‘Never say never, because limits, like fears, are often just an illusion.’ – Michael Jordan
Is Star Trek simply fiction or is it an option that humanity should be actively pursue? Was FIFA president Sepp Blatter really joking when he suggested that some day football could be played on other planets? Are hoverboards and jetpacks just around the corner? All valid questions that could be debated to the end of time or until they actually occur, whichever comes first. So this week, I’ve put together 5 things people say will never happen, and given a prediction of when you can expect to see them for real. And yes, you can hold me to them.
Robots will never happen in my time.
Science fiction has created an unrealistic expectation of robots: that they will have to look and talk like humans before they have an impact on our modern society. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Robots have already revolutionized manufacturing, health and space travel, and they are already invading your daily life in the form of cash machines, cleaning appliances, coffee makers and toys.
The robot Asimo and whole generation of humanoid, household servants like him have been in development since the 1980s, but there are now claims it is already possible for members of this mechanical clan to read human emotions. This ability is of course a real game changer for the robo-human relationship. Whether or not robots ever achieve real artificial intelligence is irrelevant if they can read a person’s expression and react accordingly. This makes companionship a real possibility and will allow robots to gain meaningful roles along side humans. If you think this is a long way away, think again. There are currently plans in Japan to enter a robotic team against humans in the 2030 World Cup and Google is seriously trialing a robotic car. Robotic cars won’t be safe of course until we finally get every human driver off the road.
Verdict: Companion robots (and World Cup team) commonplace by 2030, Google cars not legal until 2040.
I would never have an implant
Most people seem terrified of having an electronic implant, although they have been in use since the 1970s in the bionic ear and other medical devices. Is it because people fear they might be turned into machines or it could let someone track their every movement? Maybe sinister people might use an implant to control your thoughts and actions. These fears might actually be well founded, although to be honest it might be too late to do anything about it now. Today it’s already possible to track you through the social security system, or watch your movements on CCTV. A variety of organisations can store the information in your emails, financial transactions or even your search results and use this data to shape what you see online. And some of these organisations are even creating marketing campaigns that use that data to influence what you experience and buy in the real world.
As a result it is very easy to be negative about the implications of an implant that might connect to big data, but your phone is essentially already playing that role. So why not relax and start thinking of the benefits a cybernetic implant might bring to your life one day.
A bionic ear or eye could restore senses that are damaged or might be used to fix damaged nerves in spinal injuries and muscles in injured limbs. Post-operative care, or managing chronic illness and pain could all be managed simply and without drugs via an implant. And lets not forget that these same implants might improve your mental abilities. Would having a small chip inserted discretely on your person really be any worse than some of the modern body art we see today?
Verdict: Think about it, it worked for the 6 million dollar man in the 1970s. Implants standard by 2035.
Humans will all live longer than 100 years
We spoke about this last week on FiST Chat and it has generated plenty of discussion since. The greatest concern is that extending human longevity will result in a large dependent population of elderly people. Short term this might appear to be the case because the age related diseases that weaken our bodies and mind represent huge hurdles, but medical science is already looking into preventative medicines and genetic remedies that will allow us to live longer, healthier and happier lives.
Don’t expect miracles in the short-term, but do expect to be able to lead an active life your whole life, where wrinkles, hearing loss are things of the past and mental and physical decline are halted before slow our existence.
In the knowledge age society, experience, skills, and wisdom and will have high value and senior citizens will be revered instead of being feared.
Verdict: Being old is set to become very cool. Average human lifespan 100 years of age by 2060
We will never find alien life
Just 20 years ago we thought our chances of encountering alien life almost improbable. Our solar system appeared barren and earth looked an unlikely miracle despite the size of the universe. Although it was probable life elsewhere might exist, it was highly unlikely we’d ever see it. Strangely though in the last 20 years while the probability alien life exists hasn’t changed, our perspective has. Our telescopes have now spotted hundreds of planets orbiting faraway stars, some of these worlds are even comparable to earth. Maybe one day we will find intelligent life out there.
Meanwhile, closer to home, its unlikely that we will find intelligent life in our Solar System, but that doesn’t mean life won’t exist on one of the planets or moons in our neighbourhood. Despite disappointing results so far, further exploration of Mars will almost certainly reveal evidence of organic life similar to that on Earth. But it’s around the moons of Jupiter and Saturn the biggest surprises might be uncovered where life quite different from that here on earth might have evolved.
Verdict: It will be life Jim, but not as we expected it; discovered elsewhere in our solar system by 2050
There is nothing left to invent.
While some people think we might be running out of cool inventions, nothing could be further from the truth. Whether you believe in economic supercycles or not, the next wave is already coming. Tomorrow’s technology is based on today’s silicon chip, on today’s modern medicine and on today’s laser technologies, but they are wearable, implantable, invisible and much, much more powerful.
While some of these technologies will work their way into the exercise or kitchen appliance inventions we see on home shopping, some of them will also be the reason one day you will finally get your hoverboard and jetpack.
Of course the best inventions of all are yet to be imagined but once they are, humans will find a way to make them, because that’s what we do. Nobody could have imagined an electric light before electricity or the digital age before the silicon chip, yet each step has given us new technology that inventors use to make the tools we see around us. You might love the latest gadget you own today, but deep in your heart you know you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Verdict: You think that’s cool? The year 2036 is cool.