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Emerging technologies that will change the way we live, for ever

A list of far-reaching technological innovations that are almost on our front porch has been published by the World Economic Forum’s Meta-Council on Emerging Technologies. This list of ten new fields of innovation provides very interesting reading, but it is much more than that. These technologies will influence our lives in ways we can not anticipate yet but the impact will be dramatic. I suspect, even more dramatic than personal computers, the internet and mobile communications.
The list accompanied by a brief overview of these technologies can be accessed at https://agenda.weforum.org/2015/03/top-10-emerging-technologies-of-2015-2/
The list includes 1. Fuel cell vehicles, 2. Next-generation robotics, 3. Recyclable thermoset plastics, 4. Precise genetic engineering techniques, 5. Additive manufacturing, 6. Emergent artificial intelligence, 7. Distributed manufacturing, 8. ‘Sense and avoid’ drones, 9. Neuromorphic technology, and 10. Digital genome [manipulation]. Full acknowledgement to the compilers is given at the end of the list.

It is striking that the list does not count flying cars as on our immediate horizon but perhaps this is because flying personal transport is still in the science fiction phase. For now it only lists fuel cell technology observing that vehicles propelled by fuel cells will be comparable in performance to internal combustion locomotion, with water being the only waste product.
I find this list fascinating. It is a must-read. Its credibility is confirmed by its impressive list of contributors. Not all the technologies are equally advanced at this stage, but all are at a sufficient level of development to merit their inclusion in the list. They are, so to speak, technologies on the cusp of entering mainstream production and application.
What the WEF Meta-Council on Emerging Technologies sees as our not-too-distant future, has a bearing on the way we live, the way we move about, the way we make things, the way we apply our own biological architecture to new information processing and storage, and finally, the quality of our lives be it health or leisure. For me, the only technology that stands apart from the rest, is number 8, Sense and Avoid Drones.
Currently, drones despite being unmanned, still has to be operated and monitored by a pilot. Granted, the drone is flying and pilot is stationery, but the meta-council thinks very soon we will have drones that are proficient in avoiding not only detection, but also all other obstacles it may encounter. In my mind this does not bode well for military applications. Whoever controls the (armed) drone controls the area, but the council places more emphasis on the fantastic opportunities offered by friendly, unarmed drones for surveillance, transport, and emergency relief.
Think of conditions in Namibia where road crashes are such a bane that we have a whole organisation monitoring, mentoring and coaching everybody who has to use a road, and this is literally everybody. Say for instance, we can monitor the long stretches running north, east, south and west from Windhoek by semi-autonomous drones, any accident will be detected in the shortest time, emergency medicines can be delivered to the site, and reliable information can be relayed to the nearest hospital to prepare for the arrival of the crash victims. We will save thousand of lives in a year, and that is looking at only one activity – driving.
Many of the listed technologies offer medical solutions from 3D printing of complete organs, to replacing certain items in our bodies, to re-engineering our genome in such a way that we avoid many diseases. This is exciting stuff. All it requires is another breakthrough or two so that a specific technology can be incorporated into mainstream industrial processes, leading to economies of scale, and subsequently to affordability.
Those technologies which will impact the way we manufacture things, also occupy several disciplines. It seems we are moving to a world where a very large part of the stuff we (think we) need to live, will be manufactured right there at the spot where we need it. This will reduce waste, make large expensive factories, distribution networks and value chains obsolete, and ultimately enable us to obtain only what is required at a very specific moment.
I advise every reader to check out this list. It is what will shape and determine our lives over the next decades.

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