Did you know? We will see more new technologies in the next decade, than we saw in the previous century.
I know what you are thinking: this is impossible. There is no way so many new technologies could emerge in just ten years. Granted, we are living in a time of great technological progress, and we expect many new technologies to come to light over the next ten years; but more than in the previous century? No way.
The previous century was the one that brought us pretty much all the technology that we know and love. Transistors, computers, satellites, space travel, the internet, cellphones, social media, instant messaging, e-commerce and so many more technologies were products of the previous century. How can we top all that, and in one tenth the period of time?
It is not just possible, but is definitely going to happen, according to Peter Diamandis, who is a well known Silicon Valley entrepreneur, futurist, and founder of the Prize Foundation. Peter believes that the key is computational power. As computers become ever more powerful, they will unlock the doors to immense new potential in technological progress.
Exponential Computing Power
In 1965 American engineer and founder of Intel Corporation, Gordon Moore, made a prediction that the number of transistors per silicon chip in a computer will double every year for the next ten years. In simple terms, this means that computing power will double nearly every year for a decade.
This became known as Moore’s Law, and many experts found it preposterous. They did not believe that computing power could double every year for ten years.
But Moore’s law held true for the next decade, and it did not stop there; it has been over fifty years, and Moore’s Law still holds true to this day. Computing power hasn’t stopped doubling every year!
The result? Today we have supercomputers in our pockets that are more powerful than anything imaginable in the 1960’s. For example, the computer that helped land people on the moon during the Apollo mission was one of the most advanced and powerful in the world at the time. Your ordinary smart phone is 120 million times more powerful than that computer.
Scientists say that today’s computers have the computing power of a mouse brain, and we are just a few years away from the computing power of the human brain. Sounds creepy, I know.
Data at the Speed of Light
Going hand in hand with the massive computing power available to us, are our super-fast, extensive computer networks which form the modern internet. Today we have computers connected across continents as if they are sitting right next to each other, because data transfer is so fast it seems instantaneous.
Two people on opposite sides of the world can chat, share files and images and even edit the same document together thanks to the super-fast information highway, enabled by extensive networks of fibre optic cables, cellular networks and satellites.
Fibre optic cables transmit data at the speed of light, and a single fibre, one eightieth the width of a human hair, can push through 14 trillion bits of information per second, which is equivalent to 210 million voice calls – all at the same time. Astounding.
Taking things a step further, Elon Musk’s SkyLink satellite network will provide internet access to the remotest parts of the world wirelessly from the sky.
As these networks grew and became more widespread, more and more devices became connected. In 1984 there were only 1000 devices connected to the internet. Today, there are over 20 billion connected devices. But not all of these devices are computers.
The rise of expansive and reliable networks gave rise to the concept of the “Internet of Things” which is where things other than computers are now connected, and for various reasons. Home appliances, security systems, vehicles, medical equipment, heavy machinery, clothing and even farm animals are now connected to the internet.
Another side effect of these networks is the concept of the “neural network”. A neural network is where clusters of computers that are connected via high speed networks are able to operate as one single computer, sharing the processing power between them. This arrangement mimics the human brain, where each computer is analogous to a single brain cell, while the collective operates as a single, super-powerful brain.
We are not Alone
What is the result of all this? Super-powerful computers, high speed networks and neural networks have together spurred the rebirth of an extremely powerful and potentially world-changing technology that was around since the 1950’s but could not reach its full potential because of the limitations of the technology at the time: Artificial Intelligence.
Artificial Intelligence, or AI, has given computers immense new capabilities, giving them abilities that were only possible for humans previously. Computers are now able to speak to us, understand our languages, recognise people and objects and learn new things – just like their human creators.
Thanks to these newfound abilities, they are now able to drive cars, pilot drones and planes, diagnose illnesses, operate machinery, solve complex puzzles, teach themselves and play games and a whole host of other tasks.
Most importantly, thanks to their immense new power, computers are now able to help us to invent new technologies. Scientists and inventors are no longer trying to figure things out by themselves; they have help in the form of AI.
So, whereas the technological advancement of the past century was driven by human beings, the tech advancement of the next decade will be driven by human beings plus artificial intelligence.
And since computers tend to do things much faster than their humans creators, the tech advancement of the next decade will take place at a highly accelerated pace – likely ten times faster than ever before.