Even for those of us who grew up in a time before the internet, it’s difficult to imagine living without it now.
The internet has changed nearly everything about how we live. It’s shaped how we consume media, research and study, plan and book vacations, work and play. The last 20 years have seen constant technological developments, but compared to the creation of the internet, they just don’t seem as impressive.
Is there any technological innovation that could be as big as the internet? It would have to be able to shift how we interact with the world to a similar degree. Let’s take the world of gambling as an example. Traditional land-based casinos were an established and recognisable industry for decades before the creation of online casinos. Click here to go to SkyCity’s online casino and take a look at an example of an online casino that has come as close as it is currently possible to mimicking the experience of being in a traditional casino. Online casinos can provide all the same games, the same excitement and the same aesthetics. To have a similar impact, a new technology would have to make it possible to somehow experience the sensory elements of the casino. Could that even be possible?
Biotechnology has been in development for years, but its effects on society have been subtle. Despite how important it is, it is difficult to say if further advances would ever be seen as being as big as the internet. Biotechnology is, to put it simply, using biological processes to develop technologies. When most of us hear the word biotechnology, we think of medicine and the advances being made in treating cancers and growing viable organs. It also allows us to create more efficient and accurate testing for diseases and treatments that are tailored to each patient. These innovations are massively important to the individual who is using them, but they do not impact most people’s daily lives.
Biotechnology also includes food technology. Lab-grown meat could reshape how we eat and free up millions of acres of pastureland to be used for other purposes. GMOs can be problematic, and bug-resistant crops have had unintended environmental consequences, but other advances could enable us to continue to feed the world’s growing population.
Humans have a complicated relationship with the concept of artificial intelligence. You can see this in the sci-fi we create — intelligent robots are either our allies and adorable companions or they’re killing machines who have turned on their creators. Whether the AI we create is more Rosey from the Jetsons or HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) might be largely out of our control. Many business researchers would have us believe that AI is merely suited for handling mundane tasks like transcribing meetings, solving customer service issues and tracking data. However recent studies have shown that AI can learn on its own. This is something we need to consider as we move forward. AI might be bigger than the internet, but can we be sure its impact will be positive?
If we’re going to think big, what could have a bigger impact on our lives than the ability to teleport? Self-driving cars and super high-speed trains are an obtainable change that would have a positive impact on our commutes and regional travel, and they are rapidly becoming a reality. Teleportation is still a sci-fi dream, but if scientists were able to figure out a way to make it a reality, it would change the world. Commutes would vanish and world travel would become more accessible. Besides making our lives easier, teleportation could also drastically reduce the use of fossil fuels and the amount of carbon dioxide being pumped into our atmosphere. Of course, like all technological advances, there are terrifying implications as well — the ability of armies or terrorists to suddenly appear out of nowhere springs to mind.
Most of the technological innovations discussed above would have an immense impact on people’s lives, but in far more specific contexts. The vast majority of people won’t need bionic limbs, but for those who do, it would be impossible to quantify the impact it would have. As long as society isn’t crushed by a robot uprising, it seems unlikely that we will see any technological innovations in the next decade that have the same power to change society as the internet has had.