We may not have flying cars yet, but we have drones that can carry people (at least prototype versions). We may not have inhabited Mars yet but our real life Tony Stark is working hard on it. The energy problem is still not solved but we seem to be on the right path here. Communication technology advancements seem to continuously shrink the world and robotic advancements will definitely eliminate most jobs as we know now. The implications of these will affect each of us directly and hence, the question is whether we want to respond to the challenges now or do we simply react later? For example,
- Artificial Intelligence - Products with the best AI algorithms will provide amazing features to customers and life is going to be better in some ways; language may not be a barrier between people, better health monitoring, driver-less cars and much better selfies. But on the flip side, countries and corporations will have disproportionate control over our lives; biased news, citizen rating systems and autonomous weapons. The future of life institute discusses these and more topics in detail.
- Robotics - The washing machine is a kind of robot and it definitely added more time in our lives. The dishwashers, the vacuum cleaners and lawnmowers added some more time in our lives. Devices like the Echo or google home have the capability to tie all of them together so that we can simply dictate our commands into air and work gets done. The few remaining things that we do at home would probably be done by the Spot-Mini. But what happens when companies plan to replace almost all its workers by robots? That seems to be the future we are looking at.
- CleanTech - The economics of cleantech have finally begun to wean people, corporations and governments away from oil. Almost all major automakers are now planning electric vehicles. Solar is on the way to become more economical than coal and natural gas. The raw materials for making these are going to be the new oil as demand will continuously outstrip supply. Just hope that wars will not be fought over these resources.
Every technological revolution brought with it several social consequences. While industrialization in the 19th century made several countries rich and advanced, it also created dense urban centers and created challenges such as housing, city planning etc. Therefore, it would be no surprise if the technology revolution of the 21st century brings a new set of challenges. The easily predictable ones for example are:
- Loss of low skill jobs - Robots and Artificial Intelligence together threaten to wipe out most of these jobs. Countries are already considering universal basic income to combat such a scenario.
- Inequality - This is already on the rise during the past few decades and is only set to rise. Correlation may not imply causation always, but it is quite possible that the inequality results in a revolution or two!
The challenges we face in the near future may be more unpredictable than these. If history is an indicator, one thing we can be sure is that these challenges are unavoidable. And it will touch every level: countries, corporations and individuals.