Have We Reached The Peak In Technological Advancements?

High-tech microscope

“Abdullah’s uncle no longer gives his son parental advice. He has an app on his phone for that.” Technology is changing the way we interact as humans. We are living in dystopia, in a world that is dominated by technology and disconnect, alienation, loneliness, and dysfunction. Technology now affects us positively or negatively in all aspects of our daily life and plays major roles in education, transportation, entertainment, economy, communication, agriculture, medicine and so on. Futurists of the 1950s and ’60s predicted that by the 2000s, flying cars and airborne robots would be a part of our everyday lives. Instead, we live in a world dominated by live streaming, smartphones and social networks. Technology offers fun, interesting and educational alternatives. Schools are using the Internet to communicate about assignments as well as directing students to use it to support learning as literature searches are now performed electronically.

The advances in technology has increased entertainment. For instance, the virtual reality. Virtual reality is an artificial environment that is created with software and presented to the user in such a way that the user suspends belief and accepts it as a real environment. On a computer, virtual reality is primarily experienced through two of the five senses: sight and sound. The simplest form of virtual reality is a 3D image that can be explored interactively at a personal computer, usually by manipulating keys or the mouse so that the content of the image moves in some direction or zooms in or out. More sophisticated efforts involve such approaches as wrap-around display screens, actual rooms augmented with wearable computers, and haptics devices that let you feel the display images. The truth, according to experts, is that VR is likely to fundamentally change how people communicate and create a social impact as big as the telephone or the internet, and in a not-so-distant future, it’s more likely than not, that people will interact and view each other as avatars in multiple virtual realities, moving day to day and moment to moment from one world to another.

Through technology, the communications sector has made remarkable progress and breakthroughs. An example of this is the newly invented 5G network. 5G networks are the next generation of wireless network technology and internet connectivity that offers faster speeds and more reliable connections on smartphones and other devices. It is predicted to be 10 times faster compared to LTE. But unfortunately it is not yet available in most countries and only a few phones can operate with it currently. It is however expected to be fully launched across the world by 2020. The networks will help power a huge rise in Internet of Things technology, providing the infrastructure needed to carry huge amounts of data, allowing for a smarter and more connected world.

Likewise, technology has brought by the birth of AI (Artificial Intelligence). Examples of which are, manufacturing robots, smart assistants, automated financial investing and so much more. Most AI examples that you hear about today — from chess-playing computers to self-driving cars — rely heavily on deep learning and natural language processing. Whether we realize it or not, artificial intelligence is all around us and playing an active role in our daily lives. Every time we open our Facebook newsfeed, do a Google search, get a product recommendation from Amazon or book a trip online, AI is lurking in the background. Today’s AI-powered robots, or at least those machines deemed as such, possess no natural general intelligence, but they are capable of solving problems and “thinking” in a limited capacity. From working on assembly lines at Tesla to teaching Japanese students English, examples of artificial intelligence in the field of robotics are plentiful.

Consequently, the advent of mind-reading machines is one of the ground-breaking achievements in the world of technology. Ever wish your computer could read your mind? A group of MIT graduate students has created an interface that comes remarkably close to that. They’ve built prototypes of a headset-like device that takes input from the neuromuscular activity involved in speech. Much like other voice-activated artificial intelligence devices, the device takes that speech and turns it into action, through a small library of applications. The headset can solve complicated arithmetic or text a friend. As you silently mouth commands, a separate, back-of-headset transmitter uses bone-conduction audio to feed answers back to the wearer, without blocking your eardrum or dampening regular hearing. “The experience is like having the entire internet in your head, and a little AI agent, who can do things for you, perched on your shoulder,” said Arnav Kapur, the 24-year-old master’s student at the MIT Media Lab who came up with the idea for the system, which he calls AlterEgo. Silent speech was a breakthrough. “You could be in a meeting or on a voice call and be secretly conducting another call — or you could quickly search for a term you don’t know,” Kapur said. “Or if you’re meeting with someone who does not speak English, the headset could translate for you.” AlterEgo also could work as a secret remote-control for any internet-connected device — or, rather, turn the wearer into a human remote control.

One of the major breakthroughs in the health industry is the development of TOI (Transdermal Optical Imaging). A present study examined the validity of a novel physiological measurement technology called transdermal optical imaging (TOI) technology at assessing basal stress. TOI reduces the limitations of current methodologies by utilizing a digital video camera to conveniently, contactlessly, and remotely capture video images of the face for extraction of cardiovascular changes. This is possible because re-emitted light from underneath the skin is affected by chromophores, primarily haemoglobin and melanin, which have different colour signatures. Given the difference in the colour signatures, machine learning can be used to separate images of haemoglobin-rich regions from melanin-rich regions, ultimately obtaining video images of haemoglobin changes under the skin. This will then provide the necessary information to determine emotions, heartbeat rates and health of a person. This tool is however very vital in education as well, because one of the problems encountered in teaching children is that they don’t learn in the way they are taught. So with the use of TOI, educationists could gain to determine the stress levels when using different teaching methods. Therapists would in various situations be able to see recurrent moods in children.

It is however unfortunate that as the world progresses in technological advancements, many concerns arise. This ranges from climate change, unemployment, side effects on health… to public and private surveillance. In a recent survey, more than 72% of Americans expressed worry about a future in which machines perform many human jobs. Additionally, tech billionaire Elon Musk, long an advocate for the regulation of artificial intelligence, recently called AI more dangerous than nukes. Despite these legitimate concerns, we’re a long way from living in Westworld.

In addition, the nuclear weapons which are one of the major tools of war in developed countries, poses grave threats to the world and humanity at large. One can destroy a whole city, potentially killing millions, and jeopardizing the natural environment and lives of future generations through its long-term catastrophic effects. The dangers of such weapons arise from their very existence. All countries with nuclear weapons are currently engaged in modernizing their nuclear arsenals. During the next three decades, the US plans to spend more than $400 billion to replace its triad of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), ballistic-missile submarines (SSBNs), and strategic bombers and to replace or extend the lives of its nuclear warheads. So what do we think our safety in the future looks like with countries like North Korea, Iran, United States and Russia keep sharpening their ‘mass destruction’ weapons?

To summarize, the benefits that we get from technology are extremely enormous when it comes to robotic assistants, driverless cars, 5G network, digital surveillance, ease of learning, improved service delivery, better security and so much more. But it also comes with some disadvantages which include, development of nuclear weapons, use of AI robots for destruction purposes(war) and unmanned drones. It may also lead to mass unemployment, laziness and health repercussions. So do you believe that in a few decades from now, the world would become like scenes in science fiction movies?

References

1. Albert Einstein

2. 2.10 Technologies That Are Changing the World by Jonathan Long

3. Steven Wilson

4. Dan Brown

5. The New World Order: have we gone too far with technology? By Debra Kessler, Psy.D.

6. WhatIs.com

7. 5G: everything you need to know By John McCann, Mike Moore

8. 19 EXAMPLES OF ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE SHAKING UP BUSINESS AS USUAL. Written by Sam Daley

9. Computers Can’t Read Minds Yet, but This Headset Developed by MIT Researchers Is Getting Close. By Christine Lagorio-Chafkin

10. UNODA (United Nations Office For Disarmament Affairs)

11. Nuclear weapons dangers and policy options. Steve Fetter, Richard Garwin, Frank N. von Hippel

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