“When considering potential risks from future technology, one should not be content with merely analyzing what’s likely to happen—instead, one should look at what’s possible, even if unlikely.” – Jaan Tallinn, founding member of Skype, and co-founder of the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk
Very well said. I’m a big believer in that quote – the reason I spend so much time painting pictures of possible futures. Mr. Tallinn expects the backbone of technology in the 2020s to be defined by gradual improvements in biotechnology, nanotechnology, and Artificial Intelligence. What else can we expect in the next decade? A recent Article by George Dvosrsky – a senior staff reporter at Gizmodo – explores the futuristic developments in the next ten years.
Although I believe prediction in this era is a fools errand, we can look at the trajectory of our Science and Technology Curve to make some informed guesses. That’s precisely what the above article attempts to do. Here are the author’s informed guesses.
A NEW INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
From the Article: Of great concern, of course, is the pending automation revolution and the associated onset of technological unemployment. Indeed, the coming decade will involve considerable disruptions to the global workforce, the result of steady improvements in robotics and artificial intelligence.
My Take: There is little doubt that a revolution is underway. The question is; how transformative will the revolution ultimately be. The next decade will shape it, giving us a glimpse into life post revolution. You can explore my views on this informed guess via these posts:
SOCIETY READJUSTS TO NEW NORMALS
From the article: For every action there is a reaction, which means we’re going to spend a good part of the 2020s finding new ways to adapt, recover, and take full advantage of the ensuing social and technological changes. That will involve adjustments to new modes of work, altered socioeconomic dynamics, and novel ways of living and moving in our environment. Roman Yampolskiy, an AI researcher at the University of Louisville, says the capability gap between people and machines will only increase in the next 10 years.
My Take: Our beliefs and intuitions are born from our experience and education. Our institutions are artifacts from history. As described by the article, new normals will force us to unlearn, relearn, and rebuild our institutions. Changes in how we live, travel, and learn – to name a few – will force a a great reset. More on my take via the following posts.
DEEPFAKES, PEOPLE HACKING AND SCARY TECH
From the article: “Our ability to tell if something is an AI generated fake news story or a deep fake video will be no better than random guessing,” said Yampolskiy. “This will have an unprecedented impact on our democracy and social cohesion as well as privacy, safety, and security issues. An explosion of social engineering attacks fueled by advanced chat bots, using realistic, and familiar voices combined with personalized profiling will target billions of users.”
My take: This is a major societal challenge in the coming decade, attacking a foundational piece of society: trust. CEOs made to say something they never said – tanking a stock. A politician made to say something in a video that alters the course of an election. Find a closer look at DeepFakes via this post.
ARTIFICIAL SUPERINTELLIGENCE AND THE BURSTING OF THE AI BUBBLE
From the article: AI is poised to be increasingly unpredictable—and in some cases unexplainable and incomprehensible, both to the general public and to experts, according to Yampolskiy. Accordingly, an ongoing issue during the 2020s will be in addressing the black box problem, that is, acquiring a coherent understanding of an artificially intelligent system in terms of how and why it reaches its conclusions. This challenge will only get worse as the decade progresses, which is frightening because we’ll eventually be out of the loop in terms of AI decision making, potentially leading to huge problems and possibly even large scale disasters.
My Take: One of the dominant conversations of our day. The path and timing of AI’s progression is a topic of much debate. From Narrow AI that is good at a specific task, to General AI that can apply what it learns broadly, to Super Intelligence. AI at the super intelligent stage has reached a level of intelligence smarter than all of humanity combined, with the potential to realize many science fiction scenarios. This phase has a projected tipping point of 2040 – but many believe that it occurs much later. This stage is often linked to technological singularity, which is the hypothesis that the invention of artificial super intelligence will abruptly trigger runaway technological growth, resulting in unfathomable changes to human civilization. View more about this informed guess via these posts.
LET’S HACK THE PLANET
From the article: Artificial intelligence will get scarier during the 2020s, but so will climate change. By the 2020s we should, sadly, witness an increasing number of related discomforts and disasters, from more heatwaves and droughts through to rising sea waters, storms, floods, and wildfires. upon our first clumsy efforts to fix the environment through other means, namely the futuristic—and potentially risky—prospect of geoengineering. Proposed solutions include efforts to increase the reflectivity of clouds, the construction of giant space reflectors, ocean fertilization, introducing stratospheric aerosols, among other ideas.
My Take: Geoengineering is extremely risky, as we do not know the unintended consequences that emerge from these proposed solutions. Nations that go rogue in pursuit of these solutions could introduce considerable consequences in the absence of a global response. In spite of these concerns, science and technology seems to be our only solution to the climate change challenge. A shift in the energy paradigm will help along the way. You can explore this shift via the posts below.
BETTER MORE POWERFUL BIOTECHNOLOGY
From the article: Biotechnologies will continue to advance during the 2020s. It will likely take another generation or two before we see genetically modified “designer babies,” but important advances in this area should occur in the next 10 years. As it stands, scientists in the U.S. and elsewhere can genetically modify human embryos for experimentation, but the cells must be destroyed within a few days. Don’t expect this to change in the 2020s, but the 2030s could be a different story.
My take: As I look at the possibility of the next tipping point in human history, this informed guess lies at the heart of the tip. A tipping point in this context is a fundamental change in the nature of being human. As we look at the convergence of AI, machines, and biotechnology, it becomes clear that a profound tip is possible. At the same time, the potential health benefits that biotechnology can deliver is very exciting. Explore more in the following posts.
NEW VIEWS OF SPACE – AND OUR PLACE WITHIN IT
From the article: The next decade will see a dramatic increase in our understanding of the cosmos—and possibly even extraterrestrial life. Next generation telescopes, like the James Webb Space Telescope and the European Extremely Large Telescope, are poised to redefine our knowledge of the galaxy. And as Vakoch explained to Gizmodo, advances in computing power will provide a big boost to SETI.
My take: space represents a fascinating area of focus. From space travel, to mining resources on asteroids, there are a number of scenarios emerging that involve space. One interesting note: a scenario like this one begs the question: Is any Industry Safe From Disruption?
The metals and mining industry needs to consider the implications of mining resources from space: sounds like science fiction, but then again, so did a car that drives itself. Dig deeper into each of these scenarios by viewing the Article referenced above.