20 September 2019 by Spencer Symmons
It’s incredibly easy to get carried away if you let your mind wander into the possibilities of technological evolution. Hollywood’s obsession with sci-fi over the years has had many of us conjuring up images of what is possible – how super will supercomputers really be? How close will we get to Minority Report’s predicted style of advertising? And if we want to get dark, could AI kill its own creator?
Before we get that far, though, let’s take a step back and look at innovation and progression beyond technology. Earlier this year in their Why It’s Almost Impossible to… series, WIRED looked at how quickly a Rubik’s Cube can be solved. The same principle goes for the 100-metre sprint – the record currently stands at 9.53 seconds, and over time this will gradually reduce, but there will come a time where no further progress can be made. Humans can only move so fast; a Rubik’s Cube can only turn so efficiently; technology can only develop so much.
So, at what point do we draw a line in the sand and accept we can’t go any further?
Well, we don’t. If you rewound 100 years, people would never believe you could have the entire world’s music library in your pocket, and now it’s second nature. The short answer is that we simply don’t know what we can achieve, and therefore we don’t know how far we will go – but that doesn’t change the fact that there are, ultimately, limitations to what is possible.
A prime example of this is the ending of Moore’s law, which estimated the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit would double every two years. From that prediction being made in 1965 until very recently, this was the case. But you can only innovate so far and today’s technology no longer fits into that remit, as Moore’s law came to an end last year showing that innovation slows and, eventually, stops.
While we don’t know much of what is possible, we do know that we are on course to reach the technological singularity. At that stage, innovation will be taken out of our hands and technology will begin advancing itself, charting its own course to the top and taking control of its own process – scary stuff that fits right in with that Hollywood lark. But right now, and for the foreseeable future, we’re not at that stage and we need to ensure that we’re doing everything we can to advance technology for good, allowing innovations to positively shape people’s lives.
That can only be done by getting the right people in the right places. When you take such a broad outlook on things, the tech sector can be a difficult place to work – but it also means that it’s exciting. Professionals in the industry tasked with innovating need to be as flexible as they are creative to make the most of new possibilities as and when they come about.
Who knows what we’ll be able to achieve tomorrow? Maybe one day we’ll have smartphones in our hands, connected cities that run themselves and brain-machine interfaces. Ultimately, there is a dead end to be hit but we won’t know where it is until we hit it. At some point we’ll run into tech’s glass door but innovation won’t stop, it merely shifts the goalposts and changes our focus. Innovation is at the heart of humanity, so we’ll keep moving forward regardless – even when the robots take everything off our hands.
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