When it comes to the future, many people either get scared or excited. While your response depends on a lot of factors, either way most everybody would agree that technology is moving forward at a dizzying pace. It’s hard not to think about the future and get pumped up. The world has been speeding along at such a breakneck pace that it’s hard to see around the view that progress is inevitable.
But exactly where and in what areas can you expect to see the most progress? In terms of technology, what sectors have the most application? Here’s a few areas that are expected to grow with continued technological advances.
The manufacturing industry is already considered to be in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, also known as Industry 4.0. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is characterized by the merging of humans and artificial intelligence (AI) in manufacturing processes.
Manufacturing is already using technologies such as generative design and additive manufacturing to help improve the manufacturing process and make factories more efficient. The blend of human creativity and AI efficiency can open the door for cleaner, safer, and less wasteful manufacturing processes.
And here’s another thing to get excited about: manufacturing contributes 20% of global emissions produced, so hopefully improvements in this sector can lead to climate-friendly breakthroughs as well.
Housing—or, to be more accurate, the way housing is designed—is also experiencing a shift thanks to advancing technology. On a smaller scale, advances in the availability of smart appliances and the “internet of things” can help make residences more energy-efficient and less wasteful.
On a global scale, companies are spending money on researching and developing entire towns and communities that could be self-sufficient.
Companies such as Amazon and Alphabet are also looking into redesigning cities and trying to help solve the chronic housing shortage that several large host cities face, such as Seattle and San Francisco. While many of these developments are still in the drafting stages, it may help pave the way for future city, suburban, and urban life in America.
Technology has already advanced to self-driving cars, although these are far from ubiquitous. But even in cars that aren’t technically self-driving, many of the newer models offer automation features, such as for self-parking and lane-drifting prevention. Many people believe that with the introduction of more and more fully automated vehicles, driving will become safer, as the great majority of car accidents are due to human error.
But what about mass transportation? Even though COVID-19 has put a little bit of a damper on public transportation, ideas are still floating around out there for faster and more efficient transport. Lightning and monorails already provide cleaner, more efficient transport.
Healthcare has a lot of potential to grow using technology. Already, doctors and researchers are exploring the effectiveness of advances in telemedicine, virtual reality headsets, nanotechnology, and other AI-driven technologies.
Doctors are optimistic that as technology becomes more and more integrated into medicine, patients can expect to see more effective treatment (perhaps administered by robots) and more specialized, individualized care. Many fields within medicine, such as cardiology, pulmonology, and dermatology, are already showing promising results. Many dermatology services will only get better as new technologies are developed. Dermatologists are already talking about the possibility of using 3D printing to create new skin tissue.
The business world will likely continue to see a shift from in-office work to remote and work-from-anywhere scenarios. Many companies, such as the tech giants, have already announced that they have no plans to return all their employees to the office, and the shift will likely become a permanent change for many workers across the board.
As companies are decreasing their in-office workforce, many will soon see the need for a smaller workplace. A smaller worksite will mean lower overhead costs and a potential glut of large office properties on the real estate market.
The transition to working from the home may also lead to lower energy costs overall, with less people commuting to an office everyday.
Somewhat along the same lines, it’s widely known that artificial intelligence will play an increasing role in many of the jobs currently performed by people. Just how many jobs can be automated and outsourced to AI is debatable. Some estimates say that 50% of jobs in existence today are automatable.
The hope is that as AI takes over the human labor that requires less skill, humans themselves can be reskilled to perform the new jobs and occupations that will be created. But the creation of new roles within the workforce is highly speculative, because the very nature of the jobs is that they don’t exist yet.
Currency and Money
You’ve probably already been following the rise in popularity of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Although Bitcoin has been around for at least 10 years, it hasn’t been until recently that it’s started to change the way we think about currency and finance. Bitcoin was originally intended as a “border-less currency,” that is, a currency type that wasn’t tied to and backed up by a national government.
While the exact future of cryptocurrency remains uncertain, it does seem to be a sure thing that blockchain, the basis technology for enabling cryptocurrencies, isn’t going anywhere. Blockchain technology has already spread outside of the crypto world and may be applicable for areas such as sharing medical data and anti-money laundering tracking.
Technology is certainly going to aid a seismic shift in the energy world, and in many respects it already has. In the very near future, renewable energy sources (such as solar and wind) are expected to make up 30% of the world’s energy sector by 2024. The increased drive towards renewable energy sources has fueled a startling amount of new advances in the field.
As the world’s energy becomes more efficient, cleaner, and hopefully cheaper, access to clean energy will increase and may help cool down global warming.
The line between fact and fiction can sometimes be blurry when it comes to technological advancements. Many times it’s just fun to sit and dream of where the future may land you. One thing’s for certain, though—it’s never predictable.
Read this next: Looking Towards the Future: The Impact of the Internet of Things