The future of tech
How will technology change our lives next year? One thing is sure: the pace of progress will be faster because it is currently roughly doubling every year – bringing wonders in its wake.
What do we actually mean by technology?
Today, we think of technology as the development over time of systematic techniques for making and doing things. It is something that has been moving forward constantly since humans first learnt to create fire and basic weapons. Technological advances have included the invention of the wheel in 3500BC as well as the invention of the steam engine and discovery of electricity.
Over the centuries, there have been periods when technology has moved forward in certain ways. The Stone Age brought tools made of stone. The Industrial Revolution saw a huge increase in factories.
How quickly is technology moving now?
Faster than ever before in history. At the start of the 1900s, many people did not have electricity in their homes. Most people used telegrams to contact one another quickly. The telephone was a new, expensive and unpopular invention.
Today, we are connected to people all over the world via the internet – and that is growing exponentially. Meanwhile, Amazon makes £196,000 a day from online shopping and Spotify adds 13 songs every 24 hours.
Does that mean things will start changing faster?
Probably. Since the first mobile phone was used in 1976, the technology has grown hugely. Smartphones weigh less than 100g, send and receive emails and hold thousands of apps and photos.
Now, phones could start looking more outlandish. Last year, Samsung and Motorola created smartphones whose screens can fold. Newer versions could be completely flexible, with some designs including devices that clip into a bangle that you can wear on your wrist.
Others predict that in less than 10 years, we won’t have phones at all – just bracelets that project a hologram phone into the air.
What about other wearable tech?
Most of us are used to wearable tech. In 2019, around 30% of the UK population had some kind of smartwatch or health tracker. Meanwhile, smart clothing is on the rise, with one company already creating a swimsuit that will send a warning to your phone if you need to put on more suncream. Snapchat Spectacles allow wearers to snap pictures and videos quite literally in the blink of an eye.
But the future of wearable tech could go even further. Manufacturers are using exoskeletons to help workers perform better, while some governments are considering them for military use. In medicine, similar technology could create smart prosthetics which could respond to the nervous system and behave far more intuitively than current designs.
What else has been changing?
Transport! The first mass-produced car was the Model-T Ford. It could go at a top speed of 45mph. Today, the fastest car in the world can reach speeds above 300mph. But it’s not just about speed. Traditional cars have always run on fossil fuels like petrol or diesel. Now, companies like Tesla are propelling electric vehicles into the mainstream.
Public transport is evolving, too. Hydrogen trains have already started replacing diesel ones in Germany and around Europe. In the past year the first human journey in a hyperloop was successful. Many hope to see these new developments becoming more normal.
So, what can we expect in 2021?
The main changes will be in artificial intelligence (AI). This is when a computer programme has the ability to think and learn. It was first used in 1951 to play chess. Today, all sorts of everyday items use AI, from smart speakers to speed cameras.
Scientists predict that AI will become even more important. It could change how people work and go to school, fight climate change and cure diseases.
- Is technological advancement always a good thing?
- Write a story based in a parallel reality in which humans never invented the wheel.
- The word comes from two Greek words meaning “art” and “word”. It only started being used to describe objects and specific tools in the early 20th Century.
- Stone Age
- The Stone Age began about 2.6 million years ago, when researchers found the earliest evidence of humans using stone tools, and lasted until about 3,300BC.
- Industrial Revolution
- A time of rapid development of factories in the 18th and 19th Centuries. Many people moved from the countryside to find jobs in towns and cities where factories were built.
- In a way that becomes quicker and quicker as something that increases becomes larger.
- A 3-D image made using light beams from a laser. A hologram phone would have sensors on the bracelet that could work out what you were pressing on the “screen”.
- A structure external to the body that supports it. Exoskeletons are naturally found on insects, while versions built for humans resemble Tony Stark’s Iron Man suit.
- Model-T Ford
- This was the first affordable car – or automobile – that was available in the US from 1908.
- A form of transport in which pods travel quickly in a tube. It is solar powered and runs on tiny amounts of electricity.
- Scientist Alan Turing created a computer programme that could play a full game of chess. The term AI was created five years later in 1956.