thing that is ever certain. If you visualise human history as a linear 70,000 year graph it would look something like below with regards to the advance of technology. Slow progress followed by rapid development due to the accumulation of knowledge.
For the first 64,500 years we relied upon the transfer of knowledge verbally which put significant limitations on our bandwidth. We could only know as much as we physically had the ability to remember. All the information we possessed was shared history and conventional wisdom inherited from our predecessors and as soon as anything was forgotten it was lost to forever.
That’s not to say there was no development. Homo-sapiens evolved from hunter gatherers to farmers to city dwellers in around the space of 10,000 years, including all the requisite technological advances to necessitate such developments, between 10,000 BC and 500 AD, which is tremendous progress and a massive transition in such a relatively short period of time. Of course Stone Age technology etc. had occurred prior to that, which had catapulted humanity to the top of the food chain enabled by our ability to work together holistically as a species, but the real progress we would acknowledge today as being the tinder that lit the supernova of progress leading to modern technology gathered a pace upon our ability to record knowledge.
Acceleration then, occurred 5,000 years ago with the advent of written language. This fixed our bandwidth problem by enabling our knowledge base to become exponential; limited by the speed humanity to could create new literature and how quickly we could read it. It also gave us instantaneous access to massive bodies of knowledge about things we knew absolutely nothing about. We could become educated on any subject as quickly as we were able to consume the relevant information.
Upon this humanity flourished. The pyramids rose as monuments to our new capabilities. Irrigation revolutionised farming, freeing vast swathes of labour from the back breaking work of the fields. The Bronze Age made way for the first Athenian democracy which birthed the systems we recognise today.
The next great revolution was the printing press which again enabled an unprecedented distribution of information on a magnitude never before witnessed in human history. For the first time mass production of books were possible which gave those who could afford it access to even more information far more quickly.
Homes in the city focused workers into an area creating an unprecedented economy of scale which led to the industrialisation of cities, industry and workers. Steam power led to machinery enabling mass production of products. Next came cars and the telephone followed by planes which shrunk the world. Information became international as news could travel as quickly as the copper wires of the day allowed. Our limitation to spread information now depended on the breath of the network.
This led to the age of the computer. Although initially reserved for government uses etc. it eventually permeated through to everyday use. The true usefulness of the personal computer though wasn’t recognised until the advent of the internet which enabled the interconnectivity and connection of systems across the globe.
Through to today, no longer is our access to information constrained by the availability of books or our ability to remember, If we have access to the network we now have access to whatever information we could dream to require. The internet democratised information on a scale which is a magnitude greater again. We not have access to more information, which is the accumulation of all human knowledge previously gathered. Access has been put in the palms of our hands with smartphones.
Information is the fuel which has enabled human progress and it is what signifies the future most pertinently. More and more data must be analysed more quickly in order to learn the lessons taught to us by past experiences. Artificial intelligence isn’t the future because it will replace humanity; it is the future because it endows us with the capability to parse more information than was ever imaginable.
Big data is what will enable future progress. Distillation of unrecognised facts will come from untangling the accumulation of knowledge we have built. Conclusions will be drawn and become apparent which would have been impossible for humanity to achieve on its own which is why it is essential.
To not exploit what we have created would be to devolve as a species, we have been relentless in our pursuit of knowledge unto this point and need to continue that way. The future of technology will inevitably be tied to the analysis of data. Machine learning will enable more intelligent solutions and conclusions to be drawn which will encourage further progress.
Technology will advance and grow and it will remove our need to do a huge amount of menial tasks.
Self-driving cars will proliferate the market. Transport will become heavily subsidised by those who want to get a message to specific people, utilising targeted advertisement derived from your online browsing habits to bring you the products you are inherently interested in. Choosing to travel a specific way is the permission while the subsidisation of the fare is the reward. The product could then be ordered at the touch of a button from within the cab automatically rerouting you on your journey to acquire the product.
The internet of things is will also be huge. Marketing will infiltrate the home with advertisement inside your fridge when it senses products are running low. Your cupboards will also know what stocks are dwindling with brands then able to advertise their product as a replacement. In order for this to occur, you will be rewarded with reduced costs incentivising you to participate, the antithesis of today’s methods.
This will expand to include the entirety of you home; from your cupboard, taking care of your cleaning utilities, to your wardrobes, identifying any gaps in your requirement for additional clothing. The expansion of interconnectivity and evolution of technology will expand avenues for consumption.
Big data attained from the interconnection of devices will enable enterprise to target those most in need ensuring marketing is effective. The current scatter-gun approach of trying to shout loudest will be replaced by a far more targeted system reaching only the people who are interested. Think super effective pay-per-click advertisement in which appliances are intelligently able to ascertain your requirements and advertise your needs. The lower your stock level gets the more expensive the advertisement becomes as it becomes more of a necessity to replenish.
The impending revolution of data afforded from being connected to the internet of things will afford massive advances. Think about education, which can become more tailored to individuals specific needs while understanding what has been effective for millions of pupils, or healthcare, where the effects of drugs can be measured and aggregated instantaneously across continents instead of single hospitals. Being able to understand and operate alongside the government will not just be a requirement, it will be a prerequisite and the essential necessity which allows you to operate, survive and grow.
And partnerships will allow that. How do companies with no industry experience convince a government to let them operate within these highly confidential, controlled and critically important spheres? How does am incumbent who lacks the technological knowledge to implement any ideas progress? The answer is that they must form mutually beneficial partnerships and work together.
They must share their individual experience and combine it to provide a new service; this will be true across every sector. Companies already operating in the sphere are effectively blind to the power of data and technology companies have the tools but lack the platform to implement them. One will provide the network, connections and reputation and the other will provide the tools. Imagine this across hundreds of sectors between multiple companies. Think of it as a democratisation of expertise for the collective advancement of society as a whole. Your individual data is aggregated with everyone else’s to allow everyone to profit accordingly.
And that is before we view the developments that are to come in artificial technology, autonomous vehicles and virtual reality.
It’s easy to fear the future.
The fact of the matter is that technology is already far better than us at many things. Repetitive tasks can be undertaken in a fraction of a second which would take us hundreds of years. This frees us to focus on things which matter most.
We need to stop viewing technology as an existential threat and embrace it in partnership. Technology isn’t our biggest threat, our biggest threat is not embracing it to invent the future.
The future is whatever we want it to be but we must create it. Progress is only constrained by a lack of imagination. So take action and be fearless. If you fall down get back up. To topple an empire you have to play the game.
So find friends and conquer: Alone we can do little. Together we can do so much.
The stone age didn’t end because we ran out of stone. It ended because we invented something better.