IBM, the technology giant that gave the world the personal computer, is known for its bold, technology-related predictions on the future, and it recently came up with a new list, detailing what it thinks the world will look like in just five years’ time.
The company predicts that there will be huge advances in artificial intelligence, ultra-powerful telescopes, smart sensors and smart medical devices. All of these advances put together will benefit many different fields, ranging from healthcare to the environment, as well as allowing humanity to understand both the Earth and the universe to a degree that simply wasn’t possible before.
You must keep in mind that these predictions are based on technology and research that’s happening in the present, and that there’s no way of knowing what other technologies might emerge, or developments be made, in the intervening time. All we can do is look back in five years and see if the predictions were right!
1. Our speech will give insight into our mental health
You can learn a lot about another person based on how they talk, such as whether they are bored, flustered, distracted, or miserable. While human beings have evolved naturally to pick up these cues, rapid advancements are being made in computer processing that means speech analysis is about to allow us a far deeper insight into the human condition than ever before.
IBM predicts that we’ll be able to use our writing and speech as indicators of our mental health and physical wellbeing by 2022. An example of this could be the ability to spot Parkinson’s disease much earlier than previously possible thank to a mobile app. This app would send relevant data to a computing cloud, where calculations could be done on the spot, allowing for treatment to be conducted as early as possible.
Although it sounds like a stretch of the imagination to link speech cues to symptoms of a debilitating disease, experimental systems along these lines are already emerging – a team from the University of Southern California has built a program that can detect variations from normal speech patterns and identify signs of depression.
2. Superhero-level vision will be possible
Our eyes are amazing pieces of biological equipment, however their power could soon be eclipsed by tiny cameras combined with formidably powerful processing power, allowing us to see more than ever before.
In addition to the visible spectrum, we’ll be able to see microwave, millimeter waves, and infrared images through devices that’ll be small enough to fit into our pockets or clip onto our sunglasses. This will instantly allow us to be able to see if food is safe to eat, or give self-driving cars the ability to navigate through difficult weather conditions much more easily.
The very first devices of this kind are already appearing, however they’re only in the experimental stage, and cost an exorbitant amount of money to buy at present. That doesn’t mean to say that the status quo won’t change by the year 2022.
3. We will be able to understand the Earth in infinite detail
Tools such as Google Earth, which harnesses the power of satellites orbiting the Earth, are already commonplace, however they represent the very beginning of what is possible with the technology.
The next step is going to be “macroscope” systems. You can think of these in the same terms of microscopes, only they will allow the combination of all the complex data on the Earth so that it can be analyzed from all kinds of new perspectives.
In addition to the planet’s natural processes, it will be possible to analyze all kinds of devices, ranging from lights to refrigerators, using macroscopes. This will allows us to predict everything from climate change events, to determining the best food distribution methods to communities around the globe.
Light bulbs will become remote-controlled, as will “smart” speakers, which will have the ability to record your shopping list as you speak, or look up Wikipedia entries and relay the information to you verbally. These are just two of the whole myriad of applications that could become possible in the home, across cities and the wider world. In a nutshell, this technology will allows us to sift through all the data available to us in a much more intelligent way than we could do before.
4. “Labs on a chip” are set to cause a medical revolution
With each passing year, computing technology continues to shrink and gets ever more powerful, and this is already having a significant impact on the medical industry. In the near future, it’s likely that you’ll actually have the ability to diagnose illnesses or diseases at home, catching them earlier than ever before.
Scientists are envisaging a “medical lab on a chip” – nanotechnology health devices that will trace invisible cues in our bodily fluids, letting us know immediately in the event that we need to see a doctor. It’ll be like having your very own biochemist tucked away in your pocket.
The possibility for early diagnosis that such devices will allow will make a massive difference to the success of treatments for cancer or Parkinson’s, among many others. In fact, scientists are simultaneously developing the ability to analyze bodily fluids, such as tears, blood, urine, and sweat.
By 2022, your sleep tracker or fitness band will be able to feed data into an artificial intelligence system, in turn allowing you to access detailed information on how to improve your health. It will also remotely alert your doctor to any signs of impending disease.
In its recent list, IBM also boldly predicted that a combination of smart hardware and artificial intelligence analysis, as featured in the other predictions in this list, could be used to detect environmental pollution in real-time.
In the same way that a smart tracker could spot the early signs of disease, smart sensors in the ground, or attached to drones, could sniff out pollutants in the air without having to transfer any samples back to a lab.
A practical application of this could be to contain methane leaks, which are invisible to the naked eye. Methane is a greenhouse gas, and is widely believed to be the world’s second-largest contributor to global warming after carbon dioxide.
Smart sensors designed to detect the presence of methane could be placed along pipelines, around storage facilities and near natural wells to be able to raise the alarm regarding a leak as soon as it happens. This idea has massive potential for the reduction of pollution and waste in the event that something goes wrong.
No-one has a crystal ball to gaze into in life, so the future can be hard to predict. Nevertheless, the kinds of technologies outlined above are already well into development by research teams around the globe, so it’s a question of “when” we get there, rather than “if”. All we can do is wait and see what’s possible by 2022, and hope that we can advance even further than these bold predictions outline.
Content Source: Science Alert
Cover image by Deposit Photos.