Virginia Technology Today

Perspectives is a blog designed to discuss future trends in technology.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

The Great Reboot

When you think about the future of technology there are many interesting points of view from various futurist, scientist and dreamers. Juan Enriquez shares his views on what’s next in his TED Talk entitled “The next species of human.”  In the talk, Juan starts by summarizing the current financial situation facing America today.  He does a nice job holding your attention by discussing our current financial situation in a rather humorous manner.  This discussion is necessary to frame-up his point that we are going hit by two waves of change in the very near future.  The first wave will be the crescendo of the current financial crisis and the second will deal with the next set of advancements that will happen in technology.  The dilemma that we all face is how to address the current situation while still investing in the future.  After all it’s the innovators, dreamers and small entrepreneurs that will drive the economy moving forward. 

Enriquez discusses three trends that will have a major impact on how we think about technology and the evolution of the human species.   I find his quote from Louis L’Amour very appropriate for his thesis, “There will come a time when you believe everything is finished.  That will be the beginning. “ There are three trends that are driving the next wave of technology that may “refine” what it means to be human.  The three trends are the ability to 1) engineer microbes, 2) the ability to engineer tissue and 3) the ability to engineer robotics.   These items may lead to a reboot of the human race, as we know it today.

It was fascinating to discover that we already have programmable cells and that MIT has a Registry of Standard Biological Parts.  They are bringing together students to build microbes like a circuit board.  These activities have turned into a global competition where on teams are working on projects that are taking the health benefits of wine and engineering them into beer.  Just think of the possibilities.  I guess if I can hold out long enough maybe they will engineer a solution for us to reverse the aging process or eradicate cancer.  Even with these incredible feats, Enriques has other ideas on what the future will look like.  Scientist are now experimenting with growing new body parts using stem cells.  A group recently regrew a heart. 

The third trend is robotics.  We are getting to the point where you can have a conversation with a computer and not know if the output is from a machine or a human being.   There have been incredible advancements in Robotics to the point that we can combine mechanical movement with the intelligence of the computer to produce stunning results.

When you consider the three trends merging it poses a couple of interesting thoughts in terms of what is possible. Imagine hearing implants that allow you to hear better than the ears that you are born with.  At what point will the human beings we are today simply be replaced by beings that are technically superior.  Hopefully this vision is still a ways off.  Hopefully resistance will not be futile. 

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