It is nice at times to read about technological advancements, allowing ourselves to be amazed at the potential of the future. The following few ideas are just around the corner from today’s technologies; ideas that could radically change the world and affect the way that society operates. On the face off it the changes seem to be good, but a few offer hidden problems that could prove very difficult to overcome. In some cases the benefits may not be worth the problems.
1. Driverless Electric Cars
Car manufacturers are currently busy trying to research and develop two different technologies which will transform the industry. The obvious and rather more common technology is that off electric cars, which will help reduce emissions and should be cheaper to run.
The less commonly known technology being pursued by car manufacturers is that of driverless cars. Driverless cars will enable a more efficient travel experience, reducing congestion by removing human error from the process. Driverless cars could move around the city with no passengers, arriving at which ever destination they are needed, they would effectively act as your personal chauffeur, picking you up and dropping you wherever you need to be. Although driverless cars do pose a major problem for policy makers; whilst they may be safer than human drivers, who is at fault when something goes wrong?
2. Space Elevators
The possibility of transmitting electricity wirelessly will change the world. Back in 2009 a team of researchers used a laser to beam energy onto a photovoltaic panel which allowed a wireless robot to climb a one kilometre cable. The process is only 40% efficient, but that figure is steadily increasing. One of the most promising implications of this technology would be space elevators; machines that could move along giant cables from the surface of the earth to orbiting satellites. This would slash the cost of leaving the earth’s atmosphere and therefore changing the economics of both satellites and space travel. But how would these cables then affect the use of aircraft within the atmosphere? Clearly no aircraft could travel near any of the cables for risk of collision.
Nanotechnology offers almost limitless options for application in the world. It would revolutionise disease, and could theoretically cure anything. It could enable clothing fitted with solar cells so that we have our own power sources wherever we go, to charge mobile phones, or power pacemakers. Furniture could be created that can change its shape on command. Nanotechnology could purify dirty water in countries without access to clean water.
4. Machine Intelligence
Despite huge advances in computing, we're still yet to build a machine that can replicate the human brain, whether it be via artificial intelligence or a program that can emulate the brains functions. Economist Robin Hanson argues that when we do, it will be an economic breakthrough akin to the start of farming, or the industrial revolution.
At the moment machines have replaced humans in data entry positions, or simple manufacturing processes, but a machine that can replicate the thoughts and intelligence of a human could threaten the job of anyone.
With computers that can emulate a brain comes the possibility of uploading memories into a machine, potentially creating duplicate copies of your own conscious self. It may seem like an unpleasant idea to many, but there will be many others to whom it will appeal; but then how do we regulate this technology? Do we limit the amount of times you can replicate yourself? Is your ‘copy’ a slave or an individual entity needing to be paid for any work it undertakes? Do you have the right to turn a copy of yourself ‘off’? Who is responsible for crimes that the copy commits?
By. James Burgess of Oilprice.com