Since the first appearance of homo sapiens in Africa around 300,000 years ago, it took us around 270,000 years to invent writing. It took us near enough the same amount of time to invent the wheel. And it was only then that civilisation really got going.
Though civilisation did speed up technological advancement, at first it was staggeringly slow – with the most important inventions (such as the calendar, the clock, concrete and the printing press) being invented hundreds of years apart from each other.
Today, such slow progress seems odd. But to our ancestors, the incredibly rapid rate of technological advancement that characterises the digital age is what’s truly strange. In the last hundred years (around 0.03 percent of our time on earth), we’ve gone from steam engines to driverless cars. We certainly live in unique and exciting times. But it is about to get stranger still.
Here are three insane tech predictions for 2050.
Ray Kurzweil, Director of Engineering at Google, has predicted that, from around 2030 onwards, we are going to send nanobots into the brain that will provide full immersion virtual reality from within the nervous system and will connect our neocortex to the cloud. By extending our neocortex in this way, we could benefit from perfect memory, increased cognition and intelligence and, bizarrely, elongated foreheads.
This all may sound like sci-fi nonsense. But it becomes much more plausible when you consider that Kurzweil has been predicting technological advancements for a long time – and has an accuracy rate of around 86 percent. That means, of the 147 predictions Kurzweil made in the 1990s, 115 turned out to be correct, and another 12 turned out to be essentially correct (or off by a year or two).
With space tourism pioneers such as Richard Branson and Elon Musk working hard to make space tourism a reality for years now, it’s likely that, by 2050, space tourism will be a feasible leisure activity. Indeed, there are already space tourists today. In 2001 Dennis Tito, an American business man, paid $20 million to take his own trip into space.
Of course, not many of us can afford such a hefty price tag. But the good news is that, by 2050, space tourism is predicted to be much more affordable. No longer a distant dream, multiple companies are vying to be the first to get large numbers of tourists into space. In fact, just this year, Orion Span has revealed a luxury modular vacation-station – with plans to take the first guests in just four years. Still, the cost is $9 million – with an $80,000 deposit. So, it may be a while before space tourism is truly affordable.
Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) is a process that produces electricity by using the temperature difference between deep cold ocean water and warm tropical surface waters. Largely an untapped resource, OTEC allows us to exploit one of the largest renewable energy sources on the planet.
Today, there exist plans for a floating powerplant in Cayman. Though the current plans are relatively modest (to provide 6.25 megawatts of energy), if the project is successful, it could pave the way to bigger and better OTEC projects. Though significant technical difficulties do exist, if these can be overcome, then there is no reason why OTEC can’t play a significant role in moving us toward a greener future.
The world will be a very different place in 2050. While we believe that these predictions are entirely feasible, many other technological advancements – possibly including flying cars, intercontinental railways, general AI and a cure for cancer – may also occur. So, it is a very exciting time to be alive. And the only way to find out how things pan out is to stick around and see.
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