December 30, 2019


Seven new technologies that can enhance your life

Knowing which bets to place when it comes to adopting emerging new technologies is impossible. But its still worth trying. Betting on the winners of the next generation, not as investment but in terms of incorporating them into your life, can give you a head start, future proof your life or work, and for this reason alone is well worth attempting.

Most of what has most recently been considered cutting-edge, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, is already finding its way into production systems. You have to look far ahead sometimes to anticipate the next wave coming. And the farther out you look, the more risky the bets become.

Here are seven next-horizon ideas that might prove to be crackpot — or a savvy play for business value emerging along the fringe. It all depends on your perspective. William Gibson used to say that the future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed yet. These ideas may be too insane for your team to try or they may be just the right thing for moving forward.

Local meshes

For the past few decades, the internet has been the answer to communications problems. Just hand the bits to the internet and they’ll get there. It’s a good solution that works most of the time but sometimes it can be fragile and, when cellular networks are involved, fairly expensive.

Some hackers have been moving off the grid by creating their own ad hoc networks using the radio electronics that are already in most laptops and phones. The bluetooth code will link up with other devices nearby and move data without asking “mother may I” to some central network.

Enthusiasts dream of creating elaborate local mesh networks built out of nodes that pass along packets of bits until they reach the right corner of the network. Ham radio hobbyists have been doing it for years.

Potential early adopters: Highly localized applications that group people near each other. Music festivals, conferences, and sporting events are just some of the obvious choices.

Potential for success in five years: High. There are several good projects and many open source experiments already running.

Green AI

The buzzwords “green” and “artificial intelligence” go well together, but AI algorithms require computational power and at some point computational power is proportional to electrical power. The ratio keeps getting better, but AIs can be expensive to run. And the electrical power produces tons of carbon dioxide.

There are two strategies for solving this. One is to buy power from renewable energy sources, a solution that works in some parts of the world with easy access to hydro-electric dams, solar farms or wind turbines.

The other approach is to just use less electricity, a strategy that can work if questions arise about the green power. (Are the windmills killing birds? Are the dams killing fish?) Instead of asking the algorithm …

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