Emerging technologies — including AI, 5G, robotics and quantum computing — are indisputably cool. But to get the most transformative oomph from these emerging technologies, they need to be combined and converged.
That’s the big idea behind a new book of interest to tech providers. Entitled “The Future is Faster Than You Think,” it’s written by serial entrepreneur Peter H. Diamandis and bestselling author Steven Kotler.
Diamandis knows what he’s talking about. The guy has founded more than 20 high-tech companies, including Constellation Communications, Zero Gravity Corp. and Angel Technologies. Co-writer Kotler is the author or co-author of books including “Stealing Fire, “Bold” and “The Rise of Superman.”
Combined = powerful
In their new book, Diamandis and Kotler argue that while individual emerging technologies are certainly impressive, it’s only when they’re converged that businesses, industries, even our lives get transformed.
What’s more, the rate of convergence is itself accelerating. The authors call it the acceleration of acceleration. “The only constant is change,” they write, “and the pace of change is accelerating.”
“Formerly independent waves of exponentially accelerating technology are beginning to converge with other independent waves of exponentially accelerating technology,” they add. “These waves are starting to overlap, stacking atop one another, producing tsunami-sized behemoths that threaten to wash away most everything in their path.”
What’s that mean in the real world? Here are few examples offered by authors Diamandis and Kotler:
> Shopping: Automatic checkout replaces cashiers. AI knows what you want to buy even before you do. Robots will pick and deliver your goods. And some of those products will be manufactured on the spot with 3-D printing. The combination of these technologies will be so profound, it will divide retailers into two groups: those that take advantage of these technologies, and those that go bankrupt.
> Healthcare: New types of body sensors will lead to the rise of DIY diagnostics. Genetics breakthroughs will lead to personalized medicine. Surgeons will work side-by-side with robots. And drugmakers will use a new form of AI, known as generative adversarial networks, to produce custom medicines.
> Entertainment: Consumers will also be creators, thanks to the convergence of smartphone cameras, platforms such as YouTube, affordable mics and mixing boards, blockchain and more. Traditional media such as movies will be transformed with haptic gloves that let you feel the action, VR/AR goggles, even headsets that monitor your EEG brain waves, then change the action based on what’s going on inside your head.
The dark side
But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Authors Diamandis and Kotler also dedicate a third of their new book to threats — what they call “disruptions to our disruptions” — and possible solutions.
These threats include environmental, economic and existential risks. If left unchecked, they could undo all the other progress. A few worrisome examples:
> Water: By 2025, predicts the U.N., half the world will be “water stressed.” Climate change, population growth and poor resource management are making the problem worse.
> Energy storage: To bring renewable technologies to a global scale, we’ll need to store energy, lots of it. That also means lots of batteries. But today’s batteries aren’t up to the task.
> Jobs: Andrew Yang is right – AI and robots are coming for your job. Oxford University, for one, believes nearly half (47%) of all U.S. jobs will be threatened by tech over the next few decades. Autonomous vehicles threaten to eliminate the jobs of professional car and truck drivers. Robots may replace warehouse workers and retail clerks. AI could replace content creators, analysts and customer-service staff.
Could converged technologies also get us out of these jams? The authors are hopeful but noncommittal: “Take a deep breath and don’t blink,” they write, “because, ready or not, here comes tomorrow.”
Want more? Check out The Future is Faster Than You Think.