Web Culture

4 Technologies That Could Change the World

James Bruce 30-10-2011

technologies that will change the worldRight now is such an exciting time to be alive, as science and technology hurtles humanity forward at such incredible rates. Who would’ve thought ten years ago that we’d have one touch access to all the information in the world, on our phones!? At this rate, what are we going to see in another ten years?


With any luck, it’ll be one or more of these four incredible technologies that will very likely change the world.


Autonomous Cars

Equipped with an array of radar, laser and optical scanners, autonomous – or self-driven – cars are already at an advanced stage of research where they are fully functional. Trials so far have been incredibly successful – on real, busy roads with other motorists.

technologies that will change the worldSurely, computer controlled cars are accident prone? Not at all it would seem. Google’s efforts at a self-driving car, which having racked up hundreds of thousands of miles on Californian roads, has caused only one accident to date. The accident occurred while being driven manually by a human!

Why is safer? With all those sensors, the computer is able to see everything simultaneously and assess far more information than the typical human can. It makes decisions faster than a human, doesn’t check it’s mobile phone, and doesn’t bring emotions to the table. It turns out autonomous cars are far more considerate drivers than humans.


Benefits to Humanity:

Given that human error and lapses of concentration are the main causes of traffic accidents, the benefits of autonomous vehicles absolutely cannot be underestimated. Not only will they save thousands of lives, but the time spent driving can be regained to pursue more fulfilling goals. That hour long drive every day to work just turned into 300 hours a year you could be learning a foreign language (Chinese, I suggest, given the way the world is going…) Check out the TED video to learn more:

The Mind Reader

This popped up in my Google+ stream a few weeks back, and as someone who used to keep a meticulous dream diary of 4 or more dreams a night for a few years running, I find it to be simply unbelievable.

Here it is. Researchers from Gallant Lab placed someone in a MRI machine for a few hours, and played back a video sequence which you can see on the left. They recorded the brain activity, and then reconstructed what the user was seeing (on the right) using only the brain scans, without reference to the original video. They literally read the persons mind.


How does it work? The images on the reconstructed scene are computationally merged using thousands of hours of YouTube footage. First, you show a small sample sequence to the subject, and record the brain activity. Once you’ve done that for thousands of clips, you have a library of visual responses. Compare the recorded activity with the library, chose a few closely matching clips and merge them, and this is what you get. The interesting thing is that the visual responses are the same for everyone, so as the vast library of samples increases, the accuracy of playback also increases. Presumably, the researchers will have to watch a few thousand hours of pornography at some point if they want a truly complete library that can show most people’s every waking thought!

Benefit to Humanity:

Tricky. Do we really want to go there? Personally, I’d love to be able to record my own dreams, but I doubt I’d want those getting into the wrong hands. The very real concept of government agencies reading your thoughts is quite, quite terrifying.

Robotic Learning Babies

technologies that will change the future


Couldn’t do this article without mentioning a robot, could I? iCub is the latest poster child of the robot world, and represents a new generation of combined Artifical Intelligence robotics that are able to learn from their surroundings. It’s teetering on the edge of uncanny valley with it’s child size appearance, and it learns just as a small child might – repeating facial gestures, remembering objects, and now even crawling and shooting a bow. What?! Did I just say it’s shoots a bow and arrow? Indeed – surely it’s only a matter of time before the robot revolution becomes painfully realistic.

Benefits to Humanity:

Better childcare classes for potential young couples perhaps? Doubtful. I suspect this is more a demonstration of learning algorithms than an attempt to actually create a usable (is that the right word?) robot child, but scale this up to adult size and suddenly you have a generic robot able to learn any task a human can do, rather than previous generation robots that were built for a specific task… then, we can start worrying about the eventual replacement of millions of human workers. Let’s not think about what happens when the firmware update introduces the radical iConsciousness.

technologies that will change the future


Augmented Limbs

Imagine strapping on a robotic exoskeleton and suddenly gaining super strength! Already done. Seriously, while these might not have filtered down to consumer level yet, strap-on exoskeletons are already in wide scale use in the military, so this isn’t so much of a future technology as right here, right now. Take a look:

While that’s only a tethered prototype, these HULC machines are in use today:

amazing new technology

Benefit to Humanity:

On a military level, one human able to do the job of two or more soldiers is pretty incredible. For consumers, I could eventually see these as just another power tool to keep in the garage, but in the more immediate future they’ll have a significant impact on those with a disability of the legs or arms. How long will it be before these things get even bigger though?

technologies that will change the world

I must admit, I’m a technology freak. Nothing excites me more than the future and all the exciting new technologies it holds for us. But I think it’s also important to look at all this with a bit of perspective and ask ourselves this critical question – can we play Quake on it?

What exciting new technologies (real ones, not “I wish we had these”) are you waiting for? Let us know in the comments!

Image Credit: ShutterStock 1

Whatsapp Pinterest

Enjoyed this article? Stay informed by joining our newsletter!

Enter your Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Edcesc10
    April 19, 2015 at 5:23 pm

    Good article. The mind reading one blew my mind. I wonder if it can read that. Would you not consider Quantum Computing on this list? The potential of such a technology is limitless in my opinion.

    I absolutely agree. The military has indeed been a big part of science, but only because of the budgets involved. If the money had been spent on science without wars, I think we would have the same advances anyway.
    About Autonomous Cars: What kind of mileage are we talking? What power system are they using?

  2. Th
    November 14, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    personally i think technology is great, and science will one day rid the world of cancer and other nasty diseases - here's hoping. what would i like to see, well a cheaper place to live in, more and more technology is helping in this arena. i would like 1 phone account for the whole family. so the kids use my unused phone credit etc. it just makes sense but doesn't happen due to the greed of those that run it. when we are run by commerce the world will always be a backwards place. 

    • James Bruce
      November 15, 2011 at 12:14 pm

      I think your phone example is already possible actually, just not on your network. I know there are such family plans around though. 

      I'd also have to argue against making everything cheaper. When something is cheap, it usually means the real cost has been imposed somewhere else. For instance, the cheaper coffee was made by workers with very low wages , so they are paying the additional cost with their time and health; or the cheaper computer is less easy to recycle, so the cost is paid by the environment at the time of disposal. 

  3. Pearse Ward
    November 14, 2011 at 10:11 am

    Good article. The mind reading one blew my mind. I wonder if it can read that. Would you not consider Quantum Computing on this list? The potential of such a technology is limitless in my opinion.

    • James Bruce
      November 15, 2011 at 11:16 am

      Absolutely - it's not meant to be an exhaustive list by far, and I may do a follow up at some point. Quantum Computing specifically though - this is difficult. The idea has been around for a long time, but there's been very little practical progress as far as I can tell. I may be wrong, and I would need to research more. I agree that *if* Quantum computum was a reality, it would really change the world. I'd have to add nuclear fusion before that though, where there does appear to be real progress being made. 

  4. Justin
    November 13, 2011 at 4:24 am

    Really MUO? This is a straight rip from the first episode of Brave New World with Stephen Hawking and there's no reference crediting the show. I typically like MUO and I know you pull a lot of information from other sources, but this article doesn't even list the show as a reference.

    • James Bruce
      November 13, 2011 at 12:14 pm

      We generally don't reference ideas for articles. We only reference websites for specific news stories. Yes, that show was my inspiration, but the content written within the article is entirely original research and opinions. 

  5. Anonymous
    November 12, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    On Autonomous Cars: What kind of mileage(MPG) are we talking? What power system are they using? Is this possible on mid-1900's cars? Other questions are generating.

    On Mind Reader: Letting ANY Government(especially ours) have such equipment in use is a clear course for disaster or a dictatorship, in my opinion.

    On Robotic Learning Babies: This might be some kind of answer to over-populating the Earth for those people that can't cope with replacing themselves and stopping reproduction at that point. This should NEVER be placed in the hands of the Military.

    On Augmented Limbs: I can see the benefits to humanity. I also see the unscrupulous use of this by criminal elements. I suggest the 1st commercial use being for those with disabilities, followed by around the home/shop. Heavier units should be reserved for law enforcement and, unfortunately, our military.

    • James Bruce
      November 13, 2011 at 12:16 pm

      I'm not sure if autonomous cars could be retrofitted - I imagine they can, but it would be costly for the mechanical adjustments needed. The mileage is not related to the autonomous driving system, and neither is the power. It could work on either gas or electric vehicles. 

      What on earth would the military do with robot babies!?

  6. Audrey
    November 12, 2011 at 7:54 am

    I'm pretty impressed with that new kids game, Mindflex.

  7. Sad
    November 12, 2011 at 6:41 am

    "Science and technology hurtles"?  Seriously?

    • James Bruce
      November 12, 2011 at 9:25 am

      hurtle [?h??t?l]vb1. to project or be projected very quickly, noisily, or violently

  8. Mohammadreza
    November 12, 2011 at 5:15 am

    I think, users of this high Tech,s must have two traits.
    1- wealth
    2- Knowledge
    Is it possible in all around the world?!!

  9. Kristan Kolano Smith
    November 11, 2011 at 9:57 am

    How much more do we really need to advance.  *Sigh* will we ever just say... "yep this is enough" and then actually turn our resources to making life nice for everyone alive today instead of catapulting our screwed up society into an unknown future?

    Why is progress such a big deal?  It kind of means that we will never reach a utopia, since we will always want to progress out of it and have to deal with all the troubles that brings.

    • James Bruce
      November 12, 2011 at 9:34 am

      Thanks for commenting Kristan. I both agree, and disagree with you. 

      First off, yes, our resources DO need to be turned towards increasing the global happiness. HOWEVER, the biggest expenditure of most societies is on WAR. Not technology. If we could stop fighting over whose petty god is more awesome, we might be able to use those funds more effectively. 

      Second, technology is tied to science. So if you're saying, let's stop innovating technology - you're also saying "let's stop doing science and understanding the world". That I can't agree with, sorry. Science has disproved religion and pushed us to a greater level of morality and understand of the world around us, and I appreciate that. I apperciate the fact that nowadays, I can choose logical reason over mythical nonsense, and put my faith in physical facts, not metaphysical lies. 

      Thirdly, the ONLY way we're going to stay alive with the number of people in the world today is if we use ever more increasingly complex science to produce more food, use resources more efficiently, recycle better, and  reduce waste . It's a damn shame that we have to do that, becuase there really *should* be enough here for all of us. Unfortunately, some people think that having more babies than is sufficient to replace themselves is a sensible course of action. The fact has always been than less people = less competition for resources = greater happiness. It's an obvious formula, and people just don't get that. 

  10. Jim Robertson
    October 31, 2011 at 1:41 am

    Virtual reality helmets with video games. It already exists. I once played Duke Nukem 3D with a VR helmet at a video game convention around ten years ago. Considering how video game quality and resolution has increased since then with the PS3 and the XBox-360, they should try to reintroduce it with the current video game consoles.

    • James Bruce
      October 31, 2011 at 12:47 pm

      I absolutely agree - it's not even a "future tech" really in the sense that it is possible right now, but no-one has put the pieces together yet. It's such a shame, that would be number one on my list of awesome. A simple helmet that track motion, 3d display is easy with different image to each eye... It's all there, so where on earth are these things!!!

      (the best I can find is this: http://www.3dvisor.com/ , but doesnt tie in with any existing systems as far as I can see)

  11. Jeff Fabish
    October 30, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    It's a shame, with such great strides as human beings, we still pine to use the technology to harm others.

    • James Bruce
      October 31, 2011 at 12:49 pm

      On the other hand, it's only thanks to the military that things like the internet even exist. 

      Just think how advanced civilization would be if we never had religion - there wouldn't be any wars, and science would have taken us around the universe and back again by now. 

      • Nachol
        November 12, 2011 at 6:30 am

        It seems to me that you are contradicting yourself, when you say that thanks to the military there are advancements, but then you say that if there were no wars, science would've "taken us around the universe and back again by now". How could there be any wars if there was no military to carry them out, and then how, without the help of it (the military) be advances, like the internet?
        Excuse my english, I hope you get my point
        Great article!

        • James Bruce
          November 12, 2011 at 10:32 am

          You're absolutely right. The military has indeed been a big part of science, but only because of the budgets involved. If the money had been spent on science without wars, I think we would have got the same advances anyway. But yes, that's is a little contradictory. 

          However, what I actually said was that "without religion, we would have been around the universe and back again by now". That was not in reference to money, but in reference to the incredible oppression of science of the course of human history at the hands of the church. Any great thinkers were persecuted for disagreeing, and can you imagine what even greater things would have come of it if they hadn't been killed or locked up for contracting the bible?

      • Aden070
        November 12, 2011 at 2:08 pm

        It's human greed and stupidity causing all kind of wars.

        • Jeff
          November 13, 2011 at 4:27 am

          Religion is often synonymous with both greed and stupidity, it's a cover all term. 

  12. Owen Lucas
    October 30, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    The Exo skeleton thing is fabulous - tie it in with augmented reality and you're on to a winner.