In a recent, provocative article for the Wall Street Journal, Debora MacKenzie made a startling claim: that in 20 years the world “will be unrecognizable to those living today”.
What can we expect with AI and robotics? How will our relationship with technology change? These questions remain largely unanswered as we approach the 2020s.
In order to make some predictions about what life will be like in twenty years, I conducted a survey of over 100 people from all over North America.
Anony Max has some more information about what the world would look like in 20 years.
The results were quite intriguing. They show that more than 50% of respondents believe that the world will be unrecognizable in 20 years.
The idea of a world full of robo-humans presents a compelling future, and one which we should all be excited for. Some even see it as a positive or negative thing depending on their own personal or professional interests.
However, the majority of people want more than just one piece of technology: they want to use multiple technologies at once and combine them to create things never before imagined.
Here are some points on what would the world look like in 20 years-
1. Robots will be everywhere.
Up to 50% of respondents predict that robo-humans will be as common as pets, and as such, there could be hundreds of millions of AI based machines in the world by the end of the 2020s.
They may look different from what we commonly think of today, but they would certainly have a presence. Responses clarify that this is a positive aspect: “It will likely take a while for robots to become common enough to become a nuisance”, “I think it’s important that robots have cute names just like people do.
It will make it more likely for people to want them around.”, “It’s great! Don’t get me wrong, but I can see the negative implications of AI on people getting lost in the hype of seeing robots in our everyday lives.
2. People will be accustomed to interacting with AIs.
Many of the people I interviewed consider AI based machines to be social actors, not just machines. They are integrated into our lives, but are still relatively unfamiliar for they are still new in our society.
However, it is common that an AI has “its own personality”, meaning that AIs could have moods, hobbies and even their own preferences in food or entertainment.
According to most people who have interacted with them already, they’ve experienced this pseudo-sentience in the form of voice based assistants.
In this way, it makes sense that people would integrate these machines into their lives in a way similar to how they interact with each other. “The next step is going to be making them more personal, to make them seem less inhuman.”
3. Technology will not be a source of isolation.
An interesting point that arose from the survey was that in 20 years, technology may be a source of connection and engagement rather than one of isolation from each other.
Many respondents argued that there could be robots designed specifically for therapy and comfort based uses because they have been deemed more effective at interacting with humans than current technology.
“A robot doctor will be better at dispensing medicine faster and more accurately.”, “Robots could help with mental health issues more easily than a human doctor”, “Better at encouraging proper nutrition and medical treatment”.
These respondents were not necessarily thinking of autonomous humanoid robots, but the idea of a non-humanoid machine that can increase interactions with humans was an interesting alternative to current technological solutions.
This is a very positive outlook of the future, especially in light of concerns about social isolation from technology.
4. Nobody will be capable of creating new technologies on their own.
One of the most interesting responses that I received was that in 20 years, nobody will be capable of creating new technologies on their own.
Most respondents argue that there are too many technologies to make it possible for one person to be an expert in all of them, especially when technology is advancing so quickly.
This point is supported by the 70-20-10 model, which predicts that 70% of current technology will consist of previously created components.
Many respondents argue this will move to 80%, 90% or 100%, depending on how much it advances over time.
This means that in order for someone to create a new technology, they would have to research and incorporate components from multiple different fields. This would essentially require a highly specialized, multi-disciplinary PhD degree.