Future technology in a scene from “Minority Report”
Technological process is quickening from century to century, decade to decade, and year to year. In the previous millenium, some argued that technological advances would create a utopia for humanity. Some of the excesses of the past century showed this argument to be patently false. Technology is for the most part neutral and depends on how and why it is used and by whom it is used.
The speed with which our world is undergoing technological transformation is plain to see. The popular futurist Raymond Kurzweil tells us that we are approaching technological singularity: a point of unprecedented technological progress, caused in part by the ability of machines to improve themselves using artificial intelligence. That sounds frightening, as it should. However Kurzweil’s singularity is still some time away, should it actually ever happen.
In the meantime Nature.com has asked several leading technological experts to predict the trends in technology over the next decade. Words like haptics and phrases like semantic web will be more commonplace. Here’s an excerpt from this excellent article:
PRODUCTS WITH MEMORIES
Ordinary products are going to have memories that store their entire history from cradle to grave, and that consumers can easily access.
Radio-frequency identification tags are a good option because they are already widely used to track inventory and to control theft. They are cheap and can be powered by an outside power source, such as the radio signal from the device being used to read them. But there may be another enabling technology that wins out.
Near-field communication systems already allow a phone to be used like a smart card for a travel pass or as an electronic wallet to pay for goods. If that technology can talk to the things you buy, as well as the systems through which you pay for them, it will enable consumers to choose not to buy goods that are unhealthy, allergenic, have used environmentally unfriendly methods or employed child labour.
As with many technologies, it could potentially be used for bad purposes; we have to ensure that privacy functions are built in to the system to put the consumer in control of whether they want to be tracked.