Why You Should Be Excited About Future Tech - InformationWeek

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Charles Brooks
Charles Brooks
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Why You Should Be Excited About Future Tech

Sure, robotics, the Internet of Things, data analytics, and other disruptive trends are intimidating, but they will improve our lives.

employed to assist the disabled and elderly. Some scientists think that eventually all our biological functions will be replaced by bionic machines.

The extent that humans are replaced by robot helpers or morphed into man-machines is an interesting philosophical question. Joan Slonczewski, a microbiologist at Kenyon college, notes that humans have continuously redefined intelligence and transferred those tasks to machines. Slonczewski asks: "Could we evolve ourselves out of existence, being gradually replaced by the machines?" I think it is possible but still in the realm of science fiction.

As for tech advancements in patient care: Doctors will have new abilities for remote monitoring and treatment of patients that will benefit isolated areas and poorer countries. Wounds will also be repaired with robotic surgical systems and new procedures. A start-up, RevMedx, which develops products for military medics and emergency services, has created a device that can heal a gunshot wound in 15 seconds via an applicator filled with dozens of tiny sponges.

Advanced robotics will also have an impact on the cost and precision of manufacturing. Exciting research in materials science are creating stronger, more durable, lighter, and even "self-healing" materials.

3D Printing is already here. In fact, BAE systems successfully made spare parts for Tornado fighter jets by engineering metal parts with 3D printing technology. 3D printing will be replaced by 4D printing essentially by machines that assemble themselves. Such concepts have already been proven at MIT Self-Assembly Technologies lab. Printed electronics are a next step.

The capability to design and manufacture infrastructure such as bridges, roads, and buildings with stronger, self-intelligent, and seemingly eternal materials will help revolutionize the construction and transportation industries. In the latter, self-driving vehicles will become the norm and be fueled by solar power and photovoltaic batteries. New scientific and manufacturing breakthroughs will also lead to enhanced agricultural production, water purification, and full energy independence.

Of course there are mitigating factors when dealing with humans (Albert Einstein once observed that "the problems that exist in the world today cannot be solved by the level of thinking that created them.") Technology advances may originally have altruistic intent, but there is always the possibility for misuse. The mastering of big data can also lead to control by dictatorships over its citizens. Developments in biotech can have dual-use applications for bioterrorism. As technology proliferates, the destructive capabilities of our adversaries can also grow with the advent of specialized algorithms, powerful lasers, and nano-military applications.

And, there is always the fear of machines run amok (such as driverless cars) and the errors often associated with early-stage deployment of new technologies. As always, human health and welfare will need to be overriding priorities.

Despite the potential pitfalls, what is evident is that science and technology will pave our futures. How we harness for good should be our focus. The list of potential scientific breakthroughs that I shared only touches the surface. It's an ever-expanding list and the future beckons. 

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Charles (Chuck) Brooks serves as Vice President and Client Executive for DHS at Xerox. Previously, heserved in government at the Department of Homeland Security as the first Director of Legislative Affairs for the Science & Technology Directorate. He also spent six years on ... View Full Bio

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Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
2/27/2014 | 3:53:47 PM
Medical tech
Medical technology has the most potential to drive further change. We've already made global point-to-point communication possible in large potions of the world. For our next act, maybe we can make lives better.
Shane M. O'Neill
Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
2/27/2014 | 4:42:23 PM
People first
A thought-provoking summary here of future tech. Certainly there's the potential to save and extend lives and  improve manufacturing and the retail experience. That's the exciting part to read about. But I'm glad the writer touched on the potential for misuse, which is always lurking in the shadows.

"As always, human health and welfare will need to be overriding priorities."

Amen to that. But I hope that sentiment doesn't get lost in the rush to build more driverless cars and bionic men.
User Rank: Ninja
2/27/2014 | 5:06:49 PM
Good and Bad
Like Uncle Ben said, "With great power comes great responsibility."  There is a lot of potential power in the Internet of Things.  We will see marvelous new things, things we can barely imagine right now.  It won't be a perfect.  We will have issues and some will be doozies.  We'll work through the issues, but I think it will be a very bumpy ride. 
User Rank: Author
2/27/2014 | 8:57:49 PM
Future Shock
Thanks for giving us some interesting things to consider, Chuck. Back when books like Future Shock and MegaTrends were big, imagining the future seemed so much more linear in nature. Today, change happens so dynamically, and so quickly, it's hard to fathom how different things will be in just 10 or 20 years.  Just consider our lives before mobile phones at the turn of the century, and how different they are now, after the iPhone hit the world just a few years later.  One things for sure, we can't stop the changes.

User Rank: Apprentice
2/28/2014 | 11:21:37 AM
A new era of convergence
Up until recently, much of technology-driven innovation was generated from the convergence of at least somewhat related technologies or applications: for example, silcon-based wireless electronics and processors,  robotics and lasers for high-tech manufacturing, surgical robots, PET scanners, miniaturization of optical sensors and avionic control systems enabling increasing use of aerial drones.  

Today we are seeing convergence occurring across widely disparate technologies: molecular biologics, genomics, implants, nanotech, advanced electronics, optics, new polymers and other exotic materials, even the early stages of quantum computing.  

We are alresady seeing the initial glimmerings of artificial "consciousness" -- at least in the form of autonomic situational awareness.  We are on the verge of being able to "print" replacement tissues and organs, cure previously untreatable diseases with radical new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches. And many scientists believe that we are on the brink of taking control over the evolution of our own species.  

Brave new world indeed ...
User Rank: Apprentice
3/3/2014 | 8:00:51 AM
If only everything were not hackable
Everything in this article is exciting, not only because of its potential benefits but because it is actually within reach in my lifetime.  The scary thing with all of this is how hackable everything continues to be.  If everything has an IP address, it is all reachable by those who should and should not access them.  That would scare me if a group decided to turn all of our automated cars into bumper cars, in particular.


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