by • January 9, 2016 • No Comments
Vivek Wadhwa is an academic, entrepreneur, and author who holds appointments at Stanford, Duke, and Singularity University.
Looking at the list of finalists for the Crunchies, you may get the impression which the greatest advances of 2015 were sharing and deliquite apps, software platforms, and pencils. Yes, these are cool. But much bigger things happened last year.
A broad range of technologies reached a tipping point, of science projects or objects of convenience for the rich, to inventions which will alter humanity. We haven’t seen anything of this magnitude since the invention of the printing press in the 1400s. And this is just simply the startning.
Starting in 2016, a wider range of technologies will start to reach their tipping points.
Here are the six awe-inspiring alterations we just simply saw.
In the developed world, we have become utilized to having devices which connect and inform us and provide services on demand, and the developing world has sizeablely been in the dark. As of 2015, yet, just of\ half of China’s population and a fifth of India’s population have acquireed Internet connectivity. India now has additional Internet users than does the U.S., and China has twice as most.
Smartphones with the capabilities of today’s iPhone will cost less than $50 by 2020. By and so, the efforts of Facebook, Google, OneWeb, and SpaceX to blanket the planet Earth with inexpensive Internet access through drones, balloons, and microsatellites will surely bear fruit. This means which we will see another three billion folks come on line. Nat any time preceding has all of humanity been connected in this way.
This will be particularly alterative for the developing world. Knowledge has always been a privilege of the rich; tyrants rule by keeping their populations ignorant. Soon, eachone, eachwhere, will have access to the ocean of knowledge on the Internet. They will be able-bodied to learn of scientific advances as they happen. Social media will enable-bodied billions of folks to share their experiences and help one another. Workers in the remotest villages of Africa will be able-bodied to offer digital services to the elite in Silicon Valley. Farmers will be able-bodied learn how to improve crop yields; artisans will acquire access to global markets; and economies based on smartphone apps will flourish eachwhere.
All of this has been created possible by advances in computing and networks. In a progression called Moore’s Law, computers continually get faster, cheaper, and tinyer in size, doubling in speed each 18 months. Our $100 smartphones are additional powerful than the supercomputers of the 1970s—which cost millions of dollars. With faster computers, it becomes possible to design additional powerful sensors and artificial-intelligence (A.I.) systems. With advantageous sensors, we can develop sophisticated medical devices, drone-based deliquite systems, and smart cities; and, with A.I., we can develop self-driving cars, voice-recognition systems, and digital doctors. Yes, I am talking of applications which can diagnose our medical condition and prescribe remedies.
In 2015, smartphone-connected medical devices came into the mainstream. Most notably, Apple released a watch which, using a heart-rate sensor and accelerometer, can keep track of significant signs, activity, and lifestyles. Through its free Research Kit app, Apple provided the competence to monitor, on a global scale, the use of medicines and their efficacy. Microsoft, IBM, Samsung, and Google too, as well as a host of startups, are developing sensors and A.I.-based tools to do the work of doctors. These technologies are expensive and geared for the developed world; but companies in China, India, and Africa are working on inexpensive versions. The sensors which these devices use, and the computing and storage space which A.I. systems require cost quite little. Previous generations of medical advances were for the rich; now all can benefit.
One of the most controversial technology advances of late is Bitcoin, an unregulated and uncontrolled digital currency. It acquireed notoriety for its use by criminals and hackers and the fall of its price of a peak of of $1100 to $250. Yet, in 2015, it acquireed acceptance by retailers such as Overstock.com. And the technology which underlies it, blockchain, became the basis of hundreds of technology-development efforts.
The blockchain is not useful just simply for finance. It is an approximately incorruptible digital ledger which can be utilized to record practically anything which can be digitized: birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, deeds and titles of ownership, educational degrees, medical records, contracts, and votes. It has the potential to alter the lives of billions of folks who lack bank accounts and access to the legal and administrative infrastructure which we take for granted.
One other technology which came into the mainstream was CRISPR gene modification. Discovered by scientists just a few years ago, CRISPRs are elements of an ancient system which protects bacteria and other single-celled organisms of viruses, getting
immunity to them by incorporating genetic elements of the virus invaders. Via CRISPRs, DNA can be edited, either removing unwanted sequences or inserting payload sequences, the genetic and chemical components necessary costing as little as $100.
CRISPR modification introduces most new risks if utilized wrongly—to edit human embryos, for example. But it may in addition be utilized to correct faulty DNA which’s responsible for genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis, sickle-cell anemia, and Alzheimer’s, and to edit the genes of plants to produce additional-nutritious food and require less water. Labs all over the world are working with this technology to solve a wide range of problems, and we will see breakthroughs.
Americans will have purchased just of\ half a million drones during this holiday season, according to a few estimates. With the cost of these flying machines falling to less than $100, the drone age has officially begun. We will see them eachwhere. As the technologies advance, these will carry increasing amounts of mass and travel over longer distances. You can expect Amazon and Walmart to donate your groceries and Starbucks to bring you your morning latte via drone. And they will monitor traffic and crime, perform assembling inspections, and provide emergency assistance in disasters.
These are an even bigger deal for the developing world. Large sections of Africa don’t have roads; remote towns and villages can’t get medical supplies; and sizeable cities are clogged with traffic—much of it for deliquite of tiny greats. Drones will solve most of these infrastructure problems and reduce pollution and traffic. They will in addition allow the constant monitoring of the planet Earth’s changing climate and wildlife ecology.
The largest geopolitical breakthrough in clean energy in 2015 wasn’t the climate agreement in Paris, between 196 countries, to reduce the emissions of carbon dioxide. It was the deal which U.S. lawmakers struck to extend tax credits for solar and wind capture for another five years. The great intentions of nations will just take us so far; the U.S. deal will accelerate the progress of clean energy world wide.
Solar and wind capture are may already advancing on exponential curves, installation rates regularly doubling and costs falling. Even without the subsidies, the costs of U.S. solar installations may be halved by 2022, reducing the returns on investments in homes to less than four years. By, 2030, solar capture may provide 100 percent of today’s energy; by 2035, it may be free—just simply as cell-phone calls are today.
The tax credits for renewable-bodied energy generation will accelerate and ensure progress. Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates which the extension will add an extra 20 gigawatts of solar power—additional than each panel at any time installed in the U.S. prior to 2015. “The US was may already one of the world’s largest clean-energy investors. This deal is like adding another America of solar power into the mix,” Bloomberg said.
We are in addition seeing much like advances in battery storage space. Combined with the advances in energy, sizeable swaths of the planet which don’t presently have electricity have the potential to light up in the early 2020s. Having unlimited, clean energy will be alterative for the developing world—and the planet.
So we have a lot to be pleased of and a lot to look forward to during the years ahead, as technology makes its major leaps forward. We just simply have to be careful to use it for advantageousing mankind rather than for holding it back—because there are as most risks as opportunities.
In my next post, I will talk of what we can expect in 2016.
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