What upcoming, or theoretical, technologies have the potential to actually shake up the world and change things as we know it?
Neuralink was recently in the news. It’s a computer-brain interface backed by Elon Musk. He’s said it could eventually be used to treat brain-related defects, alter our personalities, upgrade our intelligence and communicate via thought.
I expect it to be as successful as his trans-continental subterranean vacuum-tube transit network and nuking the Martian poles as terraforming.
He’s a hype man for sure but let’s not be too harsh. If Neuralink can do a fraction of what he says it could, it’ll be huge.
If we’re including theoretical technologies there’s faster than light travel, matter transportation, time travel, and the car that runs on water instead of gasoline.
Room temperature super-conductivity coupled with cold fusion would be a game changer. It would make my toaster toast quicker and cheaper.
I recommend Soonish: : Ten Emerging Technologies That’ll Improve and/or Ruin Everything by Kelly Weinersmith and Zach Weinersmith (yes, the webcomic guy).
- cheap access to space
- asteroid mining
- fusion power
- programmable matter
- robotic construction
- augmented reality
- synthetic biology
- precision medicine
- brain-computer interfaces
This requires a bit too much speculation and opinion for GQ, so let’s move it to IMHO.
I think stem cell therapy would be a big one, there have been some promising results recently for paralysis.
I think neural networks will continue to advance and make a significant difference in the types of problems that can be solved with computers and what our interactions with computers looks like (i.e. out of the current inefficient and rudimentary interfaces/interactions and more towards an intelligent assistant with a much lower mental load on humans to make use of the various capabilities of the system).
I think the Neuralink might be a bit more of a reality than the others, though the hyperloop thing isn’t exactly vaporware (he even has a secondary company to do the tunnel boring part). It’s already been tested and seems to be going into FDA trials, so maybe a bit less vaporware than nuking Mars to make it more habitable.
As to the OP, I think AI is definitely a tech that will shake up the world or be a game changer. Pure technology wise, I’d say that graphine seems to be once more a hot topic as breakthroughs in manufacturing, especially precision seem to be happening. There is also quite a bit happening in battery technology, which could couple well with graphine.
Personally, I think there are a lot of long term research and interesting developments in separate branches that might be coming to a head and converging that will be real game changers. I doubt anyone can predict exactly how or what those will be, but just watching some of the things being looked into it’s going to be a very interesting time in the next 10 to 20 years. Assuming we survive the next year or so, of course.
We are very soon going to have global high speed internet, available at low prices to every human on the planet. This will do more for poor societies than all the other forms of aid we provide combined. A small village in Africa will soon be able to acess education and markets they could only have dreamed of just a little while ago. This has the potential of changing our society as well, enabling people to move out of cities and still do their jobs.
Cheap Access to Space
If Starship flies as it was designed to do, the cost of space access is about to drop by an order of magnitude, or maybe two. That will open space up to smaller organizations and even well-heeled individuals. $20/kilo to low earth orbit is cheaper than a first-class plane ticket. Even $200/kilo means a 500 kilo satellite could be launched for $100,000. We could see high schools and colleges launching satellites, and oil companies launching exploration and mining sats to asteroids.
But more importantly, an industry with many, many particpants and lower barriers to entry will invite competition, lowering of costs, and serendipity.
We are in the early days of 3d printing. Metal printers are here, but crazy expensive. Still, they are revolutionizing prototyping and small quantity manufacturing. As this industry matures, it could be very democratizing. A business of the future could be part of a distributed factory.
Today, if you want to invent a device you need millions in investment to build out the factories, or you need to subcontract it out to cheap countries.
Imagine a future world where people design somethjng in CAD, then open bidding for each part. A small shop in maine with a titanium printer bids on the frame. Another company bids on the actuators. Yet another bids to make the handle. Before you know it, you have the parts flowing in from 100 small bisinesses. No factory required, No massive investments. Capitalism goes small, nimble, less risky, and the means of production are retained by the general public.
AI is revolutionary, but not because of self-driving cars. And contrary to the people who say that automation and AI will only benefit the plutocrats who hold the means of production, AI’s benefits have been mostly for the masses, and in ways they can and can’t see.
AI has the potential to magnify the labor of everyone, and therefore increase the average standard of living.
But if you want to predict the future, just focusing on ‘a technology’ is not the best way to do it. Instead, you have to look at what changes in tech or society enable whole new things when added together.
That and carbon nanotubes are materials to keep an eye on.
The first company to develop an affordable fentanyl-like opiate without the risk of overdose could potentially destroy society as we know it. Why would you want to do anything else other than experience the apex of pleasure?
If we’re counting stuff that may never be possible, how about a foolproof lie detector test? What would that mean for the criminal justice system?
Or politics, or business, or poker?
Cheap and efficient solar panels.
“Cheap and efficient solar panels.”
And battery technology.
But just to be sure we better give them each one laptop.
I’m thinking about powerless cooling. As I understand it, that is already existing technology but still not widespread: it uses the energy of the heat itself to operate (using soundwaves internally, without moving parts). If this becomes widespread, that means that it becomes cheap and easy to cool everywhere on earth, which may change the feasibility of living in hot climates and possibly help to grow crop.
Powerless cooling might be used to actually generate energy from heat (I can think of a few tricks to convert a heat differential to electricity). That could become a real game changer for tropical countries who now have to buy energy to cool off, but could in the future be energy-neutral or even exporting.
Of course this all depends on whether it can actually be scaled and made more efficient, but in this thread we are doing wishful thinking and not actual engineering.
Scene: a physics lab somewhere in the bowels of CERN
“Doctor Frankenstein! Doctor Frankenstein! Look at the readouts! It’s working, it’s WORKING!”
“My God, Igor, cold fusion! Do you realize what we’ve done?!”
“Revolutionized toaster oven technology?”
“…You’re an idiot, Igor.”