The Future Is Coming…And You Won’t Believe It
It’s been a while! How’ve you been? Still in business? Growing? Circling the wagons? Custer’s last stand? Hey, you got into this entrepreneur thing because you don’t fear uncertainty - don’t forget that! This is fun! You could be like all your friends, who are right now being lectured by Bill Lumbergh about their TPS reports (shudders).
I’ve been thinking a lot about the future lately - my future, your future, Earth’s future, and the future of technology. What are things going to be like in 20 years? 50 years? 100 years? I’ve been doing some research and reading on the subject of future tech, and I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that the future is going to look like magic to us 2011 dummies.
See, in terms of technology, the future is exponential in nature, not linear. Perhaps you have heard of Moore’s Law? Gordon Moore was a founder of IBM, and in the 1960’s he observed that the number of components in integrated circuits had doubled every year from the invention of the integrated circuit in 1958 until 1965 and predicted that the trend would continue “for at least ten years”. Well, guess what? The trend continues to this day - it is a perfect exponential line that has not changed since 1965, and looks like this:
What does this mean for us? Well, futurist Ray Kurzweil, author of “The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology” and subject of the movie “Transcendent Man” (you can and should stream it on Netflix) says that this line of exponential growth in the power of CPU’s will at some point become so dramatic that we stupid humans can no longer keep up with it. He calls this phenomenon “The Singularity” - the point at which machines become smarter than us. In fact, he thinks The Singularity is fast approaching - it is less than 20 years away.
I recently attended a Fandango event called “Transcendent Man”, which was a 2 hour Q/A with a pretty incredible panel of tech leaders and futurists such as Ray Kurzweil, Dean Kamen (inventor of the Segway and robotics guru), Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Deepak Chopra, and several other amazing minds. They discussed The Singularity and its’ implications for humanity. I left the theater needing a whole bottle of Advil and a shot of tequila. I had learned a lot - too much - in 2 hours. Lets talk about the relevant points:
1. HERE’S WHY I’M WRITING THIS FOR STARTUPNATION.COM!: A lot of these inventors, entrepreneurs, and technologists are designing and developing technology that is still theoretical - in other words, the technology does not yet exist yet to build what they are designing! Ray Kurzweil, for example, has become a multimillionaire in the last 30 years by designing products in exactly in this manner. He invented the modern synthesizer in this way, as well as reading devices for the blind (Stevie Wonder has said that Ray has changed his life completely)
So, entrepreneurs, is your business model designed for 2011 or 2015? 2020? Are you coding for todays internet or 2014’s? I suspect that the most wealth to be had in business ventures from here on out are going to be ventures that can most accurately predict the future and be right on top of it when it happens.
2. Emerging technologies are amazing - and freaky - particularly in the area of nanotechnology. Right now, scientists are programming atoms to compute as today’s circuits do. Imagine a computer 100 times as powerful as the fastest computer in existence today that would fit inside of a red blood cell. Don’t worry - if that doesn’t work out, we’ll be building computers that small anyway. In fact, the majority of the Transcendent Man panel agree that in my lifetime (I’m 41), man will become a hybrid of man and machine. We will all have millions of nanobots floating around our bodies, programmed to help us a) think better by assisting brain function b) keep our arteries clear of plaque, c) manufacture red or white blood cells, d) destroy cancer cells, and so on. Let’s face it, people: Technology is stronger than Biology.
3. Keep an eye on 3D printing. Right now, 3D printers can “print” out physical objects. Dean Kamen is working on a technology that, when complete, could wipe out 50% of the worlds’ disease problems associated with polluted/bad drinking water. Imagine shipping a 3D printer to the Sudan and telling it to print out another 3D printer, and then telling both to print out 3D printers. Then, tell the 6 printers to print out a water filtration system for a village. This is the future of manufacturing, and its’ coming soon.
Here’s a 3D printer in action:
4. Robotics will get to the point of creating better, faster, and stronger body parts than our own. As Dean Kamen stated (I’m paraphrasing) “Right now, we build artificial limbs for people who don’t have them. What happens when we can replace an existing part with a superior mechanical one? How many people would elect for that? I think it will be MANY”.
I think about his point often because I am a victim of severe arthritis in both of my knees and earlier this year a surgeon in Napa Valley told a robot to partially replace both of my knees. The robot could perform the surgery better than the surgeon could and the surgery was done in less than 20 minutes. So, now that I’m partially robotic, would I do it again? You bet your sweet mechanical ass I would - in fact, I plan to have a robot in 2020 redo the surgery and possibly replace both my knees totally, because by then artificial knees will be stronger, faster, and better than even healthy knees. By the way, I’ll also be able to swallow a pill which will reprogram my DNA to stop storing fat on my body and I will lean out naturally.
Believe me, I completely understand that this article raises questions:
Can we live forever? I think we can. I think we’ll be able to upload our consciousness into a computer and live forever. Or, nanotechnology will be able to stop our aging process. Technically, that will be possible. But the bigger question for me is: Do I want to live forever?
When the machines become smarter than us and we cannot intelligently keep up without them, why would they need us? Hello, Matrix anyone? Terminator? We’ve all seen the movies where machines are smarter and it generally doesn’t go well for the humans. Ray Kurzweil is very optimistic that we’ll all get along, but there are others who are not.
And so on, and so forth, and holy crap I need some more Advil. PLEASE comment below with your thoughts - I’d love a good healthy conversation about all of this.
Um, have a nice day?