What s next?

There were smartphones, and nothing for a long, long time. We can wait a long time for the next big thing , the next accelerator.

Przemek Pająk writes about his boredom with technologies in the last episode of the Editor-in-Chief's Culture . It's been thirteen years since smartphones appeared, i.e. the equipment that changed our lives. Some to a lesser extent, others to a greater extent, but in a global perspective it is impossible not to notice their role.

Smartphones resulted in the development of mobile internet, and thus gave access to all the world's knowledge practically anywhere. They created hundreds of millions of jobs and caused a giant boom in many industries. They set a new direction in the development of information technology and all technology. The media, interpersonal relationships and ourselves have changed. Instant access to information makes it easier for us to remember not so much the information as the place where we found it.

The smartphone was definitely "the next big thing" in the development of not only technology, but even the whole of humanity. It is hard to question. 1.5 billion smart phones are sold worldwide each year, and as a result, everyone has them today - from children to their grandparents' generation, from employees of London corporations to street vendors in Delhi.

Thirteen long years have passed since the launch of the smartphone. What's next?

It was not without reason that I started with mentioning Przemek's text, because it sparked an extremely interesting discussion in our editorial Slack. We began to wonder what could be the next great invention of mankind.

Maciek Gajewski proves that a revolution is taking place before our eyes, and it is the cloud and the IoT market, i.e. non-invasive technology that surrounds us like air. Hey Alexa, dim the lights in the living room, turn on jazz on Spotify and order cat food - there are areas of the world where when you say these words, the word actually becomes flesh.

However, I have the impression that the development of invisible , non-invasive interfaces is just another branch of new technologies, another iteration of the method of communication between human and computer. Without much potential to be the next accelerator. Accelerator, i.e. a new driving force, a kind of higher gear in the development of civilization.

There have been many accelerators over the years.

The first one was probably the wheel. Undoubtedly, the accelerator was also the creation of alphabets, and then the invention of printing. The next ones appeared faster: railway, car, plane, radio, television, computer, telephone, internet, and finally a smartphone. Each such accelerator was adopted universally and globally, making a real difference to people's lives.

I see one thing in common with accelerators, and that is accelerating the flow of information. In my opinion, this is the absolute essence of the accelerator concept. In the past, the flow of information was associated with the journey of a human being, hence the global success of railways, aviation and finally automotive in its original assumptions. Later the information was released and it was possible to send it remotely without physical travel. It was possible first by radio and television, then by a computer and - especially - the Internet.

The smartphone seems to me to be a device that reaches the very ceiling of this concept. It gives access to all the common knowledge of the world at any time and anywhere. On the smartphone, we will not only check the scientific achievements in any field, but also the smartphone will inform us first that the Notre-Dame cathedral is burning. Before TV arrives at the scene, we will follow live reports of passersby gathered under one hashtag on Twitter and Instagram.

If access to information is immediate, universal, and virtually completely location-independent, what must the next accelerator, the next big thing ? How can the flow of information be further accelerated?

There is only one way to do this: by providing information ahead of real events.

This is where I would see the next big thing . We can already see the beginnings of such technology. Smart assistants notify us to take an umbrella from home, because it will rain in the afternoon. This is an impressive achievement in technical terms, but such a feature will not draw the crowds. It is too small, it works on too small a scale. Information from a much more distant future would be a real revolution.

Let's think about it. Today we choose studies de facto blindly, knowing little about ourselves, let alone the labor market. It is only after five years at the university that we find out if we made the right decision.

What if this information was obtained ... five years earlier?

It sounds like science fiction, but is it really impossible?

A dozen or so years ago, it was not possible to predict the exact time of travel by car from point A to point B. It was not known whether there would be traffic jams on the way or whether the route was undergoing renovation. Today, Google navigation predicts the time of our arrival to a specific point, even hundreds of kilometers away, to the minute.

There is no magic to it. The system is based on live data from other road users, as well as on the analysis of our previous behavior. Google knows perfectly well who of us has a heavy leg and who will stick to the 100 km / h regulation on a two-lane road, so each user gets a perfectly personalized travel time.

Today, Google's navigation prompts you to leave the main route and avoid the traffic jam. In 20 years, will Google tell your child to abandon medicine for the sake of law?

Hey Antek, I can see that you choose your field of study. Based on your preferences, experiences and behaviors, taking into account global trends, I calculated that you have little chance of becoming a specialist doctor. In the legal profession, you have 70 percent. greater chances of professional success.

This information sounds futuristic, but it is not unreal. Let us not think of this concept as romantic anticipation of the future. Instead, I see a cool probability calculation based on algorithms with access to the right amount of data.

Studies are just the beginning. Google of the future could calculate the probability of a successful relationship with a given person, suggest next steps on the career path, or suggest the optimal time for a move or even a child.

With the right data set, optimizing life seems extremely tempting.

Perhaps Przemek is right saying that there are no truly groundbreaking devices on the horizon. Perhaps, at the same time, Maciek is right, who sees the future in the development of cloud and IoT services. Perhaps the next big thing is starting right now, in big data analytics server rooms.

Since today we can know everything about everything from anywhere, perhaps tomorrow we will have predictions about situations that have not yet happened. Perhaps we will know the consequences of our decisions before we make them. Overall, it is a question of having a sufficiently rich set of data to analyze.

Someone will say: this is an interference with free will! I won't let artificial intelligence that deep into my life!

Really? Are you not doing it anymore with more and more devices and services? Don't you let corporations analyze their behavior today? Are you sure your online Invisibility Cloak has no holes through which you can be seen?

The process of sharing data is unnoticed and is progressing all the time. In the past, Google only read our e-mails, today it analyzes our photos and knows what car we drive and where we live. Google knows how much you weigh and whether you have heart problems. The smart watch gives him information about your pulse, so at the same time Google knows exactly when the last time you had sex. It is not difficult to deduce when you have a heart rate chart for the whole week.

Today there is a debate as to whether it is worth sacrificing privacy for the sake of convenience. Perhaps in 50 years this problem will go much further, and our children will ask themselves whether it is worth sacrificing the so-called "Free will" in favor of a well-tailored hint optimizing life choices. Who knows, maybe it will be a great ethical problem for future generations.

Because when it turned out that algorithms work better than the mix of our hormones and nerve impulses in the brain, wouldn't we agree to some limitations in free choice? It sounds ridiculous today, but 20 years ago it sounded just as ridiculous the idea of ​​giving corporations all their data in the name of free navigation and efficient e-mail.

Perhaps for the next big thing we will have to wait for a truly powerful technological breakthrough, something like a quantum computer - and in practice the Laplace Demon - straight from the Devs series. However, this will not happen quickly, if at all. In the meantime, we are left with algorithms, machine learning, big data and getting rid of the next - supposedly untouchable - holiness.

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