Inventing Future: What Next? Tech In Ten Years
The purpose is to trigger interest and to get your take on what you think technology will be 10 years from now | Arun Kumar
On Dec 08, 2014



Having completed 25 articles on on investment and finance, I have decided to diversify. As I have often repeated, diversifying one's portfolio helps maximize results. Instead of giving a perspective on finance, I have decided to give you a bird’s eye view on technological advances which are likely to influence our life in the near future. The purpose of the article is to trigger interest and to get your take on what you think technology will be 10 years from now. Please feel free to use the comments column to point out mistakes, have your say and pen down predictions.

3D Printing: I am sure many of you would have already heard about this. This is not futuristic technology. It is already working and within the next ten years you may have 3D printers at your kids birthday party belting out those cups and plates to serve the birthday cake you just printed off the food grade 3D printer!  Magic shows will be passe.  Wannabe entrepreneurs please start working on your 3D printing Café project reports. Maybe online 3D printing sites in future will flip the cart off online sales giants. 3D printing works by printing layers of molten plastic or powder to form the shape that you want. They are very expensive costing US$ 25,000 upwards. The finish is still crude and only limited products can be printed. Watch out, this will change the way we do things.

Universal Language Translators: Konichiwa, Hola, Namaste, Guten Tag, Bonjour, Ni hao all will sound the same. Major languages will be machine translated and accessed in real time as processing power of computers increase manifold.

The Energy revolution
:  I really see a revolution in energy generation and energy storage. Batteries are getting ever smaller and more powerful. Battery technology is at the cusp of a major breakthrough and it will change the way we store and use energy.  The breakthrough will bring a sea change in the automobile  and solar power generation sector. Solar Cells too will see a revolutionary breakthrough in the next 5 years. With the clamour for non polluting renewable energy gaining ground, solar energy generation is seeing a lot of research. At present the efficiency of a commercial solar cell is about 15-19 % [% represents conversion of solar energy to electricity]. In 5-6 years we will see the cost of solar power generation matching conventional power generation. Roof tops may become the most sought after real estate investment. The idea of wireless transfer of electricity has existed for more than 100 years. In the next ten years we will make significant progress and most of the common devices may not have wires.

Displays: Did you just spend a fortune on that big screen LED TV? If yes, please skip this paragraph. Display technology has moved at breakneck speed in the last 10 years. Large screen CRT TV formats gave way to LCD to LED to Touch screen LEDs to OLEDs to Curved OLEDs to flexible OLEDs. The next ten years will be even more dramatic and we might be able to see 'Iron Man' like screens hovering in thin air. Screens will either be holographic projections or on thin transparent glass panes with HD clarity. Laptops will just have a touch keypad and a projected screen or just a transparent glass screen.  Mobile phones will not exist as an instrument or will be almost dead. It will possibly merge with the watch, with a screenless touch display and voice activated apps.

Medicine: Nano technology, genomics and stem cell engineering will drive medicine to a new level. Carbon nanostructures and carbon-based nano composites in particular will help deliver medication directly to the affected area.  With advances in stem cell engineering regenerative medicine will see many advances. Cavities will be a thing of past as teeth will be re-grown inside your mouth. Genetically matched organs and bone synthesis and limb generation would have moved from lab scale to clinical testing and trial stage.
Robotics: We have been waiting for this ever since the movie Terminator released.  The advancement has not been as rapid as we thought. In the past two decades robotics has more or less been confined to devices operated with Human interface, be it be a drone operated by the military or a surgery performed by a doctor sitting on the other side of the Globe. Japan has showcased many Robots but all have ended up as show pieces.
I don’t foresee a takeover by robots in the next 10 years but I see a prototype which is as dexterous as humans and with plastic skin more or less matching human skin texture. This may be the one technology which is not going to live up to our expectations ten years hence. Industrial robots have been around for decades and will continue to creep into more and more roles in the western world. Indian industrial robotic industry will witness tremendous growth as we will see a rising wage scenario in the next 5-6 years.

Genetics: A pet Dodo anyone? Maybe a wooly mammoth in your neighborhood zoo? If you think I might be drifting too much into the realms of fiction or maybe I am a fan of Jurassic Park, you are mistaken. A lot of work is being done in the field of genetics. Within the next ten years we will have the tech to bring to life some of the recently extinct creatures though bioengineering and cloning. As computer power increases genome sequencing and DNA manipulation will become increasingly affordable and less time consuming.  This is still far away in the future but in 10 years we would have progressed enough to come to a conclusion that this can be done. The moral debate not withstanding this will really be making amends for our wanton killing over centuries.

Mining the moon & Mars Base:  I don't think anything much is going to happen on mining the moon, setting up base in Mars or Space tourism in the next 10 years. We may make some progress but space still remains a far away dream due to propulsion constraints, safety and cost. Indian rovers on moon and Mars are likely to happen.

Self driving cars, flying cars, etc: Maybe we see prototypes but the infrastructure and changes in rules and legal tangles will keep this a dream for a long time to come.  Flying cars will be an idea still floating around 10 years from now. The security concern is tremendous. Imagine what will happen if one of our autorikshaw drivers tries a hand at it. A Candy Crush in the sky. I expect the electric car to internal combustion motor ratio to be close to 50% in developed countries. Collusion avoidance technology will see a sea change and possibly be mandatory in the western world. An obstructing A pillar and D pillar will be a thing of the past as technology will eliminate blind spots by projecting images. Jaguar Land Rover has already demonstrated this transparent bonnet technology a few months back with a combination of cameras to project images of the ground under your hood on to the bottom of the windshield.

I have only covered a few advances that we will see in technology. It is difficult to believe that we started flying only about 110 years ago. The increasing computing power and access to scientific knowledge has given wings to our scientific imagination and accelerated the advance. Modern human beings have been on earth for about 150,000 years but the leap in technology really came in the last 150 odd years. We have been lucky to be born in this age of transformation.  Can we say what technological transformation will take place in the next 100 years? This is a fascinating question but without a clear answer.

Arun Kumar 
                                   [email protected]
                                Country Head for AGEM India Branch


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