Do you think technology is improving our world? Or are you more of a Luddite and believe that we’d be better off without technological advancements?
Almost two-thirds of Americans believe tech innovation will result in a better future, while one-third think people’s lives will get worse, according to a recent survey from the Pew Research Center.
Regardless, the rapid pace at which Silicon Valley is driving change is a force to be reckoned with. Technology has brought about a seismic shift in everything from transportation and real estate to the broadcast industry and dating. To illustrate where we’re headed, the New York Times asked some of the tech world’s biggest luminaries about what we can expect, and how often we’ll see drone-filled skies or Google Glass users on the street.
The lineup: Marc Andreessen, a venture capitalist and inventor of the first widely-used internet browser Mosaic; Ev Williams, the founder and chief executive of Medium.com and co-founder of Twitter; Susan Wojcicki, head of YouTube; Sebastian Thrun, co-founder and chief executive of Udacity, an inventor of driverless cars and a founder of Google X; Reid Hoffman, a venture capitalist and co-founder of LinkedIn; Clara Shih, founder and chief executive of Hearsay Social; and Peter Thiel, an investor and co-founder of PayPal.
Here’s a glimpse at what they had to say:
It’s hard to imagine a time when cell phones were obsolete, but it took less than a decade to make them commonplace. Therefore, Andreessen thinks we can expect the same for everything from drones to remote education in the not-so-distant future. “Hundreds or thousands of drones flying to and fro for all kinds of reasons,” he said. “Getting a top-end college education without going to a physical campus. Cars driven by computers instead of humans.”
Williams agrees the subtext of any major tech advancement will be convenience. “Phones and computers will automatically do anything tedious that doesn’t require brainpower, like signing up for a web site or app. The march of technology is the incessant march of convenience,” he said.
Implantable chips are not just a Hollywood depiction of what our future holds. Both Shih and Thrun believe that implantable devices will be a mainstay in our lives. “Implantable chips that monitor the number of steps we take, hours we sleep, all of our vital signs, blood chemistry and beyond,” Shih said. “The chip data will be used to adjust our medications, offer suggestions to change our behavior and automatically send an ambulance — self-driving, of course.”
Tech innovation has reshaped the way we eat, how we travel and how we interact with one another. As for which industries the tech world plans to tackle, Williams points to higher education while Hoffman believes the banking industry is on the horizon. “Consumer banking. Tech will unbundle banking for loans, payments, asset management and so on,” Hoffman said. Shih adds that the auto industry — whether it’s driverless cars, auto parts or auto insurance — will be a major focus for Silicon Valley as well.
As for novelties, we laugh at the mention of a Sony Walkman, but it seems the iPod will soon follow suit. Hoffman thinks we’ll also say goodbye to the computer mouse and city cars (“The computer mouse will soon be replaced. Think touch, swipe, rich hand gestures.”), while Thrun simply points to keys.
Though not tech related, Thiel contends playing with the pigskin will be a pastime we leave behind. “Football. We realize it is very harmful for you, but we haven’t yet reached the tipping point where it becomes broadly unacceptable to condone,” he said.
Of course, predicting the future is a tricky game. We’ve managed to survive the Mayan doomsday prediction of December 21, 2012, and we’re certainly not jetting around in flying cars. But if the major advancements made over the last decade are any indication, we’re headed for an interesting ride.
Check out the full Times infograph here.