Unfortunately, reliable predictions about the future are still pie in the sky, because “always in motion is the future,” as Yoda, undoubtedly the wisest Jedi Master of all time, knew only too well. Just ask the American technology giants. Even though there is no completely reliable source that Bill Gates really did ever make a monumental error of judgement in the 1980s by saying that “640 kilobytes ought to be enough for anybody,” his saying that the „Internet is just a passing fad” is well documented. So it is clear that even pioneers and geniuses do not know what the future will bring. And they cannot even agree on whether the things it will bring will be good or bad – just a few months ago, Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk squabbled over this very point on the subject of artificial intelligence.
One thing seems clear, however: Artificial intelligence will play a part in it. After all, even today we use smartphones and smartwatches to assist us with everyday tasks. They count our steps, measure our heart rates, show us the way, and have generally made a number of previously everyday objects superfluous to requirements. It can be assumed that this trend is likely to grow over the coming years. And then it may well be the case – as jokingly claimed in an earlier issue – that robots really will take away our jobs.
Yet does this really have to be a bad thing? Perhaps in twenty years’ time a robot will be writing this column for Rutronik24, while we read it on the sofa from the comfort of our homes – not with a smartphone or tablet, but a contact lens that projects the text together with nice pictures directly onto our retina. And while we do this, we are not sitting on the sofa at home at all, but lying on the beach in the Seychelles with the sun on our bodies. Sound utopian? Not necessarily. Virtual reality glasses already exist and even if they are still a bit unwieldy – like the Oculus Rift – and the resolution leaves a little to be desired, their triumphant rise now seems unstoppable.
Researchers are comparing the current state of technology with that of the computer in the 1970s. When seen from this perspective, we should be excited about what the future will bring. In any case, jobs will disappear in a number of different areas: The trend toward autonomous driving will mean that self-driving cars and trucks will be on the road at some point – and human drivers will only be needed for city center traffic.
Cleaning companies will use cleaning robots for various tasks; numerous machines are already being used in industrial manufacturing. In the area of patient care, too, companies are already experimenting with humanoid robots. Concepts that are difficult to imagine, particularly in this part of the world (ultimately, androids may be able to simulate emotions and empathy at the most, but they are unable to experience feelings themselves) are less problematic in a technology-savvy country like Japan. Anybody remember the Buddhist robot priest?
Thanks to “biofacturing” maybe even the tiresome vegan versus meat eater debate will be a thing of the past in a few years. Companies are already experimenting with the idea of producing meat specifically for consumption without any animals having to die, which means that anyone will soon be able to satisfy their appetite for meat without feeling guilty – and eat healthy omega-3 fatty acids instead of harmful cholesterol. And that’s not all – “biofacturing” can do even more. Car bodies will then be woven out of graphene and spider silk instead of being built and the basic framework of skyscrapers will be built up from the foundations to ground level with the help of microscopic bio-creatures – with no human help.
It would be foolish to presume that everything will change for the better as a result of technological progress, but let’s dream for a moment. If robots do all of our work for us and ensure that we live even longer, because they can monitor our vital signs and compare them with billions of data sets from all over the world, and everybody has everything they need at all times, then maybe one day it will be possible for all people to live in peace. The alternative to this would be the story featured in the new Netflix series Altered Carbon – a dark world in which a rich elite lives eternally while the wretched rest tries to get by.
In which case, we prefer the dream of utopia.