Big Thinks take on life in 2027
Some extracts from the transcript…
Vivek Wadhwa Appointments at Duke and Stanford. Writes for Washington Post, LinkedIn Influencers, Huffington Post, ASEE Prism
Ray Kurzweil says that as any technology becomes information it starts advancing exponentially. It seems that everything is being digitized now and every technology I look at seems to be entering this exponential curve. And what happens is that when technology is advancing on an exponential curve they do amazing things, but when technologies converge, when exponential technologies converge that’s when you get industry disruptions.
Look at Ehang and what they’re doing in Dubai. That’s really a drone on steroids that’s being used to transport human beings.
Imagine being able to learn science by doing virtual experiments, anatomy by seeing your human body inside and out. Imagine learning mathematics by going into ancient Egypt and building pyramids. Imagine learning language by going into another country and talking to the natives in their local languages. Imagine learning Latin by going back in time and talking to people in Latin. I mean this is all becoming possible, and this is within five years we’ll have that.
Imagine that a Fruit of the Loom tag in your underwear, which is monitoring you 24/7, monitoring your activity levels, which is monitoring your EKGs—all these different symptoms that can be captured from the skin, imagine it being gathered 24/7, being uploaded to the cloud, and having an AI now analyzing the data and say, “Look you’re about to get sick, you need to get some exercise,” and then having all of these cameras and sensors which watch what we’re eating and what we’re doing and saying, “All right Vivek, you don’t need that extra piece of pie. Stop. Abort. Abort. Abort.”
there was a study published in Nature magazine about a year and a half ago in which they took the feces—if I can say this on Big Think, feces means shit. They took the feces of a fat mouse and gave it to a thin mouse, and the thin mouse gained weight. They took that feces from a thin mouse and gave it to a fat mouse, and the fat mouse lost weight.[…]So forget all these diets we’ve been obsessed with; could it simply be a matter of taking the feces of a thin person and giving it to a fat person and the fat person loses weight? […]there have been studies that show that Crohn’s disease, which is a debilitating disease that children get, they took the feces of a healthy child and gave it to an unhealthy child, and it appears that this unhealthy child was cured.You’re curing disease by transplanting bacteria?! It doesn’t make sense.
This is a crazy prediction, but I really believe this is going to happen: that within 10 or 15 years we will come to the conclusion that antibiotics were destroying our health.
when I read these studies everyday, that is the conclusion that I’m getting—that the entire Western medical system is about to be upended through the microbiome.
So move forward to the 2020s: we have all of these diagnostic data, we have all of this data about our genome and our microbiome, we have data on not thousands of people but hundreds of millions of people, and we have AI that analyzes all of this information. That app on your smart phone that’s monitoring you 24/7 may be the best doctor you’ve ever had. It’s your friend, it’s your advisor, it guides you on how to maintain optimal health, and it guides you on how you get healed if you do get sick.
I mean maybe there were some people who saw it coming, but the vast majority of experts in this field didn’t think that AI would progress at the rate it’s progressed just over the last few weeks.
When you walk into your supermarket, when you walk into any retail store you note that there are cameras over there. In the last two years or so the ability for computers to recognize faces exceeded the ability of human beings to recognize faces. So those cameras now have the ability to know who you are, and they have the ability now to interface with the registers where you buy things—and to keep track of what you bought.
Let me switch gears now and talk about saving the world.[…]Eighty-eight percent of the infectious disease in the developing world is caused by water borne viruses. […]Now, all it takes to have 100 percent clean water—to boil the oceans and have all the water we need—is energy. The trouble is that energy has been so expensive. Well guess what? That’s changing. We’re headed into an era of unlimited clean and almost free energy.
the cost of solar has dropped 99 percent since 1976, and what happens is that as the price drops, the installations double. As installations double, the price drops.
We’re in a vicious cycle over here of exponential technology advances.
At the pace we’re going we’re only about six doublings away from having the capability of generating 100 percent of the earth’s energy needs through solar. This sounds crazy. And the doublings are happening less than every two years from now. So what I’m saying is that by 2030 or so we could have unlimited clean energy on this planet from sunlight, and the cost will be a fraction of what it is today. Imagine 1/16 of what it is today, 1/30 of what it is today. In less than 15 years from now!
What happens when the work disappears? Even if you have all the energy you want, all the food you want, you have perfect health, you have all the things you need, you’re able to 3-D print your food and clothing and all that, if you have all of those things taken care of you have nothing to do. You feel depressed.
If we don’t now start educating and uplifting everyone we’re going to have Mad Max.
Can we make sure that everyone benefits from the technology so that we don’t have people being left out and we don’t have anger brewing?[…]do the rewards outweigh the risks? […]does the technology create autonomy or dependence? ]what I sincerely believe is that if we get these right that if we now benefits everyone and we do things in a sensible way we can create the amazing future of Star Trek, that we really can get to this world in which we’re now sharing prosperity, we’re seeking enlightenment and knowledge, we’re working to uplift humanity and we can do this 300 years ahead of schedule.
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