Imagine you’ve been walking along a winding road for a couple of hours. It’s been very slightly uphill the whole way, but the gradient hasn’t changed at all. The road ahead looks just like the one behind you. Then, two minutes later, you round a corner and the road suddenly turns in to a vertical wall, heading straight into the sky.
That’s the core concept of how exponential technologies develop. The thing about exponential is that things seem linear until you reach that sweet spot in the curve where it suddenly turns skyward.
Experts and futurists like Ray Kurzweil believe that computers (laptops and smartphones), robots, artificial intelligence systems, biotechnology, 3D printing, nanotechnology, sensor networks and neuroscience are all exponential technologies. They’re all taking off in a massively groundbreaking way right now – take a look at the video below to find out how.
Here are some of the changes that these exponential technologies could mean for your daily life in 2025.
Goodbye cows – hello laboratory meat
The time around 2025 will be both great and terrible for our bovine brothers and sisters, and it's all thanks to lab meat. Until recently it was impossible to produce meat in a laboratory – and then someone managed to make the most insane hamburger of all time.
In 2013, a Dutch team led by Mark Post produced lab meat – also known as artificial meat – for said hamburger. Price tag: €250,000, which is about $268,000 USD. Today, that same burger would cost €8 ($9 USD).
The fun doesn’t stop there. One of the great things about lab meat is that it doesn’t have to be ‘just meat’. Imagine a burger with more calcium than milk and more Vitamin C than an orange. We already have that.
While there’s still some way to go before lab meat can be produced on a scale and at a price that rivals the way we get our meat today, it looks likely that those issues will be solved by 2025. The only question is where that leaves all the cows – and chickens – we’d otherwise be busy driving to the abattoir.
3D print your own house – or leg
The things we can use them for is also increasing rapidly. Many types of construction is basically adding layer upon layer, which is pretty much what 3D printing is.
A recent example is the house in Russia built by oversized 3D printer in less than 24 hours.
Construction doesn’t stop at houses, though. There are examples of 3D printing prosthetics, and recently scientists showed how they could 3D print ‘living’ body parts.
By 2025, different types of 3D printers could be busy building everything from houses to new body parts for you.
Doctoring DNA in healthcare
Curing paralysis is becoming increasingly more likely thanks to some pioneering research funded by charities like Wings for Life. In some ways, though, that will be a relatively small breakthrough compared to some of the other achievements that we will see around 2025.
The big potential cures will be based on our ability to precisely edit genes via techniques like CRISPR. The constantly falling price of DNA sequencing and rise of machine learning is generating new levels of insight into the causes of things like hereditary diseases, cancer and heart disease.
Your computer will be as smart as you
While that’s impressive in its own right, it also has a symbolic value, as it in the neighbourhood of the processing power of your brain. Add developments in AI and intelligent assistants like Amazon Alexa, and your whole world might well be spinning.
By 2025, upwards of 100 billion devices will be connected to the internet, pro making for something commonly referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT). That’s roughly 12 per person on the planet, as there’ll be more than 8bn of us by then.
Instead of offering a scenario, I would think it suffice to say that together, the possibilities for new solutions, ways of sharing information and innovation these technologies will offer are so profound that the sky is really the limit – which is good, as that’s where the road of exponential technologies is heading.
PS: So everything will be great, right?
In short, no. Technology has a tendency to create both good and bad. Splitting the atom gave us amazing new possibilities, but also gave us atomic bombs. Going to the moon led to many great advances, but also led to the Minuteman missiles.
On the far end of the ‘are you scared yet?’ scale for technology in 2025, advances in medical and biological science might bring many new medicines, but also opens the door for engineering new diseases and other forms of bio-terror. Luckily, the historic record for technology is that they tend to being more good than bad. They also often provide means to deal with negative effects from earlier technologies. Renewable energy is – fingers crossed – one example of this.
It’s a question of being aware of both the yin and yang of a technology’s potential. It’s about how you as individuals and groups use them and what you can do with them – so in the end, your innovation helps the light far outweigh the dark.