We have become used to predictions of how traditional industries will soon be overturned by artificial intelligence and how, in a few short years, most of the world’s workforce will have been made redundant. But if – a bit like your scribe – your reaction has been to shrug off such threats as futuristic science-fiction, then maybe it’s time to think again.
The technology takeover is happening already. For example, it’s hard to believe that the boots worn by American football players and the runners that Nike makes for athletes are being created by 3D printing. Time was when printing meant producing flat sheets of written or typed material in document format. But 3D printing is a lot different. Also, and perhaps more accurately, referred to as additive manufacturing, it’s a process whereby a three-dimensional object is created by printing off layer after layer after layer of material which build up as a final product.
No more factories, no more machinists, no more manufacturing in the old sense; just a batch of 3D printers that will turn out footwear as flawless and well finished as the hand-crafted type. And it doesn’t stop there.
Researchers are now making artificial kidneys and other vital organs using 3D technology – offering a less-expensive and less-risky alternative to conventional organ-transplant procedures. They are creating jewellery, aeroplane parts and even foods like pasta, pizza and chocolate using the same technology. It’s not that it is ‘going’ to happen: it’s happening already.
Small wonder that Dieter Zetsche, the chairman of Daimler AG and head of Mercedes-Benz Cars, recently lauded the automotive projects of software innovators like Google and Apple. These companies could wind up being the Daimler’s real competitors, rather than traditional auto manufacturers, such as Nissan, Volvo and BMW. The motor industry is due to be turned on its head.
It has been reported that within ten years, driverless cars will be the norm. An American won’t need to own a car anymore, as long as he has a smartphone. He will simply call up a driverless car on his phone, it will show up at the requested location and drive him to his destination. He won’t need to park it, will only pay for the distance travelled, and will never need a driving licence or car insurance. Accident rates will be slashed, road deaths will be cut, and traditional insurance companies, just like traditional motor companies, will go out of business.
And think about healthcare. A device called Watson, developed by IBM, will be able to help oncologists diagnose cancers four times more accurately than its human counterparts. The new ‘Tricorder X’ is a medical device that works with your phone, takes your retina scan and blood samples, and asks you to breathe into it. It then analyses 54 biomarkers that will identify any disease. Goodbye, A&E waiting times.
By 2030, the average life span will be over 100, if you want to live that long. And if you do, but are in danger of forgetting to take your daily medicine, there’s an app for that too. A small implant, no bigger than a grain of sand, is placed in the older person’s medication. If you forget to take it, the implant will activate a phone app which in turn alerts your doctor, who will soon have you back on track.