Hot technology jobs: computers, telecommunications, biotechnology, artificial intelligence, robotics
The fourth wave of innovative technology jobs will involve computers, telecommunications, biotechnology, artificial intelligence, and robotics, according to Dr. Michio Kaku, American theoretical physicist, best-selling author, TV host, and Feb. 21 keynote speaker at the 2013 Robotics Industry Forum, held in Orlando, Feb. 20-22. He also praised engineers in general and physicists in particular, credited for inventing the transistor, laser, computer, Internet, World Wide Web, TV, radio, x-rays, radar, the microwave, PET scans, the space program, and GPS satellite, among other innovations.
Kaku, who is continuing work started by Einstein on a grand unified theory of the universe, has made the New York Times best seller list twice, with “Physics of the Future,” citing 300 top scientists, and “Physics of the Impossible,” a look at life and science 500-1000 years in the future. Even so, in his keynote presentation, “The Future of Technology,” Kaku cited Yogi Berra, credited with explaining that prediction is very hard to do, especially if it’s about the future.
Even so, hindsight is marvelous, showing that many economic downturns came after unsustainable economic speculation that followed waves of engineering innovation. Engineering innovation, he said, is the origin of all wealth.
Waves of economic benefits from engineering innovation
He called the first wave of economic innovation the rise of steam power in the 1800s, which was followed by the crash of 1850, resulting from more than 200 stocks on the London exchange related to steam power—an unsustainable number.
The second wave resulted from innovations from electricity, magnetism, and the internal combustion engine, leading to speculation surrounding utilities and automotive stocks on the NYSE, a bubble that burst in 1929, Kaku said.
The third wave came 80 years later, with high technologies, such as lasers, computers, satellites, telecommunications, and the Internet, which led to the real estate bubble and what Kaku called the unsustainable Mediterranean lifestyle of Europe, leading to the 2008 recession, still felt in Europe today.
The fourth wave, Kaku said, will be telecommunications, computers, biotechnologies, artificial technologies, and nanotechnologies, driven and supported by motion control, machine vision, and robotics.
In each wave, there are those who resist, Kaku observed, and those who have resisted often faced bankruptcy and/or unemployment. The automobile put many blacksmiths and stable hands out of work, but new jobs were created. Kaku challenged attendees, noting that recent negative coverage of robots is the latest in this nay-saying trend: “Who will define your industry? Will you define yourself or will you allow your competitors to do so?”
Innovation is the source of jobs
Kaku said, “Robotics and other automation replace dull and dangerous jobs, and we should celebrate that. Innovation is the source of jobs. Don’t let bad press by ‘60 Minutes’ define you,” he said, talking about the piece that suggested use of robots results in fewer jobs, when examples and research suggest otherwise.
The progression of Moore’s Law is tied to the wealth and power of nations, Kaku said: “If Hitler had the computer chip in voice-driven greeting card that we toss in the garbage, we might be speaking German now. Now, we have more computing power in our pocket cell phone than all of NASA did in 1969 to put men on the moon.”
Future technologies, innovations
His other comments, paraphrased, follow.
In 20 more years, computer chips will cost a penny and will be like electricity is now, everywhere and nowhere. No one even says the word “electricity” anymore. Similarly, the word “computer” will disappear. All computing results will be stored in the cloud someplace. Computing will be everywhere and nowhere. In the future, people will wear glasses that will recognize faces and show subtitles for Chinese speakers. If you forget, they will identify the person. You’ll know exactly who to suck up to at any party.
Children demand high-tech in toys. Glasses may not do. Images also could be transmitted onto the retina, transmitted onto a small screen near the eye, or, in a real fashion statement, projected via Internet contact lenses. These would be very useful for a college student taking a final, for a president wanting to do away with teleprompters, or for a vice president who needs to stay on message.
These have many implications for infusing tourism with history; for security, by allowing a pilot to see blind spots around an airplane or a soldier to identify friendly forces; and for artists and architects as well.
Augmented reality, first widely introduced in the “Terminator” movies, has huge benefits for those doing repairs, prospecting, and industrial maintenance, using pattern recognition and vision technologies.
These technologies are leading to increased digitalization of capitalization. In Japan, many people use cell phones to point, click, and buy, digitizing money. Science warned the music industry of impeding changes, but most traditional channels chose to ignore new technologies. Now Apple Computer controls the music industry instead of traditional players. Those looking to remain relevant should focus on things that machines cannot, such as creativity, complex analysis, and leadership that artificial intelligence cannot provide.
“You can ignore technologies as much as you want. You don’t have to embrace innovation. You can embrace unemployment and bankruptcy instead,” he said.
Future technologies will include cell phones with pull-out flexible screens, and wallpaper that serves as a surround-screen.
In the middle of the night, you can ask an expert system in the wallpaper if the chest pain is indigestion or a heart attack.
Living rooms will have 3D screens around the room. Expert systems now can answer simple questions with 99% accuracy, and this eventually will reduce the cost of medical care. Poor people don’t go to the doctor often until it is too late and very expensive. Similarly, lawyers, professors, and tutors all will be available through wallpaper, contact lenses, etc.
Single people without a date on Friday will ask who is available tonight, go out and see others subscribing to a date service and also seeking dates, with highlights around their faces on the eyeglass screens.
Cars of future will drive themselves; several states have licenses for robotic cars with GPS, radar, and vision systems to avoid 30,000 traffic deaths per year in the U.S. Soon, no one will know what an auto accident is.
Consider a woman shopping for a dress; she finds the perfect one but it’s the wrong size. Measurements are sent to the cloud, and the dress arrives the next day. It’s a long way from the Henry Ford view that customers could have whatever color they want, as long as it was black.
Perfect capitalism is when supply and demand curves meet. To ensure your company can compete in a market where customers have an infinite knowledge of products, fight back in four ways: target marketing, data mining, positioning, and branding. If you don’t do these things, your competitor will define you and drive you out of business. Advertising becomes even more important.
Education and medicine will change dramatically. The university hasn’t changed much in 2000 years. Roboticized medicine will get smaller. Smart pills with chips and a television inside, controlled by artificial intelligence and motorized with microelectronic mechanical systems (MEMS) will perform surgery from the inside the body. For those who fear a colonoscopy, this gives new meaning to “Intel Inside.”
Cancer research combined with nanotechnology will yield molecules that seek and destroy individual cancer cells. Artificial intelligence will find precancerous cells before they form into cancer. There will be no more tumors. Putting a DNA-scanning chip into toilets will find diseases before they become a problem, alerting, if preventive therapy is needed. A small lump in a breast already has 10 billion cancer cells—that’s too late. Pancreatic cancer is a death sentence in its last three years, but for the first 17 years there are no symptoms.
Will there be a tricorder from “Star Trek” where a handheld device will find any bodily ailment inside the body?
The MRI now is huge because a huge magnetic field is required. With advanced electronics, a briefcase is now the smallest sized MRI. Soon a cell phone-sized device will be the new MRI. Using technology available today, you could blow on your bathroom mirror and analyze 50% of all common cancers.
Engineering innovations: costs fall
Costs for such advances will continue to fall. The first human genome to be mapped cost $3 billion. Now mapping a human’s DNA costs $1000. Soon it will be $100. Why? Automation. The human genome is the owner’s manual for the human body. One dollar invested in the human genome project returns about $140.
You’ve all seen the hype about 3D printing. Soon we’ll be printing and growing human organs. Human body shops will be able to manufacture genetically compatible bone, cartilage, blood vessels, heart valves, bladders, and livers.
New frontiers in brain research will be able to tell the difference between truth and lies, and allow synthetic telepathy, even with total paralysis. Stephen Hawking can now type via thinking, translating brainwaves directly to e-mail and mechanized motion.
Children who miss school will not have to be one day dumber with application robotic learning surrogates, using vision and motion controlled robotics to bring the young person into the classroom via a robotic avatar.
How smart are humanoid robots today? I asked that of Honda Asimo creators (an amazingly nimble little robot that can even jump), but it still has, compared to humans, “collective intelligence of a retarded cockroach.” Fully replicated human capabilities are perhaps a century away. Yet Japan is working on robot nurses to help care for the next generation of elderly, since the low birthrate has created a demographic train wreck there.
Advancing technologies do create winners and losers, and dangerous and dreary jobs continue to become fewer as humans continue to do flexible, creative jobs, such as construction work, gardening, sanitation work, and fine motor-controlled art, imagination, music, and science.
Robotics will soon surpass the automotive industry of today in size. And innovation will continue to be the biggest creator of jobs in human history.
– Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering, Plant Engineering, and Consulting-Specifying Engineer, email@example.com.
Dr. Kaku’s website – http://mkaku.org
www.robotics.org – Robotic Industries Association
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