Can we fix the future?
Great times don’t necessarily mean great inventions. Are we only a product of an economic lead industry?
It’s 2016 and it’s really exciting to be alive.
Technology is at one of its highest point in history. Things that we couldn’t imagine before are becoming reality and more often habits.
In less than twenty years, we may want to colonise Mars and the Moon and we may go even further, who knows for sure?
If we take a look at what happened in the past century we may ask ourselves: will the future bring more improvements to our lives than the 20th century did?
Cars, television, radio, science, medical sciences are all technologies that were born in the past century. These are all great innovations and discoveries that brought serious amount of improvements to our lives.
Thinking about transportation back in the early years of the Twentieth Century: cars still didn’t exist and people did not spend most of their lives watching TV programs. Many diseases, harmless today, may have killed you back in the days.
Nonetheless, we might just getting ready for another century to bring even more improvements and disconcerting new discoveries.
Internet was a 1900s century thing, but it reached global spread only in the early years of the 2000s when smartphones came along.
Smartphones, in particular, are a quite tricky argument. They are the result of two different goals: the personal computer — how it was developed by the end of the 90s — and the phone — as we always come to know it.
Those glass surfaced devices that we ordinarily bring inside our pockets are now the most brilliant expression of the development and spread of Internet. Therefore, if I had to mention one truly game changing revolution that happened in our lives, I’d rather say internet than smartphones.
Smartphones are the medium, internet is the thing.
And then what?
We are living in a world (n.b. this piece takes an occidental point of view) where technologies follow one another at a rate so high that we don’t often really get their proportion placed in a historical context.
Where will smartphones bring us? Will the personal computer slowly die? What place do wearables have in our society?
Moor’s law has been outdated and that proves how fast technologies advancements are moving today.
What is going to be the next big thing?
There is a belief between scientists and people in tech-focused field, that one day — that may be closer that we used to expect — we will experience what is called in jargon a “singularity”.
A singularity is a precise moment in history when we will build a technology so advanced that will have consciousness of itself and will be able to duplicate or, better, reproduce like normal human being. Just picture a scenario in which, for example, in ten years or a bit more, we will build a robot so intelligent that, one it’s finished, it will be able to assemble another version of himself out of nowhere.
It’s a picture that seems to come from a dystopian world, but it may be not so distant in the future that we may think actually.
Software intelligence is already a thing. Think about Siri, Google Now and Cortana: three personal assistants that we find pre-installed on the three major mobile operative systems: iOS, Android and Windows.
It’s a short step to a real artificial intelligence that may truly communicate with us. Think about something able to articulate phrases in a more human way of talking rather than just understanding pre-chosen Q&A. Think about an engine able to calculate and answer efficiently to any of our demands, like a real assistant that it’s 24/7 available for us.
We are nothing but far away from something like this and once it happens we won’t be far away from a singularity moment to happen sometime in the future either.
Leaving apocalyptic, dystopian scenarios apart, there are many industrial sector today that haven’t followed the same rapidity of development that they were meant to do.
Transportation is a sector that saw unbelievable improvements since the introduction of the cars’ concept. Nonetheless, it’s been a while now, since any car manufacturer has come up with some interesting ideas on how to truly change, improve or revolutionise the cars’ industry.
Bill Gates one famously said that if only the car industry had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving £25 cars that got 1000 MPG.
And as usual with Ball Gates, he was pretty right: the car industry has been steady for quite a while now often playing games on the same old patterns: the introduction of features and new commodities has been continuous now but, as Gates said, what we needed from manufacturers is a whole rethinking on the concept of cars itself.
What the future has to bring doesn’t come from some space age movie. We don’t need flying cars o time travel machines but rather much more energy efficient engines that can exploit different resources rather than gas and petrol.
We need an environment-friendly industry that would eventually cut the costs of making cars and find different powering solutions.
But cars are not the only problem out there. In the near future, I believe the concept of cars’ ownership it’s going to chance.
Likewise Spotify and Netflix, we are aiming at a model of society in which content are provided on demand rather that by ownerships.
In the not-so-distant future, we will likely explore new ways of on demanding products even in the transportation sector. Uber is a crystal clear example of such changes.
I imagine a world where most of the population will solely rely on on-demand or public transportation. Where people will call Uber cars up on their way to work. New companies will be likely to emerge bringing costs to a way cheaper level.
Nonetheless, public transportation has to critically improve.
Thus far, I’ve been growing mixed feelings about public transportation.
Living in London and coming from a little reality in Italy has taught me so much about how frustrating may it be to go in this environment.
At present day, there are no perfect means of transport: buses are overcrowded and for the most part too slow, thanks to always congested traffic; but buses are the most human way of travelling since the underground represents a nightmare to me: it’s insanely fast and useful when planning long distances, but totally advised against taking it in the rush hours — which, speaking about London, it’s really hard to avoid. Congested and flawlessly warm are the sole two characteristics I get stuck in my head every time I think about a possible journey.
So, what the future can do about public transportation? A glimpse it’s offered by Transportation for London (TfL) which promises a whole new experience in term of underground journey sometime in the next two to five years. New wagons air conditioned and WiFi provided should replace the ones we still have from the second world war.
And then what? On the overground, streets are becoming even more crowded promising no respect for pedestrians and cyclists. No surprise, London is the city where cyclists die the most in the world. Just saying.
The topic at the core of the discussion still is: what in the next hundred years? So, let’s keep dreaming.
I imagine airports getting their ways into city centres thanks to new improved and more secure way of lifting and landing. Airplanes would have vertically lifting propulsive which may make it easier and quicker to get on a plane.
Airbuses might become a reality. Imagine to take a fly in order to travel shortly to average distances. Subsequently, it would become natural to git rid of the stressful and slow pattern that still grip every traveller.
We’ve been seeing different a numerous improvements in the take-a-flight process, but it still feels like something you will be stressed by.
I think it is crazy that we still have to lose half a day for a two-hour long journey.
As technologies get more capable and accurate, security checks should be simplified in order to lose less and less precious time from the moment you walk into the airport to the moment you sit down in the plane. From my experience, it usually takes two to three hours, when instead it should be easy as taking the bus.
What the Twentieth Century saw was the settling for new life’s standards and habits that brought us straight to the Twenty-First Century. It is now time to start from this draft and take the human engineering to a more environment-friendly and less economic lead level. Big things happened so far and bigger ones may be on their way into the present.