The technologies that will change how we live

Technology has always been a part of human life, and as part of human life, it has always acted as a forebearer of change. In the early 18th century, when the first transcontinental railroad lines sprung up, the world was ushered into the first industrial revolution. With this revolution, there was a fundamental change in how we as species did things – we latched onto new raw materials, tapped new sources of energy, moved from the subsistent way of doing work to mechanization and, on the social front, our standard of living changed dramatically. Likewise, for the second, third and fourth industrial revolutions.

Today we’re on the cusp of the fifth industrial revolution. Like it was in the past, technology is primed, set and ready to transform our lives. This piece will serve as a primer to identifying the most promising technologies of the future and how they will tentatively change our lives.

  • Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence represents a major paradigm shift in the tech world. Although there’s been little success to show for the now massive investments in the sector, there’s no arguing the fact that it’s still a trailblazer heading into the future. In its most basic form, artificial intelligence (AI) is a system to train technology to act like man, or you could say, a system to give technology (tech components) sentience.

Why would we want technology to act like man? Well, it’s simple, a huge part of the shortcomings of existing technologies can be traced down to the tendency of computers to act like computers, you know, without context and perception – garbage in, garbage out. AI debuts as a way to help computers think so they can act autonomously to solve complex, dynamic challenges with little to no human input.

Applied to many sections of our world today, the potentials for this is actually groundbreaking.  We can, as examples, move from driving cars to driverless cars, missing diagnosis in the health care settings to efficiently spotting problems (sometimes even before they occur), and go from didactic methods of manufacturing to highly optimized and infinitely scalable means of production. The possibilities are practically endless and, even better, as the technologies on which AI subsists continue to improve, so also will its potential as a process revolutionizer improve.

  • Alternative forms of energy

Rather than a single technology, this exists as a group for the primary reason that a lot of alternative energy forms show tremendous promise. Hydrogen fuel cells and Geothermal energy are two of the most promising. Together, they make a case to solve the world’s dependence on carbon-based and other not so environmentally friendly energy sources. Hydrogen fuel cells, in particular, hold the promise of being a long-term, scalable, and efficient mechanism of generating energy.

As you might’ve expected, the source material in hydrogen power generation is hydrogen, a largely abundant gas on our planet. However, the problem stifling its adoption in the interim is that it rarely exists in isolation. Steps must be taken to separate it from its many combined states before it can be used as a fuel in a hydrogen fuel cell. The technologies enabling this process, including that involved in ‘capturing’ hydrogen and fuel cells for utilizing it, have matured over the last few years. Toyota, for instance, now has a fully operational consumer saloon running on hydrogen, with the only waste being pure water.

In the future, we expect that more techniques for hydrogen capture will surface to fast-track what’s now the rate-limiting step in its global adoption as a sustainable form of energy.

  • Quantum computing

For now, quantum computing is still a fringe technology with just a handful real-world implementations. But that doesn’t take away any of its revolutionary potentials. Recent estimates put it that the technology and the industry spawning around it will amount to a multibillion-dollar enterprise come 2030. This potential is primarily due to the fact that quantum computing takes traditional computing as we know it to a whole other level – think something in the range of x1000 of what modern-day computers can do. What that means in practice is quantum computers will effectively scale past the limits of modern-day computers, allowing us to solve even the most complex computational problems.

To put it into perspective, consider AI, which we’ve already talked about. One of the major problems with existent AI infrastructure is that they lack the computational strength to rapidly churn through the massive data sets required to ‘train’ computers. Most leading AI firms attempt to resolve this by fielding humongous data/computational centers with hundreds if not thousands of computers. Quantum computing obliterates the need for massive numbers of computers because they are by definition supercomputers that process data non-linearly in somewhat of a 4-D spatial orientation. So, while regular computers deal with information as this or that, as one or zero (bits), quantum computers approach computation from a multidimensional perspective (qubits).

More than AI (or quantum cognition), quantum computing has applications in cloud computing as quantum cloud, cryptography, neural networks, optics and much more. Each application opens the door to a whole new level of solving problems and deriving solutions in their respective fields.

  • Epigenetics and gene technologies

When the novel coronavirus COVID-19 threatened to bring the world to a standstill, one of the first drugs out of the block to quell its spread was a product of gene technology in the form of an mRNA vaccine. Thirty years ago, and it’d have been unheard of that someone could inject mRNA as a therapeutic agent to cure a disease. Yet, here we are. This successful deployment of a novel gene technology when we needed it most opens up a pathway for further adoption and usage of gene technologies in the future.

The value proposition of gene technologies lies in their efficacy and ability to address health problems from the source. Most of the world’s most impactive diseases without definitive treatment regimens have origins from the cellular level – HIV/AIDS, COVID-19, cancer, neurodegenerative disorders (like Parkinson’s) and the likes. Existing treatment solutions for these conditions as a matter of necessity focus on relieving the readily observable symptoms. Gene technologies provide a mechanism to delve into the cell and rectify the problem from the ground up, and as we saw from the COVID-19 demonstration, it is particularly effective.

Even more consequentially, gene technologies can help the world prevent ‘unpreventable’ diseases, that is, diseases occurring spontaneously from birth. Dr He Jiankiu, formerly of the Southern University of Science, demonstrated how this could work, albeit in very dire ethical circumstances. What he did was knock out the genes that make it possible for HIV to spread in two babies, ergo, making them fundamentally immune to the virus.

As time progresses and as the world becomes more settled into the business of epigenetics and gene technology, expect health care practitioners to approach many other diseases in such a manner. The result will be better disease outcomes, a heightened standard of living and at the peak, almost total protection from disease and disease-causing elements. 

Looking ahead

Of course, if any of these projections were to actually manifest, then the technologies must evolve to support them with time as well. The good news is, except for quantum computing, each technology covered herein has moved in leaps and bounds in the last few years. All that’s left is keeping that pace well into the future, where they’re poised to change how we live. And, as the past has shown with the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and now the 5th industrial revolution, it’s all but certain that these technologies (with the inclusion of quantum computissng) will eventually come up to speed.

Article author: Write_artist (