What do you think will be the most significant technological advancement in the next 20 years?

Reflect on the question above and share your thoughts with the rest of the community.

some kind of holistic medicine

The most obvious advancement, or at least the “coolest” is probably artificial intelligence. A.I. is going to be useful in helping us to address some of the worlds more wicked problems, if we get it right that is. But what might not be immediately obvious about successfully creating authentic a.i., is that the computer science challenges are in many important ways, implicated with the hard problem of cognition. Solving the a.i. challenge will lead to a plethora of breakthroughs and countless other capabilities in medical science, robotics, engineering and energy production.


I’d have to agree it’s AI, but since that’s already been mentioned, cryptocurrencies and the blockchain technology underlying them will be as transformative for business and culture as the Web has been. For a peek into how the decentralized printing and distribution of digital money could change everything about how capital flows and people interact, check out this mind bending article by futurist Daniel Jeffries.


Gene editing / CRISPR

The big Four: AI, Robotics, Genetics, and Nanotechnology. All of which have to potential (like nuclear science) to be used for good or for evil.

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Thank you BryanO for calling attention to the potential for shadow-sides of any tech advances; that’s important for everyone to keep in mind.

Given climate change/global warming and the frequency and ferocity of natural disasters, I wonder if there will be tech advances aimed at weather patterns, perhaps targeted cloud dispersal; nothing on the horizon in this area that I know about, but with the accelerated pace of change, one never knows. I also wonder about tech developments related to space issues, diverting/destroying asteroids and such, for example.

I personally believe there will be more advances in relatively low-tech earthy/natural responses to ecological situations, like we’re seeing with oyster shell sea walls and kelp gardens to clean carbon from the oceans so shellfish can survive, and sea grasses being planted in salt marshes to help with coastal erosions.

Finally, my conscience won’t allow me to resist saying this: I think within the next 20 years, the poor black neighborhood in Alabama that I just heard about on the news will get a sewer system other than homemade flows into their yards; I think isolated people on the Navajo reservation will have more indoor plumbing and not have to transport water from 50 miles away. I think Puerto Rico will finally have a fully operable power grid, and that numerous villages in Africa will have at least a supply of water-purification tablets so they can have clean drinking water. Etc. Etc. These would all be technological advances for these communities.

And finally, I personally wish the creative energy going into driverless cars would be diverted to trying to create air-cars, like in the space movies! A personal drone-like pod for all we roadies.

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Agree with many of these, but will also throw in distributed solar energy. You have to believe in the thesis of solar energy technology advancing exponentially which is probably debatable. Heck, in the end, it may be that AI solves this technology so this becomes a secondary benefit.

Distributed solar energy is a climate game changer going forward and if you can drive the cost of energy to almost zero, you put a big dent in deficiency needs motivation.

Jeremy Rifkin’s “Zero Marginal Cost Society” is a good optimistic read on the topic.

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I incline toward bots.

I work in machine learning/AI and therefore have a more skeptical view of the technology. First, a lot of the recent AI improvements (deep learning) are really based on work from 1974 and the early '80s and are not new. Second, the practitioners of AI for the most part hug exteriors and don’t understand interiors (qualia, meaning, intentionality). This means that robots/AIs will most likely end up being objectified simulations (compact objects that carry out instructions but don’t have any interior). So, while AIs will lead to productivity gains, there’s a dark side which we’ll have to confront at some point.

I think that crypto-currencies are exciting but not from a mining or new currency perspective. Instead, crypto-currencies should allow new communities to issue their own tokens to members (while leveraging ethereum, bitcoin etc.). This could revolutionize economics via the relativization of money while asking each of us to try and belong to as many viable communities as possible (since that will increase our wealth).


I put this question out to anyone who has a thought about it. I’m reading Wilber’s “Boomeritis” for the first time, am about 100 pages into it, so perhaps my question will get answered as I read further, and perhaps I’ll discover his comments about AI are merely a plot device. But, I do find it fascinating what he’s talking about with AI evolving through stages just as humans do, although that evolution necessarily looking different than it does in people.

He talks about AI (and the book was published in 2002) being at the (Spiral Dynamics) beige stage, in which the codes programmed into it by humans are similar to “instincts.” He says these supercomputers will eventually “find codes of consciousness that they themselves will write.” And that they will eventually–within 2-3 decades–“come alive to their own existence…find their own dawning self-awareness” as they enter the purple wave of stage development. And then with further evolution, we have them at Red stage with Bot Wars!

Is this for real? Is AI anywhere close to self-consciousness? From Anand_Rangarajan’s comment about interiors not being understood by AI practitioners, I would suspect we’re not. But is the whole idea of AI evolving on its own through stages similar to humans a possible future reality?

I just keep thinking of Spielberg’s movie “AI” and his television series “Extant,” both very far off in the future, right?