Looking to the future
If Ray Kurzweil, the American inventor and futurist, is correct, and I think that he may well be, then the technological singularity will happen in just 25 years, by 2045. If that sounds a long way off to you, then consider this – young Prince William, our present Queen’s great grandson, will only be 32 years old. My two grandchildren, now each two years old, will be just 27. What changes will they experience?
According to Wikipedia, the technological singularity is “a hypothetical point in time at which technological growth becomes uncontrollable and irreversible, resulting in unforeseeable changes to human civilization. Public figures such as Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk have expressed concern that full artificial intelligence (AI) could result in human extinction. The consequences of the singularity and its potential benefit or harm to the human race have been intensely debated. Four polls of AI researchers, conducted in 2012 and 2013 by Nick Bostrom and Vincent C. Müller, suggested a median probability estimate of 50% that artificial general intelligence (AGI) would be developed by 2040–2050.”
Old computers for example
On average, I have replaced my home computer every four to five years, sometimes sooner than that if I can afford it. The computers aren’t worn out or broken, they just struggle to run newer, better software. And they also struggle with the demands that I put on them. I expect my computer to be able to edit high resolution A4 sized photographs; to edit and store good quality videos of my grandchildren growing up; to search the internet and give me almost instant results, and to show me television programmes that are beamed at it wirelessly.
Over the years, the time at which my computers have begun to seem old has got shorter – it has moved from three years down to two years (although my present computer is older than that!). This seems to reflect the general opinion that everything in the world of computing is advancing at a faster and faster rate.
When I had a British Sinclair ZX computer back in 1981, I was happy – and also amazed – to be able to play and program simple black and white games with the Basic programming language.
So those old fashioned Sinclair computers were 40 years ago, but look at how things have changed in just the last 20 years. Computers back in 2000 now seem very slow and rather clunky looking. The internet was much slower too. Everything is accelerating. In 1999 I treated myself to a bright orange Apple iBook G3 – I still have it, and it still works, but it is so dated now with its tiny screen, lack of wifi, poor sound quality and 3.2 GB hard drive.
So let’s jump forward 10 years from today
If we could jump forwards, perhaps another ten years from now, I expect that our present day laptop and desktop computers will seem even more dated than that clamshell iBook does to me today. So by 2045, what will things be like?
How about 25 years time?
25 years from now, portable computers will be significantly smaller, and with projected screens that are translucent and hang in the air. If you have watched The Expanse on Amazon Prime then you will know what I mean. Storage will be on solid blocks like large sugar cubes with each of the six 25mm square sides storing information. Light will be enough to keep the storage safe by generating the small amount of electricity needed to keep the files permanently. Just by holding the cube, the files will be unlocked by their owners touch and thoughts (although in 2045 we may still have to wear a small ear piece to pick up our brain waves), and can be transferred to the small computer.
Robots will be at our side, ready to help out by carrying shopping, helping with DIY, or just undertaking tasks by themselves while we do something else. I don’t believe that computers or robots will be a threat to us, but they will be able to independently reproduce by building copies of themselves, and those copies will be better than the originals. The first robots such as these, which were built by humans, will appear as clunky as Sinclair computers to the future robots which they themselves will build.
Oh yes, then there will be a rather clever development where a watch (no doubt a development of the Apple watch) works together with those small computers and storage cubes to beam sound directly into its wearer’s head! It won’t go through our ears, and nobody else will be able to hear it (unlike the annoying tinny sounds that emanate from headphones today). This incredible invention will also be a cure for some forms of deafness. And I almost forgot … mobile phones will be part of those small computers with the watch beaming the conversation into our heads. If you want peace and quiet, just take the watch off. We will have to wait a few more years after that for the words in our thoughts to be picked up by the watch, so one-sided phone conversations will still be an annoyance, especially on public transport … “I’m on the train…”.
My crystal ball is now clouding over so I guess I’ll just have to hang on in there for another few years to see some of these amazing inventions. I’ll be 90 in 2045, so my personal robot had better look after me properly.