The Future is Now
Technology is changing the way we live today. In fact, so much of technology has already changed the way we live, but the real surprises are still to come. Many modern technologies are still in their infancy, and if history is any indication, the individual technologies themselves will not be the groundbreaking wonders that we expect. It is rather in the particular integration of those technologies, along with ones that are already common, that will truly change the landscape of our lives.
Consider for a moment that in the world today, more then 4 billion people own a cell phone. The telephone revolution that we have today could hardly have been predicted by Alexander Graham Bell when he invented the first hard-wired telephone. Indeed, the telephone went from being wired to wireless, while the telegraph and the television experienced exactly the opposite progression. Now, we have telephones in our hands that aren’t connected to anything, and televisions in our homes that receive their displays 24/7.
Our gadgets are attached to our bodies, from hearing aids and bluetooth headsets to fitness bands and pacemakers. Our cars report on their own health, and our refrigerators can tell us when they’re empty.
With the integration of machine intelligence, and an artificial near-intelligence on the horizon, very soon, our appliances may begin to tell our cars when to go to the grocery store and restock on the essentials of our daily lives. Automated carts can select our favorite groceries and deliver them to waiting Uber-bots to be delivered to our homes, where similar machines unload, unpack, and then fill our food storage, all while continuously monitoring the home for intruders and potential breakdowns.
But, the future of automation may not require us to have vehicles. Indeed, even now, several companies are working on self-driving cars, and legislators are coming to grips with laws governing their behavior – things such as liability and fault. Am I responsible if my self-driving car collides with a building in order to save lives?
More than that, though, cars themselves may become obsolete, as the information age overtakes us, and working from home becomes more commonplace. Information and intelligence derived from data, parsed by human beings that only walk or jog or run for exercise while industrial machines take over in the industrial marketplaces. Balloons that deliver super-high-speed internet service around the globe all the time, and nano-robotic injections that clean our veins and repair our bodies are all already here in small part.
It is up to us to figure out how we are going to live with all of the innovations that are coming. What is the right way to develop these technologies to improve the human condition, without letting them become so improved that they destroy what we think of as ourselves. When we have no need to go to work, or to earn a living because everything we could ever want is delivered to us by autonomous robot, what do we then do with our lives? When there is no need to worry about our health, how do we approach the global issues of over-population and limited resources? Should we legislate medicine? Is it really time to think about deciding how much life is too much life?
The future is here. Home automation allows us to continually monitor our lives, to set up schedules and conditions for lights, temperature, and access to our homes. Our bodies are examined by machines and robots will soon fill our veins. Our factories are full of machines, and even mental health care will soon be supplanted with semi-intelligent depression detectors that can provide meaningful interaction and reduce rates of suicide better than trained professionals.
What are we going to do with ourselves in the future? When lives run on for two hundred years, and there’s nothing left for us to do with ourselves, except contemplate the meaning of existence? Do the stars hold the answers, or will, they too, be conquered by machines of our design? What do we do when the future finally arrives?
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