In less than two years Apple vastly improved its chips with the M2. The new in-house offering has 50% more bandwidth and a 40% faster neural engine compared to the M1, released in 2020. Today, networks powered by 5G are 25 times faster than those with 4G LTE. Sophia the robot has gone from demo to international film star in a matter of years, and the metaverse is in its infancy.
Technological advances are speeding up. Surveys show that up to 50% of today’s tech growth can be attributed to virtual reality, augmented reality, robotics and artificial intelligence. With this exponential growth trajectory of tech, it undoubtedly feels like the future is now. But there’s one question on people’s minds: how much of this future is robotic and how much of it is human? To answer this, we need to consider how our relationship with technology began and how it has since developed.
Robots, in some shape or form, are not new. They’ve lived among us from as early as the Industrial Age. The first known industrial robot was put to work in 1961. Named Unimate, it was created by American inventor George Devol in the 1950s. Unimate worked on the General Motors assembly line in 1961. Its job was to transfer and weld objects, which was a dangerous endeavour for human workers. It was the first time an automaton made life safer – and more convenient – on a commercial level for workers in an industry. Unimate even appeared on The Tonight Show, and was inducted into the Robot Hall of Fame (laying the groundwork for Sofia the Robot early on). And that was just the beginning.
A recent article by Wevolver finds that, by volume, industrial robot growth has been staggering:
“In 1970 the total number of industrial robots in use in the US was 200. By 1980, that number had risen to 4,000, and by 2015, it was 1.6 million. There are estimated to be more than 3 million industrial robots in use today.”
This technological growth has its benefits, but also its drawbacks. Many experts agree that rumors of job losses due to tech have been greatly exaggerated. However, MIT finds that automation can and will still affect jobs and contribute towards job loss. But we don’t live in a world that remains fixed. This automation will naturally lead to structural change – specifically technological and industry change that can actually create new jobs in new sectors.
Just as Unimate helped save people and free up time for more creative thinking, technology today and the technology of tomorrow is truly beginning to unlock our human potential.
This brings us to a new dawn of how we live with tech. Welcome to the Imagination Age.
Writing for the Wall Street Journal blog In the Future, Avasant CEO Kevin S Parikh considers how the Digital Age was born. He states that we began using AI and automation to digest the immense amount of data presented by the Information Age. Think about how we used to interact with and consume emails, and how we now have tech that can filter only the ones it knows we’ll find important, as opposed to a promotion.
As a more recent example, consider the effects of the pandemic on countless industries. Our human circumstance and behaviour drove us to almost fully adapt to online learning in the pandemic. Now, this once unconsidered concept is commonplace, accessible and most importantly supported by technology. As teachers we are not replaced by it.
That’s what the Imagination Age is all about – having technology help us become more human rather than more robotic.
Parikh finds that we’re now using quantum analysis and analytics to make information even more meaningful to us so that we can “create with it and ultimately imagine with it”. He believes we’re no longer enslaved by tech, but freed by it.
The Imagination Age has already found roots in the metaverse. What is the metaverse? That’s a good question. According to Wired, the metaverse isn’t just one destination like you’d imagine Google to be. Broadly defined, it’s not one type of technology, but instead a new way for us to interact with technology. It can involve gaming or watching concerts through VR and AR. But most importantly, it’s where we can interact with one another.
So what comes next? Innovations in how we connect using technology – such as the metaverse – are going to vastly improve the way we collaborate. The time to meet up in person to envision how we’ll meet up in the metaverse is now. The Digital Age allowed us to connect across borders. The Imagination Age is going to allow us to collaborate and create like never before. We’re going to have more access than ever before to professionals from across the world. We’re going to be able to engage seamlessly and cooperate on projects in a way that is inherently human. We’re already seeing this in gaming. The only question is how long before we see it in music, the creative arts, design, marketing and more?