Silicon Valley is well-known for forward thinking especially when it comes to predicting the future of technology. Stanford President John Hennessey asked Mark Zuckerberg to do just that during their on-stage discussion a few weeks ago and to the surprise of no one, Zuckerberg provided an insightful response.
Zuckerberg remarked that Internet-connected devices are getting smaller and more powerful and that it was a clear trend that computers will someday be in us. Zuckerberg wasn’t just thinking about the Internet of things but the next stage of computing, which will likely be the Internet of people. Is the next step in human evolution, Homo Techiens? Perhaps Cyborgs, the Borg, and the Terminator aren’t that far into the future.
Already, much of Silicon Valley is set on the Internet of Things. On the day that Zuckerberg spoke on campus, Google bought Nest for 3.2 billion dollars. Many venture capitalists and tech companies are spending billions of dollars betting that all of our devices will become Internet-enabled and smarter. The first device was the phone. Nest then made it the thermometer and smoke detector, and a fair number of people in Silicon Valley now sport wearable devices like fitbit and the fuelband.
Zuckerberg’s view of the future is not really a prognostication because the Internet of people is already happening. Google recently announced its smart contact lens, which would monitor glucose levels in tears. People are already talking about how this might work in conjunction with the Google Glass. Additionally, companies are now working on digestible sensors in the form of pills that can track one’s internal state and adherence to medication.
Zuckerberg also discussed the rapid advances in Artificial Intelligence (A.I.). He joked about how people continue to raise the bar with A.I. and how at one point in time, people thought A.I. would have been achieved if computers could beat man in chess. Then it was whether computers can defeat man in Jeopardy trivia. Already computers are faster and better at recognizing faces and voices.
Silicon Valley embraces disruption and new technology because that typically means more money, more jobs, and more power. However, is technology once again outpacing our ability to understand its implications? Beyond simply understanding the impact of social media networks like Facebook and Snapchat, do we have the right policies in place for wearable devices like Google Glass? The rapid technological advances and A.I. development leads many casual observers to believe that the future will soon bring Internet-connected devices in people. However, before that day arrives, we need to discuss whether Homo Techiens are really preferable to Homo Sapiens.
This post was originally published on thedishdaily.com before it was acquired by The Stanford Daily in summer 2014.