With 2020 right around the corner, “the future” that we’ve all been dreaming about and anticipating for so long is fast upon us, and certain emerging technologies are set to change the way we live our lives and operate our businesses. Of course, this radical change shouldn’t be surprising when you consider how different the world is today from how it was just a century ago.
Thanks to the concept of Moore’s law – which originally was just an observation that the number of transistors in a circuit doubles about every 2 years, and has since become the universal explanation for technology’s exponential advancement – we’ve seen a phenomenal amount of societal progress just in the past decade.
Social media and search engines have made people more in-tune with and knowledgeable about the reality that they exist in, with every viewpoint, opinion, and fact now floating around in the public domain for anyone to learn from.
As such, improvements in tech aren’t just making devices faster and better, they’re re-shaping the way humans interact, think, and behave altogether. In this list, we’ve compiled the top 5 most influential emerging and burgeoning technologies that will inevitably change the way we experience everything:
1. Solar Power
If you’re just looking at the solar industry from the surface and seeing it as a bunch of homeowners and entrepreneurs who want to cut costs and help the environment, you’re drastically underestimating the impact that solar power is going to have on global civilization as a whole. It’s certainly true that saving money and reducing carbon footprints are some of the main motivating factors that cause people to install panel systems, but the current residential and commercial use of solar is only the beginning of what solar can do for our planet and the human species.
We’re already seeing significant economic impact in cities where solar is being adopted the fastest, such as San Jose, California. As the leading provider of solar in San Jose, a company called Semper Solaris is playing an integral role in promoting the spread of solar installations there. By accommodating the growing wave of homeowners who are interested in solar power through services provided on their website at sempersolaris.com, they’ve become the leading solar company in San Jose. That’s just one example of the kind of economic stimulus that solar is going to provide on a worldwide basis.
2. Augmented & Virtual Reality
Advanced headsets like the Oculus Quest have ushered in the infancy of virtual reality (VR), a form of entertainment that previously only existed in science fiction. As graphics continue to advance and become more life-like, virtual reality may actually start to live up to its name, rather than just being the most immersive form of gaming, as it is now.
Furthermore, projects like Google Glass and Microsoft’s HoloLens are showing that it’s possible to augment our reality in useful and entertaining ways by overlaying imagery onto our field of vision.
Ultimately, the ability to create new realities and completely change the appearance of the one that we live in, is not only going to give us the ability to change this world as we know it, but also the ability to create entirely new worlds in the digital realm.
With realistic enough experiences, the development of haptic feedback systems to create the sense of in-game touch, and the advent of omnidirectional treadmills, we might only be a decade or two away from the kind of virtual experiences seen in movies like Tron: Legacy and Ready Player One.
3. Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Artificial intelligence might seem like it’s a long way down the road, but breakthroughs in machine learning and artificial intelligence have given computers the ability to teach themselves advanced concepts and processes through analysis and repeated trial and error. For example, there are already focused AI technologies that can beat humans in chess.
Thus, we already have narrow AI – a computer that can perform a specific task or play a specific game proficiently enough to give the impression of superior intelligence. However, what could really change the world in a completely unpredictable manner would be the development of a general AI – one that can think for itself, choose what it wants to learn about, and develop a sense of sentience or independence.
The scary or possibly exciting part about the change that AI could bring is that we can’t even speculate about what such an advanced intellectual entity would do. Some fear that there could be bases programmed into the first AI, leading to highly advanced malicious thought processes (e.g. – robotic evil genius). Others think that AI will be too smart to be evil and will make decisions to facilitate the greater good because that’s what smart people do.
Either way, once a general AI escapes onto the internet like The Vision did in Avengers: Age of Ultron, the only way to stop it from doing what it wants would be to disable the entire internet, and even then it might be able to create its own internet network by that point.
4. Autonomous Vehicles
Self-driving cars will change the way we commute, experience tourism, and ship products around the world. The idea of driving your own vehicle might be so foreign and unheard of to future generations that it could eventually be considered as risky as driving drunk is today.
Right now, self-driving cars still get into accidents, so they’re not infallible drivers. If the technology can reach a point to where autonomous vehicles rarely ever, or never, get into fatal accidents, people will globally adopt this technology at a rapid pace.
Imagine a world in which, instead of there being ads that discourage you from driving drunk, they’re telling you not to drive at all with a statement like “Don’t drive. It’s too risky, let your vehicle do the work” while quoting statistics which show that human drivers make far more mistakes than autonomous vehicles (right now, it’s still questionable whether that stat is true yet). Still, it seems as if consumers will always at least want the option of initiating manual override and taking the wheel, as not being able to do that would feel like the loss of a personal freedom.
5. 3D Printers
3D printers seem like an interesting tech hobby on the surface, but they could hold the key to some pretty amazing capabilities. For starters, some research teams have already successfully 3D printed functioning body parts. The idea of being able to print and replace parts of yourself at will without needing a donor seems insane, but it could be a possibility within the next century. It goes without saying that such an advancement could lead to humans living for hundreds or maybe even thousands of years.
3D printers are also being used to build structures at incredibly fast rates, with no labor costs, and in more economically friendly ways. There are even 3D printers that are specifically designed to print weapons, and believe it or not, they are perfectly legal to buy and own – although you do need to be licensed in order to legally print and possess certain weapons.
Other Tech Worthy of Mention
In closing, it would be a shame to wrap up this list without mentioning blockchain, voice assistants that sound like real humans, and humanoid robots. Those three concepts alone should give you plenty of entertaining and thought-provoking research to conduct from here.