You’re already connected to your phone 24/7, so is it that much of a stretch that tomorrow’s phone will be embedded in your body?
We’ve already got technology built into our watches, shirts and shoes. While having a phone implanted into your head, hand or arm may sound like science fiction, it’s really just the next logical step.
At least, that’s the thinking of influential industry leaders who were surveyed by the World Economic Forum, a group of the world’s most powerful leaders and tycoons who are meeting this week in Davos, Switzerland.
The survey offers a glimpse into their vision of the future and where society is headed. Many believe we are entering a time of momentous changes thanks to advancements in software. That includes artificial intelligence, Internet-connected devices, 3D printing and, yes, phones in our heads.
“Now comes the second Machine Age,” Erik Brynjolfsson, director of MIT’s Initiative on the Digital Economy at the Sloan School of Management, said in the report. “Computers and other digital advances are doing for mental power — the ability to use our brains to understand and shape our environments — what the steam engine and its descendants did for muscle power.”
What are some of the predictions that will shake up our world? Think Kate Beckinsale in the remake of the sci-fi thriller “Total Recall” video chatting with her boss using the phone embedded in her hand. Experts say embeddable “phones” or devices that are implanted in the body that use wireless technology could be commercially available by 2023.
While you may not necessarily want to take text messages or phone calls in your head, there will be plenty of opportunity for other applications, especially in the medical field. For years, doctors have implanted pacemakers to keep hearts beating and cochlear implants to help people hear.
That’s just the beginning. Soon devices that connect to phones will help monitor health functions like glucose levels in a diabetic patient, track activity levels for patients on heart monitors, or send alerts about detected diseases. While there are likely many worthy benefits to such technology, there’s also concern about privacy, government surveillance and simply getting to a place where humans change how they communicate with each other.
Companies like Audi and Google are already test driving such cars, and other companies are also ramping up efforts in this area. The idea is that driverless cars will be more efficient and safer than cars driven by humans because it removes the most unpredictable factor: us.
The impact the technology could have on providing reliable transportation for the elderly population and people with disabilities are also significant. Are there downsides? Taxi and truck drivers may be out of jobs. And there are cybersecurity risks from “hacked” cars. Last summer, two hackers demonstrated they could control a car’s dashboard function, steering and brakes all through the vehicle’s entertainment system while it was moving.
There are risks to be sure, but the stage has been set. Google says its driverless car will be available in 2020. And in 2012, Nevada became the first state to permit the use of autonomous vehicles.
The survey noted a total of 21 “tipping points” for technologies that may sound futuristic but are really just a few years away from mass adoption. They include Internet-connected reading glasses and the first transplant of a 3D printed liver.