It only sounds like science fiction
Artist depiction of what electronic contact lenses of the future could look like.
Moore’s law famously says that computer power doubles every eighteen months or so. This is evidenced clearly when graphing computer chip prices and their relative processing speed, power, and memory. In fact, Moore’s law is true even if one includes technology from as far back as 100 years. This means that every year, video games are twice as powerful as those from the year before. The chip in your birthday cards would have been remarkable to Hitler or Churchill in the 1940’s and yet it’s so common to us that we simply throw it away when we’re done with it. A military supercomputer of 1997, worth millions of dollars, has the same power as your Playstation 3 that runs for $130. NASA placed mankind on the moon in 1969 with less computing power than you have in your cellphone.
These chips are transformative. They greatly empower anything that they touch, like some divine force. When they touched phones we got cellphones in return. Cameras became digital cameras, phonograms became iPods, paper money became credit cards, arcade machines became video games, and airplanes became war drones. Yet their potential still hasn’t been reached. These chips can be integrated into everything from clothes to your toilet and even your brain.
Here I’m going to be taking a look at technology you can expect to see in the next 10 to 50 years.
Glasses and Contact Lenses
As we’re already seeing with projects like Google Glass, tech of the future aims to be more and more within our line of sight. Glasses and electronic contact lenses will be enabled with full internet connectivity, allowing you to answer emails, watch movies, listen to music, and explore websites without the need of a computer.
Like a feature out of a Sci-Fi film, face recognition will prompt people’s names and a short biography to come up on screen when you’re meeting someone. There will no longer exist any reason not to remember Jeniffer from the apartment downstairs.
Visiting a foreign country will be a far less anxious endeavor when you realize that languages and conversations will be translated in real-time for you with subtitles appearing as a person speaks. Or, if you’re there as a tourist, you can use your augmented reality to turn the ruins of the Roman Empire into reconstructions of the real thing. You’ll see Julius Cesar and Mark Antony or the pharaohs instructing for the pyramids to be built. History coming back to life before your eyes. And it extends even further back, allowing you to explore and survive among the dinosaurs.
You can imagine what this means for exams in school. They will have to focus far less on memorization and more on skills, ideas, and creative thinking. Which, wouldn’t that be an improvement on our educational system? There would be no reason for memorization when you have access to any information you might need, and indeed the future sees us relying less and less on memory.
All of this is possible because images from the glasses will be flashed directly onto your retina at a quality similar to the screens at movie theaters. Contact lenses with cameras have already been patented by Samsung and you could, in the future, film live streams where people see exactly what you see, all day long.
This video illustrates just how screen-centric our future lives will be.
Needless to say, having this amount of power available with small lenses alone, we will see people using computers and cellphones far less. Cellphones and laptops will now have flexible screens that you can roll up or fold and take with you.
There’s no reason your entire house won’t be intelligent as well. Wallpaper itself will be internet enabled so that you can change your design and color with the push of a few buttons. Even better, you’ll have cyber-dogs and personal secretaries that appear on screen. They’ll help you set dates, search the web, or even find a date with the exact traits you’re looking for. Your assistant will cross reference your date’s information with a deep profile and background check to make sure all the information is true. Of course you’ll be able to watch room size movies as well as video chatting with loved ones in a different part of the world.
Chips will be so inexpensive to make at this point that they’ll be worth about 1 cent. The price of scrap paper. The scrap paper of the future will have word processing, graphing, and internet capabilities that you’ll throw away when you’re done.
Self driving cars are here. And while just recently Uber faced a dilemma involving one of their self driving cars, they are still seen as far safer than human drivers. We are integrating them so much into our world that it will at some point seem absurd for anyone to own a car since automated vehicles will be readily available to take you wherever you need to go.
Remember those contacts we spoke about earlier? They’ll sync with your vehicle to give you information about speed, how much gas you have, and where the nearest dealerships and gas stations are.
In case of an accident the car will be able to upload your location and medical history to the nearest hospital. Your clothes, which will then be integrated with chips themselves and therefor intelligent, will be able to monitor your heart rate, breathing, and even your brain waves. So what happens when you do get to the doctor?
The Toshiba Smart Mirror will display fitness information overlaid on your reflection.
Monitoring your health will start in the home with smart toilets. Entire smart bathrooms, actually. The toilet will monitor your fluids to detect harmful cancer proteins or signs of other diseases. And because this will be a very early detection, cancer itself could be eradicated from our species. Currently, when one feels something strange and goes to the doctor to get it checked out, there are already billions of cancer cells in the body and it’s really too late. But if your toilet can alert you when you have only a hundred cancer cells inside you then there’s a much bigger possibility of survival.
Smart toilets might also get annoying, though. For those of you with bad diets your toilet will tell you you’re eating too much sugar, fats, salts, or maybe that you’re not getting enough water.
These smart bathrooms will have chips that analyze DNA, giving you access to vital information about your individual genes. A full gene reading now will cost in the ballpark of $50k. Within a few years it’ll be $1k and within a decade it could be as low as $100.
This genetic information will be available to your doctor who at this point will be able to monitor your health around the clock. If you were to need a new organ, one can be lab grown for you. The process of lab growing an ear consists of first having a spongy, biodegradable plastic base over which the cells taken from your body will multiply. Over time the plastic dissolves, leaving just the flesh and cartilage that the original ear would have. Currently we can regrow bones, blood, skin, cartilage, noses, ears, blood vessels, heart valves, bladders, and windpipes. More sophisticated organs such as livers and hearts are expected to be lab grown in the next few years.
AI and Robots
While it is frightening to contemplate what kind of power and intelligence our future robots will have, scientists believe we will have plenty of warning before artificial intelligence reaches the level of a dog or a monkey. At that point, some argue, we might not want to let machine intelligence develop much further.
Currently we are looking at an era where machines replace human workers across many fields — factory work, transportation, outside labor, market investment, medicine, etc. I think there is cause for concern about what this will mean for unemployment rates not only in the US, but across the world. When choosing between machines and humans, companies whose only focus is to make bigger profits will have to go with our machine counterparts. Why? Because they can work 24 hours a day, don’t need breaks or insurance or paid time off, can do the work much more efficiently, and don’t require any salary. When a large enough portion of the workforce has become automated, we may have to think of implementing a universal basic income, or perhaps rethinking our economic system altogether.
Most importantly, I believe, AI will teach us what it means to be human and what it truly means to create new life.
How many of you have seen Ready Player One? While it’s classified as a science fiction film, it really isn’t as fictional or as far away as it might seem. Better virtual reality in the near future will allow you to explore distant worlds and become any character you want. You could even make money in your digital life that can transfer into real world income (this is something that’s already possible and which I’ll cover in my next article). While virtual reality was first developed to train soldiers and pilots in the 1960’s, it has now found its entertainment value.
Haptic technology will even allow you to “feel” the things that you’re seeing in your virtual world. Devices attached to springs and gears will push back when you press forward to give you the sensation of pressure. This will be a great way to train new surgeons since they need a very good sense of pressure to do their jobs.
However futuristic these might seem, they’re not much compared to what could come 50 to 100 years from now. Technology from that era will make much of the Harry Potter universe possible for us muggles. We could be entering a wizard-like world soon enough. Which innovation are you most looking forward to?