End of an Era - Technology in 2020 - Predictions from the Past, Predictions for the Future
By on 10th Dec 2019
With the last days of December fading away, we thought it might be fun to look forward to 2020, and the technology it might bring. Whilst we’re not expecting Marty Mcfly style hoverboards quite yet, it would be foolhardy to say we’re not living in the future our ancestors dreamed of.
With Elon Musk shooting for Mars and tiny digital personal assistants on our wrists, we have plenty of technology that we never imagined having as children. We are in a technological boom time where gadgets released one year are rendered obsolete the next.
All that said, it’s still quite funny to look back at the zany and downright strange ideas the people of the past thought up when it comes to technology. Call it a vivid imagination if you will, but if some people thought we’d have hover cars by now, they were being a bit too ambitious.
Let’s take a nostalgic look back at some retrofuturism.
Prediction: AI Robots by 1960
Having a conversation with a mechanical man? Preposterous!
The future-thinkers of the 1920s were more optimistic however, excited by the idea of having a proper conversation with a robot by the 1960s - the prediction was for a little earlier than we actually had the technology. In the 1960s researchers released a program called ELIZA, which simulated conversation with a pattern matching algorithm, but it was far from a chatty robot as seen in the above video.
We had to wait until 1970 for Japan to develop the first humanoid robot that could hold a conversation!
Nowadays, the world’s most advanced robot is Honda’s Asimo, but although he can ‘understand’ voice commands, he is not equipped with conversational AI. The most advanced AI robot could be Sophia, who is not only equipped with highly advanced AI, but can also decide the most appropriate facial expression. Very uncanny valley.
Our AI technology isn’t yet perfect, but we’re making strides.
Prediction: Video Conferencing With Co-Workers by the 2000s
It’s hard to imagine a time when video chat was considered futuristic, it’s a technology we totally take for granted now with Skype and Apple FaceTime.
Video call technology was actually theorised back in the 1870s and early experiments were conducted in the 1930s. It wasn’t however until the 1970s that any of the fundamental technology to enable the service became reality. By the 1980s, video conferencing became much more standardised with the advent of the ISDN network, but even that technology is now quickly becoming obsolete.
Now video conferencing over SIP is pretty much the standard in most modern offices, and we struggle to think where we’d be without features such as screen share.
Prediction: Shopping through a monitor in the home by 1999
In this video a store sends a selection of photos via a computer to a lady, so she can shop from the comfort of her own home. The reality is much more exciting, with websites and shoppable Instagram pages.
The first secure retail transactions over the web was by NetMarket or Internet Shopping Network in 1994, but not long after in 1995 Amazon and eBay went live. Nowadays we can shop with amazon and get same day delivery in some locations, with many retailers looking to roll out 2hr delivery for fresh items in city centres. All of this is becoming more and more efficient by the adoption of the IoT and RFID.
Prediction: Self-driving Cars by 1976
In this cute little musical film by General Motors, a family in the 1950s imagine how much easier it would be to live in 1976, where they imagine self-driving cars will be the norm, and will alleviate traffic.
Sadly they had longer to wait than they thought. Although the first commercially available car with cruise control was brought out in 1958, it wasn’t more widely introduced until 1974, and even then drivers would have to wait a few more decades before responsive cruise control emerged with sensors that slow the car down if they car in front does.
Now we know Tesla is experimenting with self driving vehicles and believes beta testing models will be available in 2020. London even expects self-driving taxis to be available from June 2020. The widely publicized Volvo x Uber collaboration will begin road testing it’s 3rd attempt at a safe, driverless car in 2020 too.
What are We Predicting?
We look back now at these videos and they provide us with a laugh at how unrealistic they really were, but what about our current predictions? Will we look back at this article in 2120 and think “how ridiculous!”? Let’s take a look at some of the things we think might happen in the near future:
A City on Mars by 2040
Although not impossible, it’s certainly ambitious for Elon Musk to make a statement like this. Musk claims he’s making plans for 1000 starships to provide the logisitcal support to put a city on Mars. Bearing in mind we haven’t yet put a man on Mars, and that the last person to walk on the moon was back in 1972 - nearly 50 years later we still don’t have a moon base.
Do you think Elon Musk has the money, resources and ambition to take us to Mars?
Humans in the IoT
With the IoT becoming a very actively used concept already, some people believe that the next logical step is humans in the IoT. We’re not just talking wearable tech here, we are even looking at biological tech built into the human body, whether that’s implanted microchips under the skin or body parts replaced with tech biological hybrids.
In the next few decades we’re very likely to see 3D printing go organic, and possible recreate organs to order when needed.
The $1000 Human Brain
We’re not talking black market human organ trading here, the future doesn’t yet look to be that dystopian. The $1000 human brain is a moniker given to a supercomputer with the same processing ability as a human brain.
It’s a long way off before we can process to this extent, but Google and IBM are well within a race to construct quantum supercomputers, and though they might not be something we’ll have in our homes anytime soon, Moore’s Law indicates that the technology will eventually become affordable and commonplace.
Take for example, IBM’s first 5MB hard drive was once so big we needed to lift it by forklift, and it was incredibly expensive. Now we can carry 1TB in our palm and get a hold of it for less than £50.
Our current processing ability puts us just below that of a mouse’s brain. At this rate of progress, we’ll crack the technology by 2025, and a few years later maybe meet the $1000 goal.
1 Trillion Sensor Economy
Talking about the IoT, some experts believe in the very near future we’ll have a worldwide infrastructure of over 1 trillion sensors. The abilities and purposes of these will be hugely wide ranging, from smart wearable technology to healthcare sensors in hospitals, from supply chain management to smart cities sensing the weather.
5G and AI technology is set to fuel this massive boost, by 2025 we should see 100 billion sensors, showing that the growth is exponential.
5 Billion New Connected Consumers
As the world advances, the economy does to, and as the economy breeds infrastructure, countries that were once considered ‘third-world’ are able to enter eras of technological boom. As these countries grow, they number of people connected who had previously had no access to the internet or infrastructure grows too.
These consumers will want access to the same online services and products we always have, so it’s going to lead to a huge boost to the world economy.
Better Trust of Life-Integrated AI
At the moment we get nervous when Alexa is listening to something we didn’t ask her to, but it’s likely as understanding and trust in technology increases, we’ll see a generation of people who fully trust and integrate AI into their lives, with almost full access to their data to make their lives easier.
Imagine if online doctor services could access your details, with permission, from a secure cloud - no paperwork involved. Or if AI could order a Deliveroo ready for you at home after work, based on your mood that day - data gathered from sensors on your wearable tech.
Do you think we’ll ever fully trust big tech corporations?
As we move into 2020, what do you think we should be looking forward to in technology? Let us know by heading over to our LinkedIn page and getting involved in the conversation.
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