I am lucky enough to have recently been able to reduce my working hours at my day job, which means I can now spend more time doing what I love: writing! Not only does this mean more books on their way very soon (more on that later), but it means an opportunity to have a crack at starting a blog; so I thank you sincerely for taking the time to read my first ever post!
As well as this change in my own lifestyle, I feel as though our society is changing all around us at a faster pace than ever before. Some of these changes are worrying, terrifying even, but all are fascinating, particularly those driven by emerging new technologies; so I thought that a look towards the future might make an intriguing topic for this debut post.
I am currently finalising the edits on my upcoming science-fiction thriller, whose cover I hope to be able to reveal soon in this very blog, and while writing it over the past couple of years I have become completely fascinated by recent tech developments. Set in London in 2039, the book speculates on how recent trends like driverless cars, robotics, AI, augmented and virtual reality, and even human enhancement technology might cause our world to look very different in the next couple of decades.
You only have watch a short video of Boston Dynamics' latest robotic prototype, or see this footage of a man controlling a prosthetic arm with his mind, to know we're on the brink of some remarkable new advancements. The internet, itself a technological marvel, is bursting with these sorts of jaw-dropping demonstrations, and it seems there isn't a science-fiction trope in existence that some team of talented engineers or scientists isn't bringing to reality.
Yet, while many of these projects are undertaken for the good of our species, perhaps even the planet, I am always surprised by the reaction of many people when such endeavours come up in conversation. The fearful consensus seems to be rooted partly in a nebulous dread of Skynet and its iconic Terminators, as though any powerful AI or humanoid robot will be itching to blast us all to oblivion the second it emerges from the factory. This I think we can blame on the afore-mentioned cliches of modern sci-fi, although it is hard not to be unsettled by the capacity of learning machines to one day outstrip us in terms of raw brain power.
However, I think the real reason many people seem frightened instead of excited by these upcoming breakthroughs is a fear of obsolescence. This is something almost primal, linking perhaps to our fear of old age and death... the fear of being rendered redundant by a world full of gizmos that only younger generations seem able to decipher, or even by the gizmos themselves. Driverless cars are perhaps the most immediate example of this, with the machines set to destroy hundreds of thousands of jobs across the globe as they become commonplace in the next decade. When presented with information about such impending innovations, I have heard many people express a sentiment along the lines of 'I wish it wasn't happening'.
Yet surely our entire history has been one of leveraging technology to improve our lives? Advances in medicine allow us to live longer than ever before. The machines we have built have made every corner of the world accessible in a matter of hours. Compared with our ancestors, we are blessed with huge amounts of spare time to pursue hobbies, or enjoy spending time with our families, or perhaps create works of art, that might otherwise be filled with the routine chores of daily survival if we didn't have refrigerators, running water, sewer systems and supermarkets.
Nanotechnology will one day yield robots that can destroy cancer cells inside our bodies. Human enhancement technology will continue to transform the lives of amputees. Space travel will open new horizons for us to explore, eradicating the risk to our species should catastrophe befall our home planet. All of these things are being actively developed, right now, and will soon be part of our everyday lives.
But perhaps debating the benefits of all this new technology is missing the point. Change is coming, whether we like it or not. The question is whether the end result will be a better world, one where our creations enhance the experience of being human... or one where they diminish it. Only one thing is certain: by the time we reach 2039, the world will not look anything at all like the crazy one I predict in my new novel.
It will look a whole lot crazier.
Until next time: hasta la vista, everyone!