“The Art of Flight.” Check.
“Technology that lasts for a long time in water and exhibits its function there” Check.
“A Practical and Reliable Method for Finding Longitude.” Check.
And finally, “A potent drug that alters or enhances imagination, alertness, memory, and other functions, relieves pain, obtains innocent sleep, induces harmless dreams, etc.”. I have.
Boyle will love 21st century dentistry, rainbow hair color, scuba gear, submarines, regular flights, and GPS. I’m sure he’d love to try our psychedelics.
He also predicted an “extended lifespan,” where he may disappoint us. It is not yet known how people with
Recent predictions by futurists are not so accurate. Perhaps because they rely too much on extending the latest and most trendy technology into new territories. Ray Kurzweil, one of his most famous extant futurists, wrote in 1999 that by his 2019 robots will educate us, conduct commerce, adjudicate political and legal disputes, I predicted that he would do housework and have sex with us.
Even someone as smart as Kurzweil couldn’t have imagined that in the second half of 2022, MIT Technology Review’s main feature headline would look like this: How was the screenshot posted on Facebook?”
To make matters worse, Roomba isn’t as good at vacuuming as hardworking humans.
Technology writer Edward Tenner is the author of his recent book, The Efficiency Paradox, about the limits of big data and artificial intelligence. We talked at length about the problems in predicting the future of technology, and why today the future seems so slow and not exactly what we ordered. I explained that there are three problems with predicting which technologies will change the world.
The first is what he calls the salient feature of the opposite — a kind of stubborn bottleneck. This may explain why there is still no universal cure for cancer. Great breakthrough in fusion energy — progress in clean energy is very slow.
ChatGPT’s debut this year appears to have broken through the barriers to human-like artificial intelligence, but Tenner said it’s really just scraping a vast sea of existing information. “It’s like massive plagiarism, chopping, dicing and repackaging other people’s ideas and sentences.”
To explain what was missing, he asked us to think about the meaning of the phrase “a rolling stone gathers no moss.” It chose the most common Western interpretation of the saying that it’s good to keep rolling in life.
“On the other hand, in the Japanese sense of aesthetics, moss is really beautiful…so you could say that those who are lazy and don’t take anything seriously don’t have this natural treasure,” Tenner said. . ChatGPT did not consider this view.
There remain bottlenecks to achieving useful and trustworthy AI, Tenner said. “Today, a lot of AI is a black box process, and the AI can’t explain or defend the reasons for its decisions.” I can’t.
A second problem with predicting the future of technology is that some inventions cannot beat rival technologies in the market. A good example is the new kind of refrigerator designed in 1926 by Albert Einstein and another physicist, Leo Szilard. Could Einstein’s refrigerator be outdone? Refrigerators back then used toxic gases that sometimes leaked and killed entire families, so much needed.
The Einstein-Szilard refrigerator used an electromagnetic field and liquid metal as a compressor, solving the toxic gas problem but apparently causing a nasty noise problem. By the 1930s, scientists had discovered chlorofluorocarbons that were stable and safe for the home.
Thomas Edison’s direct current was replaced by alternating current, and the Segway electric scooter was supposed to change the world, but despite the popularity of electric bicycles and electric scooters today, it never really gained traction. rice field.
A final problem with predicting the future: Social, cultural, and psychological factors can prevent predictions from coming to fruition. In the years since the first sheep were cloned, predictions were everywhere that human clones would soon follow suit. But society doesn’t really like the idea of human cloning.
Similarly, fears about using gene editing to create the “perfect baby” are probably exaggerated. Even if Crispr technology allowed it to some degree, the perfect baby probably wouldn’t grow up to be a perfect adult, he says, Tenner. We are inconsistent about what we consider perfection. [engineered] Babies…and by the time they grow up they’ll be obsolete,” he explained. Tomorrow’s parents may try to clone Einstein’s brain, but baby Einstein will revolutionize physics. Just miss the opportunity and invent a great but forgotten refrigerator.
This year’s forecast reflects the mood of the pandemic era: depression. Earlier this month, the New York Post listed the technologies that could bring about a terrifying dystopian future. The first is a quantum computer that could break all current cryptosystems and steal everyone’s money. Then there was geoengineering that could either save us from climate change or kill us all, and killer drones.
The last on the list is the same one that Boyle put at the top of his 1600s list. It’s the extension of the super-rich’s life, illustrated by the giant mouse picture superimposed on Jeff Bezos. Boyle thinks it’s more intriguing than scary, but you might be surprised that one of the richest men of the 21st century hasn’t invested in a head with “a new hair color like when he was younger.” Hmm.
Bloomberg Opinion Details:
• Ring in the new year with a rapid test for Covid: Faye Flam
• Google faces serious threat from ChatGPT: Parmy Olson
• Saving bees is not the same as saving the planet: Amanda Little
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.
Faye Flam is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist for science. She is the host of the “Follow the Science” podcast.
More articles like this can be found at bloomberg.com/opinion.