In the 21st century, technologies that drastically affect our lives develop very quickly, and governments are interested in high-quality forecasts. Matthew Burrows, author of The Future: Declassified, worked for ten years on the Global Trends report – futuristic material for the White House and the US Department of Defense. A book about the most important trends that determine how the world will look like in 15 years has recently been published by the publishing house Mann, Ivanov and Ferber, and Theories and Practices publish several passages.
We admit honestly: a significant shortage is waiting for us if preventive measures are not taken. Extrapolation of current trends in per capita food and water consumption shows the estimated magnitude of the problem over the next couple of decades. Food demand will grow by more than 35% by 2030, but for most cereals, such as wheat or rice, the average growth rate of production has slowed from 2% per year in the 70s and 80s to 1% per year. since 1990. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, “the trends in resource prices since 2000 have changed dramatically and dramatically.” In the XX century. in real terms, prices have fallen, since 2000 they have more than doubled, although over the past couple of years they have decreased slightly. They are still close to historical marks. Humanity consumed more food
One large international study showed that the global annual demand for water will reach 6,900 billion m³ by 2030, 40% more than the currently available water reserves. Agriculture, which consumes about 3,100 billion m³ of water per year (about 70% of the total volume in the world today), will require 4,500 billion m³ by 2030, while productivity will not increase. About 40% of humanity lives in or in close proximity to the river basin of international importance. Of these basins, more than 200 share more than two countries, which increases dependence on changes in demand and water availability and vulnerability. Based on the current dynamics, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) assumes that by 2030, about half of humanity will inhabit areas with acute water shortages. Now people are cultivating the most fertile land. Given the limited availability of new irrigated land, in order to meet world food needs, it is extremely important to increase yields.
Africa is of particular concern. It is necessary to increase the efficiency of agriculture to avoid food shortages. In contrast to South Asia and South America, where per capita production growth was recorded, Africa recently returned to the 1970s. Many countries lack the conditions for agriculture, including the necessary infrastructure and transportation system for the delivery of seeds and fertilizers from ports deep into the continent; There are serious problems with management. Even insignificant improvements in the food supply chain can lead to a serious reduction of waste and reduce the burden of an ever-growing population.
Wheat is likely to continue to demonstrate high price volatility. A large share of production is in grain regions with water shortages and climate risks, such as China, India, Pakistan and Australia. In general, import-dependent poor countries such as Bangladesh, Egypt, Djibouti and Sudan will be most vulnerable to food price inflation. For them, the first line of defense in dealing with rising food prices will be an increase in subsidies for basic foodstuffs. This is not an easy decision, especially since many of them are planning to start a struggle against budget inflation.
China, India and Russia, too, are likely to face the problem of rising food prices, but they are better able to defend themselves. Russia and China are major grain producers. They have a healthier budget situation, they can afford to pay subsidies and, within the control, cope with food price spikes. Rich countries can also buy food from international markets.
Today we are experiencing a new turning point, and it is difficult to fully predict the scale of the changes awaiting us or their consequences. We are not just exploring creation, as it was in the days of Darwin. Today we can change the very nature of man. In other words, we no longer need to wait until God or natural selection does its job. On the other hand, as Ray Kurzweil noted, the author of the book “Singularity is really close”: “Understanding the information process underlying life, we begin to learn to reprogram our biology in order to be able to put an end to illnesses on a virtual level, to achieve incredible growth of human capabilities and noticeable extension of life expectancy. ”And it’s not just that the biological sciences have stepped to a new level.
For the first time, the feeling that something completely new was coming came to me when I started working on the Global Trends project and went to the conference to listen to a doctor’s presentation from the John Hopkins clinic. It was about implants and prosthetics, designed to help soldiers returning from military zones with amputations and paralyzed limbs. A microchip implanted in the brain is used to control the robotic arm. The implant receives signals from the patient’s brain, decodes them, and moves the robotic arm through the cable connection. In the future, scientists hope that this connection will become wireless. According to scientists from the Brain Institute of the University of Braun, the main goal is to restore the mobility of the patient’s own limbs.
Jeffrey Stibel, president of Braingate, a developer of brain-based computer interface technology, spoke about the progress in restoring lost vision: “You will have a brain implant connected to a device that looks like sunglasses. The glasses, in fact, do what we do when we look, only in this case the watchman himself is blind and the glasses transmit information through the computer chip directly to the brain, so that the person has the feeling that he really sees something. It works”. According to Stibel, there is still a lot of work to be done to improve the implants, but we are already on our way to a universe where “mind is above matter”.
Exoskeletons – another invention that expands our physical capabilities. As a rule, they consist of an external frame that is attached to the feet of a soldier. With the help of a system set in motion by motors or hydraulics, soldiers can carry heavy loads – up to 100 kg. Over time, when the technology of battery production will step forward, a limited amount of electricity will cease to be a deterrent. Like brain implants designed to expand mental abilities, exoskeletons extend physical capabilities. This will allow civilians and the military to work more efficiently and in environments that were previously inaccessible. Elderly people may benefit from mechanized exoskeletons that help in simple activities (walking, weight lifting). This would improve the health and quality of life of an aging population.
Successful developments in the field of prosthetics may be directly integrated into the human body. Brain computer interfaces can provide superhuman capabilities, increase strength and speed, and also perform functions previously inaccessible to humans. For example, signals can be sent from the brain that, bypassing the damaged fragments of the spinal cord, will activate the nerves in the inactive arms or legs. As the technology of limb replacement develops, people will have the opportunity to expand their physical abilities (just as with the help of plastic medicine they improve appearance today). Future retinal implants will allow us to see at night, and neurological improvements could provide us with better memory or speed of thought. Neuropharmaceuticals will allow people to focus on longer gaps and improve their ability to learn. This would be a step ahead of the Google Glass body computer with a transparent display that is mounted on the head and allows a person to have a permanent connection to the Internet. Augmented reality systems – for example, those that increase intelligence or improve the ability to see in the dark – can significantly expand your mental or physical abilities and speed, which will allow you to better cope with situations in real life.
Equally important is the trend of the increase in life expectancy that we observe throughout the world. In May 2013, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) published data demonstrating “an increase in life expectancy in the world from 64 years in 1990 to 70 years in 2011,” and this is a significant increase. A decrease was observed only in North Korea, South Africa, Lesotho, Zimbabwe and Libya.
The rapidly aging countries may face a slowdown in GDP growth and even stagnation. “Older” states will have a hard time reforming the pension and health systems — and arranging funding to support retirees in need — while not burdening younger generations who have to pay for retirement plans. Governments of countries with a relatively high average age – 45–50 years old – may be forced to significantly reduce costs and increase taxes. Some analysts believe that aging societies will seek to avoid risks and find themselves in a constrained position. Some European and rapidly aging East Asian states will decide that they cannot afford large-scale armed forces or show force in front of other countries. Then cuts in defense funds, observed in Europe over the past 10 years, will be only the tip of the iceberg. The rapid growth in the number of Asian and African minorities in low-birth-rate Western European countries runs the risk of undermining popular agreement and causing a rise in reactionary attitudes in politics. And we do not know what all this will lead to.
An aging society may not be the catastrophe it would have been if physical labor was still a vital need, as in many historical stages. Progress in health care, which was discussed a little higher, will certainly improve the quality of life of the elderly, which will allow them to remain able-bodied longer. And some polls show that, for example, in the US, the baby boomer generation still has a desire to work – albeit with a less strict schedule – even if they can financially afford to retire and maintain their standard of living.
At the beginning of 2014, it was reported that one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world, Japanese K., created the most accurate simulation of the human brain ever40 minutes to reproduce one second of human brain activity. Scientists suggest that the simulation of the brain in full will be possible when there will be even more powerful computers. Most likely, this will happen in the next 10 years. Understanding of the device of the human brain and the ability to reproduce it are widely used in medicine in the treatment of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and many other disorders of the brain. It will also provide significant impetus for creating artificial intelligence and using big data. The first researchers of artificial intelligence developed algorithms that, step by step, imitated the train of thought of people when they put together puzzles or make logical conclusions. True,
Research in the field of artificial intelligence has made some progress in terms of imitation of brain activity, but a successful simulation of the human brain, made recently by a Japanese computer, will help advance its understanding. Here it is also necessary to take a step forward in the development of the algorithms that a computer program uses to recreate the work of the brain. The search for more efficient algorithms for finding solutions to problems has become a top priority for research in the field of artificial intelligence. My colleague in the Atlantic Alliance, Dr. Banning Garrett, investigated the problem of the world running algorithms and the risks associated with it. He notes that progress in the field of algorithms has attracted much less public attention,Moore’s Law ). The speeds of the processors accelerated 1000 times, but over the same period, from 1988 to 2003, the work of the algorithms improved 43 thousand times.
Algorithms and the Internet of Things, which is increasingly referred to as the Internet of everything, is a union made in heaven that makes a significant contribution to science, health, efficient use of resources and smart cities. However, together big data and algorithms can lead to a massive attack on personal information. Moreover, there is a huge potential for abuse of forecasting algorithms. “Already today, insurance companies and commissions on parolethe release uses predictive algorithms to calculate risks; in the US, there are more and more places where police work is carried out on the basis of forecasting, after processing the data, streets, groups or individuals are selected, which become objects of closer attention, ”Garrett said. As Garrett explained, the main limiting factor for the analysis of algorithms is that the results are based on correlations, not causality. In their book on big data, Victor Mayer-Schönberg and Kenneth Kukier explain that correlations are good if they can be found “much faster and cheaper than causal dependence”. However, false correlations can lead to an erroneous assessment with all the consequences: for example,
Even in developing countries, robots can replace local labor in areas such as electronics, which will adversely affect local wages. Foxconn, a Chinese manufacturer of Apple products, is known to be planning to replace 80% of employees with robots. The company is worried about rising labor costs and the difficulty of finding reliable employees for little money. The percentage of employee retention began to decline as numerous opportunities began to appear elsewhere and the salary demands of Chinese workers increased.
The use of robots will not be limited to the workplace or life. Autonomous propulsion systems, including the iconic unmanned vehicle from Google, can fill our freeways in the next 10 years. The long-term consequence of the introduction of unmanned vehicles and other autonomous vehicles can be a radical change in the way vehicles are used, which will affect transport infrastructure and the use of urban areas. Unmanned vehicles would push for a reorganization of cities and changes in urban lifestyles. Robotic vehicles, especially if their ownership and use patterns change with their appearance, would have devastating consequences for the global economy, primarily the automotive industry.
Big threats are promised by breakthroughs in software, the emergence of programs that can do the work of highly skilled workers faster and more accurately. The incredible capabilities of search engines, such as Google Search or Microsoft Bing, based on powerful ranking algorithms, are significantly higher than human ones: search engines can sift billions of data points in search of an answer to a query. Other powerful algorithms replace attorneys with eDiscovery, scanning millions of legal documents with tremendous speed, incredible accuracy, and lower material costs than people. X-rays by computers are described much more accurately than by radiologists. The quality of the online translator Google Translate is constantly improving by analyzing huge amounts of information and advanced algorithms. In a word,
This brings us to the important question: will more jobs be created than destroyed? In fact, no one can say this with certainty, but fears are expressed even by those economists whose theories predict the emergence from the ashes of destroyed jobs of such new professions that we cannot imagine today. A recent OECD report has opened our eyes to some frightening facts: according to studies, new technologies were 80% responsible for the 4% decrease in the share of world GDP attributable to the working class over the past 20 years. But those few who had the qualifications and talent in areas where new technologies began to be used – as well as management and corporate owners – increased their wealth. I am optimistic here and I believe that new professional directions will be created.