Society’s perception of technology often straddles between being a symbol of mankind’s progression and an enigma of socioeconomic displacement. When I think about that, a recent memory comes to mind. It was a warm, summer afternoon and I had just finished watching an episode of Black Mirror. Like most people, I was left feeling emotionally distraught about what our world could become — or already was. For a few hours, I found myself thinking about how technology was going to take over the world and we were all going to become prisoners of our own creations. It seemed dramatic, but plausible. It seemed legal, but ethically questionable. It made me think. Perhaps that’s how every social phenomenon begins; after all, every groundbreaking social revelation was once thought of as unthinkable, improbable, and impossible.
So what is next for mankind?
I believe the answer lies in efficiency. All revolutionary technological improvements have been a product of solving an efficiency crisis of some kind — i.e. cellphones (communication crisis) and cars/planes (transportation crisis), etc. Hence, it is important to think about the biggest problems that plague our society today and what technologies will help us move past them. When I think about this, the following areas come to mind: (1) information overload, (2) over exaggeration of geographic constraints, and (3) mental barriers to entry.
(1) Information Overload is a problem that several institutions are struggling to manage. The term “big data” is often tossed around in conversations about how teams are going to leverage the information they have gathered to implement disruptive changes in their ecosystems. Going forward, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning will play a critical role in shaping the way businesses enhance their competitive advantages and win market share. Artificial intelligence software is industry agnostic and is being implemented in transformative ways through companies to help businesses sort through data and improve the way they service clients (i.e. Clarifai built a software for ENTJ doctors to surf through x-rays more efficiently and diagnose patients faster).
(2) People often over overstate the size of potential geographic hurdles when thinking about technology. However, we need to overcome those to move forward. Think about it — would we have planes today had the Wright brothers thought world travel was unfathomable? We need to invest in areas that are pushing these boundaries. Companies that are leveraging satellites and space technology are the way forward. For example, companies such as Orbital Insight and Planet are using the spatial geographic images as predictive measures for natural disasters, poverty, etc. Forget about economists and politicians, we have a new wave of social forecasting and humans may not even be involved.
(3) We often are comfortable with what we know and often question things that appear risky — it’s called: human nature. However, when the norms are inhibiting our development and leading to a degree of complacency, we must question ourselves or risk the future generation’s well-being. These mental barriers are healthy, but must be contained. Nowadays, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) have gained a lot of attention. They have opened the world to new possibilities, new dimensions, and new realities (pun intended). Technologies such as Tilt Brush are enabling artists to create new worlds while other VR software is enabling doctors to teach residents how to do surgery through virtual deep dives of the human body. At a recent VR panel I attended, the CEO and Co-Founder of SVRF, Sophia Dominguez, shared her vision to make VR content accessible to everyone with the hope of helping people explore things beyond their imagination.
These areas of growth illustrate mankind’s creativity at its finest and it is our civic duty to help these innovations become a reality. Technology is not our enemy. As humans, we have the irreplaceable ability to think the unthinkable — so why not spend more time on that and let technology do what it does best: realize efficiencies. Otherwise, we could be inhibiting ourselves from realizing our full potentials.