Can We Predict the Future of Tech? by@allan-grain

Can We Predict the Future of Tech?

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A century ago, futurists held many predictions for the 21st century. While they suggested what life would be like or what the birth rate would be, some of what they predicted revolved around technology. At the time, say in the 1920s, technology was completely mechanical. The automobile had only just become popular and airplanes were still relatively new. If you were a mechanical engineer at the time, your skills were likely in high demand as many industries needed machinists as well as inventors who could invent those machines. In 1999, an article in the Wall Street Journal highlighted the predictions of inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil.
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Allan Grain

Avid reader of all things interesting to mankind. Futurist, pianist, realist.


A century ago, futurists held many predictions for the 21st century.


While they suggested what life would be like or what the birth rate would be, some of what they predicted revolved around technology.


At the time, say in the 1920s, technology was completely mechanical. The automobile had only just become popular and airplanes were still relatively new. If you were a mechanical engineer at the time, your skills were likely in high demand as many industries needed machinists as well as inventors who could invent those machines.


In 1999, an article in the Wall Street Journal highlighted the predictions of inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil.


He predicted, for example, that by 2030, computers would not only be able to process data but would also be capable of expressing emotion.


Kurzweil also suggested that in the future, humans will be capable of expanding our neocortex - or brain power - by installing nano-chips into our brains, giving us the ability to think more deeply and more broadly.


Others, like mathematician and scientist D.G. Brennan, predicted in 1968 that soon people would be flying around in anti-gravity cars, perhaps much like the characters do in the 1960s animated cartoon sitcom The Jetsons.


But predictions about the future and technology go back even further.


From the earliest of times, perhaps even to the Mesopotamian era, humans have tried to predict the future and some even claimed to have achieved the unique ability to do so.


Readers of the Bible will be familiar with Pharaoh’s astrologers who claimed to see into the future. In Medieval times, palmistry and crystal ball reading was a well-known and popular strategy for those seeking to looking into the future. Numerous were the oracles, shamans and prophets who claimed to have a connection to the divine or to other worlds.


The famous observation about time travel notes that it must be impossible since we in the present time do not observe overflowing crowds from the future.


Would someone traveling from the future not have tried to stop the assassinations of US Presidents Abraham Lincoln or John F. Kennedy?


Would someone from the future not have warned about the Titanic disaster, WWI and WWII, the 9/11 attacks or any of the numerous massacres that have taken place over the last 20 years in schools, synagogues, or stores in Buffalo?


Thus, the conclusion goes, time travel is not possible.


In the 1930s, the writer H.G. Wells predicted and inspired inventions. Wells was known as a science fiction pioneer and a Smithsonian Magazine article written about him in 2016 said that he predicted β€œa machine that travels back in time, a man who turns invisible, and a Martian invasion that destroys southern England.”


But as early as the 1890s, Wells was making predictions about the future that did indeed eventually become reality, including wireless communication, atomic energy and lasers.


More recently, it was Gordon Moore who in 1965 came up with the observation that eventually became known as Moore’s Law. He showed that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years. His observation paved the way for the development of advanced semiconductor designs.


Today, when we speak of the future of tech, nearly everyone thinks of Artificial Intelligence - or AI. This technology predicts the future based on the past. It is a learning technology and therefore needs data from the past to predict the future. But reliable AI technology will need to be able to predict the future and make decisions based on variables and data in the present and not from the past.


Of course, there is no telling what the future holds. Will the world be a more peaceful place? No it will not.


Will society still have its hungry and homeless? Yes, because these are societal symptoms that cannot and will not change. Will there still be a gap between the downtrodden and the wealthy? Absolutely.


However, what technology can do, is to make life at least slightly easier for all elements of society. And it is likely that artificial intelligence will provide a major leap in knowledge and capability for mankind to progress in ways that were once only imaginable.


Can we predict the future? Time will tell.


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