The last decade’s technological advances have altered the world in ways that most of us cannot comprehend.
From medical advances that have saved millions of lives to communication disruptions that have altered business and government as we know it, these five technologies are among the most disruptive to hit our world since the invention of television, and we’re only just beginning to understand their potential impact on society and the economy.
The shift to cloud computing has become almost unavoidable. Cloud storage has been integrated into major software companies’ applications; tech behemoths such as Apple and Google offer specialized apps that work best in the cloud.
From word processing to email management, cloud services have evolved to handle a wide range of tasks. This is the epitome of disruptive technology, with far-reaching implications for both consumers and businesses.
Indeed, many observers see the cloud as part of a broader trend toward greater mobility and flexibility in digital technologies.
Almost every new device—smartphones, tablets, and laptops—is web-enabled, which means it can connect to online services as needed. We’ll soon be able to access all of our files (documents, images) through some sort of mobile device or service…cloud or otherwise.
With mobile devices becoming more powerful by the minute, it’s easy to envision a future in which cloud-based services are only one of several options available on any given device.
It’s also easy to see how such developments could upend traditional business practices: What will happen to brick-and-mortar stores if everything is available everywhere? What about small businesses? How will governments deal with these technological shifts? While most experts agree that cloud computing represents an exciting opportunity for individuals and organizations in a variety of industries, they also point out some drawbacks: As more data becomes available online, privacy concerns grow; security breaches continue to be a concern; and Internet outages still occur on occasion.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Artificial intelligence advancements have resulted in driverless cars, computer programs that can beat humans at chess, and computers that can learn to detect cancer cells.
AI will continue to change our lives and progress in 2017 and beyond. For example, we may soon live in a world where every device is connected, making our lives easier by automating tasks but potentially making things more dangerous.
The possibilities are both exciting and terrifying; AI has a long way to go before it is truly useful (not to mention trustworthy). It will be fascinating to see how far AI progresses over the next decade.
But if you believe your job is immune to automation, think again. Indeed, by 2034, automation could replace 47 percent of all jobs in the United States. So, what are your thoughts? Will you accept AI into your life, or will you prefer to maintain human interaction? In any case, technology is here to stay!
Few would have predicted that advances in printing technology would one day have a significant impact on human health.
However, as our devices become more connected and capable, we’re discovering new applications for 3D printers. At times, their applications appear almost comical; for example, some researchers are currently working on printing edible food for astronauts.
Other applications are more serious; for example, if you break your foot or another body part, a custom-printed cast can help you heal faster than ever. Although 3D printing is still a developing technology with much to prove, it is clear that advances in 3D printing will continue to change how we use technology on a daily basis.
However, surgical planning is more than just replicating body parts. Surgeons frequently encounter situations in which they know exactly what needs to be done but lack sufficient tissue. While most people don’t think of organs when they hear 3D printed objects, surgeons occasionally require them—and not always from living donors.
Wireless communication has transformed our lives, from your smartphone to your Wi-Fi connection.
In 2000, 42 percent of US households had wireless phones; today, that figure has risen to 93 percent, with nearly half of all adults owning a smartphone.
We’re also becoming more reliant on these devices—according to one study, we send and receive an average of 900 texts per month, up from 300 only five years ago.
From messaging and games to social media and news updates, staying connected is now easier than ever.
While more than three-quarters of us now connect wirelessly every day, few consider the long-term implications of our online dependence for our health or privacy. Nonetheless, research indicates that excessive cell phone use can have both short-term and long-term effects on brain function, memory, attention span, vision, hearing, and other factors.
Augmented Reality (AR)
AR is a real-time, direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment augmented with computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics, or GPS data.
Augmented reality technologies involve adding information to our perception of reality (such as sound) that would appear to be impossible if it were not presented (i.e., holograms).
This technology is now used in a variety of products ranging from Snapchat filters to Pokémon Go.
Though augmented reality applications may appear frivolous and entertaining at first glance, they can quickly become useful for a variety of applications such as medical tools and precision machinery.
With over $1 billion invested in AR startups since 2014, I believe 2017 will see even more breakthroughs.
Although augmented reality originated in science fiction novels and films such as Terminator 2: Judgment Day, we are already seeing these futuristic technologies take shape in our daily lives.