This is what computers will be capable of by 2030

This is what computers will be capable of by 2030

This is what computers will be capable of by 2030

This is what computers will be capable of by 2030.

  • Why should the rest of the world be concerned about the future of computing?

Computers are now in almost everything we touch every day. We still think of computers as rectangular objects that sit on a desk or, these days, in our pockets; however, computers are in our cars, thermostats, and refrigerators. In fact, computers are increasingly not objects at all, but pervade fabric and virtually every other material. As a result, we must be concerned about the future of computing because it will affect our lives all day long.


  • Tell me about the technological breakthroughs that have already occurred and what you anticipate will occur in the coming years?

Some of the most exciting breakthroughs are related to the internet of things. Similarly to how we tend to think of computers as rectangular boxes, we tend to think of the internet as some kind of ether that floats around us. However, researchers have recently made enormous breakthroughs in creating a way for all objects to communicate; for example, your phone may communicate with your refrigerator, which may communicate with the light bulb. In fact, in the not-too-distant future, the light bulb will transform into a computer, projecting information rather than light.


Similarly, biological computing considers how the body can compute, and how we can consider genetic material to be computing. Consider biological computing to be a method of computing RNA or DNA, and biotechnology to be a type of computer. Adam Feinberg, one of my colleagues here at Carnegie Mellon, has been 3D-printing heart tissue. He’s been designing body parts on a computer using very fine-grained human-body models, and then using engineering techniques to create living organisms. That is a significant shift in what we consider digital infrastructure, and it is supporting a significant shift in the way we work, live, and define ourselves as humans.


And quantum computing allows us to envision a future in which great scientific breakthroughs will be made by computers that are no longer limited to simple binary 0s and 1s.


  • What is the future of computing? What are the forces causing these shifts?

Computing is changing in a variety of ways, including the incorporation of computing into the fabrics of our clothing and the incorporation of computing into our very bodies. We are now in the process of developing prosthetics that not only assist people in reaching for something, but also send a message back to the brain as they do so. The first prosthetics were able to take a message from the brain and control the world quite miraculously. But imagine how amazing it would be if that prosthetic also communicated to the brain that it had grasped something. If the movement of a piece of metal at the edge of our hands affects our very brains, it changes the way we think about what it means to be human.


  • How might advances in computing affect industry, governments, and society?

To begin with, there is a genuine disruption in all industry sectors. Everything from the information and entertainment sectors, where machine learning can imagine ads that understand your emotions when you look at them, to manufacturing, where robots on a production line can learn in real time based on what they perceive. Consider a factory robot arm that automatically remanufactures itself when the object it is putting into boxes changes shape. Every industry sector is changing, and even the lines between them are blurring, as 3D printing and machine learning merge, or manufacturing and information merge, or manufacturing and the body merge.


  • What must be done to ensure that their benefits are maximized while the risks associated with them are kept under control?

Consider the future of computing as a convergence of the biological, physical, and digital (and the post-digital quantum), with 3D-printing, biotechnology, robotics for prosthetics, the internet of things, autonomous vehicles, and other types of artificial intelligence as examples. We must ensure that these developments benefit all of society, not just the most affluent members of society who may desire these prosthetics, but everyone who requires them.

“How do we establish governance for equitable innovation?” One of the Council’s first questions will be How can we ensure that the advantages of these technologies are distributed equitably among all nations and individuals within each nation? Is top-down governance the best model for controlling the use of these technologies, or is bottom-up ethical education of those involved in their development and distribution a better way to ensure equitable use?

I believe that all technologists must keep in mind a multi-level, multi-part technology model that considers not only the technological but also the social, cultural, and legal aspects of development. All technologists must be trained in both the human and technological aspects of technology so that they can understand the applications to which their technology can be put and reflect on the applications to which they want it to be put.


  • How will computing look in 2030?

We don’t know because change is happening so quickly. We already know that quantum computing – the incorporation of physics into the field of computer science – will be extremely important; that computers will become extremely small, the size of an atom. That will make a huge difference; nano-computing, very small computers that you might swallow inside a pill and that will then learn about your illness and begin to cure it; this also brings together biological computing, where we can print parts of the body.

As a result, I believe we will see a greater integration of computing into all aspects of our lives. If our Council has its way, we’ll see a growing sense of responsibility on the part of technologists to ensure that those developments are for the better.


  • What technology or gadget do you hope to see by 2030?

In my own work, I’m committed to ensuring that technology connects people rather than divides them. There has been some concern that everyone staring at their phone all day is separating us from one another; that we are no longer forming bonds with other people. My own work aims to ensure that social bonds and interpersonal relationships, as well as the relationship between humans and technology, support a social infrastructure, so that we never lose sight of the values that make us human.

To my mind, what I want to see are gadgets that ensure the bond between people is not only maintained but strengthened, and that the understanding between nations and individuals is improved as a result of the technologies that we encounter.

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