The current boom is catalyzed by breakthroughs in an area known as machine learning. It involves “training” computers to perform tasks based on examples, rather than by relying on programming by a human. Going a step further, deep learning has made this approach much more powerful. Using artificial neural networks (ANN), a layered structure of algorithms that mimics a human brain, the machine learns and corrects its own mistakes.
The future that deep learning is crafting is one in which next-generation autonomous intelligent systems will complete tasks without human intervention. Machines will study the world around them, reason, and unearth problems the human brain could not fathom, take decisions and perform actions. In this world, which is not too far away, we will be freed from daily tasks.
As senior citizens, single parents and time-strapped worker-bees, we can look forward to a world where our personal robotic assistant will not only cook and clean for us, but help us dress, bathe, and feed. As the movie Her (2013) would have us believe, they can also be our emotional companions. There will no longer be lonely evenings. Machines will play competitively with us. A constant partner, they will keep an eye on our vitals. Wearables, including smart watches and other technology will provide 24/7 monitoring. Levels of toxicity will be detected in the minutest of concentrations; retina readings by professional super radiologist machines will detect cellular malfunctions when they are barely noticeable. IBM Watson foresees “cognitive assistants” to augment physician expertise and ultimately the ability to diagnose and treat diseases well before symptoms arise. Cancer will die a natural death.
My personal robot will have a natural vegetable and fruit garden to bring farm-to-table cuisine to my table. Oh yes, I will still have a table, albeit designed and custom 3-D printed to my size and requirements.
Like the red apple on the shelf that looks rosy and shining while quietly dying inside, our bodies too will appear ageless and go to their graves or funeral pyres wrinkle-free, with perfect eyesight and flossed and polished teeth.
The machine will guide us gently through life as we lose our minds with age. We will still send birthday and anniversary greetings to our family, if we have one. Fewer and fewer children will marry. The world of tomorrow will be one when our mates could be our machines. Intelligent dolls will realistically serve up sexual fantasies. On the plus side, this will hopefully reduce instances of rape.
Crime will reduce from fear of ease of detection. Our phone is mapping our face. It will be difficult to lie when the machine can rat on you. Cyber thievery, on the other hand, will cross all borders.
Road accidents will be few and far between as disciplined, steering-wheel-devoid, self-driving cars will navigate us through smooth traffic. A train of trucks will flow through highways led by one intelligent machine.
Instant translation will ease communication. Language will no longer be a barrier.
If the trends of the last twenty years continue in their trajectory, developments in communication and travel will make the world flatter. From days when transatlantic phone calls were prohibitive, to daily good morning whatsapp messages and video phone-calls, we have come a long way. We can walk around each other’s houses in i-beams. “Beam me up Scotty” is a reality. What next? Thanksgiving dinners in virtual living rooms?
Expanding urbanscapes will have very tall smart buildings that will talk to us. By mid-century, futurologist Dr. Ian Pearson believes, buildings will be miles tall and some may be so large that their capacity enables them to function as small cities in their own right. As the buildings rise through the clouds, augmented reality virtual screens will replace windows so people can choose any view they like. “A Spaceport is also likely at over six miles and even as much as 18.5 miles, using carbon-based materials,” said Dr. Pearson.
In the last twenty-five years, we have seen shorter and shorter travel times. Jet fuels will reduce them further. Advances in software will likely make pilots obsolete in 2045 and flying will become a hobby rather than a profession — the same way we ride horses for fun rather than transport today.
Twenty-five years from now, as we age and lose our mind, technology will ensure that the quality of our life will stay fabulous and our far-flung families will have the ability to still join us for dinner.
And did I say we will all speak the same language, man and machine.
Ritu Marwah is the features editor for India Currents and stays current.
Cover photo credit: A Creative Commons image by Steve Johnson.
This article was curated by Culture and Media Editor Geetika Pathania Jain.