We don’t travel too far – only about 25 years into the future. To get there, we orbit a nearby neutron star for a while and then return to Earth. It’s the year 2047. Our cell phone still says it’s 2022. We can’t use it here, but there’s a new device for that, a so-called homophone – 9G and rollable! It is connected to everything, including social media, technology and science, and local and business events in the contemporary world.
The homophone informs us that you have 9,125, and I have 8,442 unread message updates that have already been carefully matched to our interests by the phone’s AI. Looking through it, one comes across ads, scolding politicians, posts about pets that need training and dishes that need to be tried. The online world hasn’t changed much. So we resist the urge to binge-watch Squid Game Season 19 and head out to see what’s new.
The homophone integrates a new ICUs chip that achieves 1.0 exa FLOPs in continuous operation—wondering what it can do with 100,000x the performance of your old iPhone? As we unroll it, a see-through screen surrounds us, and this augmented reality arguably answers the question. Every building, person, plant and sound is labeled. A click with a simple blink reveals details on everything from job profiles to maintenance status. Transparent info is everywhere, hopefully washing away the conspiracy theories we remember. The data is now excellent. Curious about what else has changed, we dare to hit the slopes.
Moving things are everywhere. Drones and air transporters dot the sky, surprisingly quiet. Wheeled bags follow their owners across the sidewalks. E-scooters, both with and without passengers, fit seamlessly into this mix. More prominent means of transport, from the one-person gondola to the large-capacity bus, use the lanes. Passers-by are just passengers, no longer drivers.
The new people who control this fleet have other responsibilities than driving, helping with boarding and disembarking and deciding where to go. There’s no traffic, no waiting, no honking, and no safety concerns. The online world has only evolved a bit. But the “offline” world is unrecognizable – in fact, it’s no longer offline – it’s an organized, efficient, secure symphony. Everything is bright, and everything is connected.
We walk into a hospital and find staff attending to patients and discussing treatments rather than running from room to room, documenting every handshake. They don’t seem to be in a hurry, and the reason is apparent: Technology has made its way into their teams here. A few years ago, employees still needed to operate the devices, interpret measured values and warning signals, and guarantee constant monitoring. Even in the intensive care unit, patients were only checked once an hour. Today machines do that – and more than that.
The staff has instruments that configure themselves and connect. So instead of once-an-hour visits, 24/7 monitoring by machines and built-in AI to improve alerts and recommend treatments. Gone are the biggest grievances of the past, such as recognizing a worsening patient condition, changing medication doses, overloading with double shifts, and simple-but-dangerous mistakes. The machines handle the standard processes and detect errors and deviations. Clinic staff are no longer occupied with caring for patients full-time and can instead focus on making more difficult medical decisions and providing personalized patient care.
The interventions have long been carried out in operating theaters under robot control. Robots of all kinds: flexible hoses, snake-like arms, octopus-like grippers. Instead of imitating them, human hands are adapted to get into every nook and cranny of the patient with almost no cuts. They are guided by ever more precise and intelligent recordings and scans. Remote teams help surgeons learn and collaborate on complex procedures. Doctors tell us that the 2020/2021 pandemic was the real push – staff shortages, extreme frustration, and a new acceptance of remote care led to a new acceptance of automated support. The technology reduces staffing strain and frustration, helps physicians collaborate, and makes better healthcare more accessible and affordable for all. The whole planet is better-taken care of.
However, we are still unsure about defense technology and “killer robots.” After all, Skynet created a real need for time travel; remember Terminator? Has technology brought us closer to war?VA look at our long list of news already partially answers this question. It seems that complete information lessens the temptation for age-old spy-versus-spy subversion. Long-dwelling drones used to monitor the oceans are reducing concerns about terrorism. Better information on the positioning of troops and equipment is helping to calm international nerves. Trust but verify works when verification is possible.
By increasing international trust, potential mistakes are less likely. Defense systems ensure positive target recognition, disclose clear intent, and enforce the chain of command. There are no Skynet-Esque robot commands here. Instead of removing humans from the chain of command, AI reduces errors and reins in aggression. Global, realistic simulations make the training much better. Defensive strength and a better flow of information defuse conflicts. Technology is sure to bring new threats. But all in all, the world is getting safer every year. And what about the environment? Climate change was a severe threat 25 years ago. Have we made any progress here?
The traffic is undoubtedly more environmentally friendly. If we look back at the road…there is little left with an exhaust; EVs (Electric Vehicles) are the norm. City flights are also electric; thanks to advanced propellers and thrusters, there are no noise emissions. Hyperloops, powered by 100 percent solar energy, cover large distances faster than airplanes. Because automated transportation can leave the city when not in use, the large parking lots are being converted into parks and better housing. Intelligent vehicles are safer and more efficient, reduce air pollution, and end urban parking chaos.
A visit to local power companies confirms an even more significant trend: A few years ago, the industry could not fully utilize unreliable wind and solar power. The enlightenment was: The main obstacles to green energy are storage and control of distribution, not pure production. As early as the 2020s, hydropower took over the role of grid balancing, stepping in when renewables were out and pulling back when sun and wind were in abundance. Eventually, this design will spread to other utility-scale generators and storage technologies.
With decentralized control, we make the dream of green energy practicable. Unfortunately, we are too late to prevent all the carbon impacts. But with continuous processes, we are on the right track to limit global warming. If we look further around, everything runs smarter overall. In the 2020s, the only actual use of AI was in the cloud. Just 25 years later, it’s not just the homophone that runs on processors that are 100,000 times better.
AI is now available for cars, traffic control, urban air mobility, trains, renewable energy, hospital equipment, surgical robots, naval systems, air defense, avionics, simulation and training. By stepping out of the cloud, AI can do more than serve ads. It makes the whole planet work better. How did it all turn out like this? We still have a bit of time left, so we’re asking as many system designers as possible: what’s changed? What was the most challenging step on the way here? Unanimous and unequivocal answers followed: Surprisingly, the main obstacle was not algorithms or processors. The key to success, the prerequisite for making all these intelligent systems workable, was recognizing the importance of the data.
That doesn’t sound new, even to our antique ears. Everyone knows that AI only works with data. That was even the mantra 25 years ago: collect data and learn! This is precisely how “digital twins (virtual images)” and consumer models work everywhere. But the notion that data is static things that you can “pick up” doesn’t apply in the real world. Alphabet and Meta (remember the earlier names?) have days, months, years, or decades to figure out what to display. Cars, airplanes, hospitals and energy systems have much less time to understand and react to the environment. These systems act within fractions of a second. This brings us to the deepest of all realizations:
Intelligence in the cloud needs data. Intelligence in the real world needs data flow
This simple truth is perhaps the most important lesson learned from our visit. Having the correct data in the right place at the right time enables real-time edge intelligence. To make the world a better place, you don’t need systems to create algorithms, devices, or functions. To improve the world, develop strategies to manage data flow. As early as the 2020s, a few thought-leadership companies were pioneering the notion of “data centricity” and introducing middleware that organizes the flow of information. It just caught on.
Our foray into the future has shown that these visionaries have successfully submitted their applications to many industries, making them better and better. Now we know: An intelligent world runs better—real-time intelligence counts. With that, it’s time to go back and spread this knowledge to the world! Here we go! We ask the homophone how to get around and discover a problem: time travel only works in one direction. Clever use of these linkages enables us (or will help us) to submit this report. After all, there is no scientific basis that says this is impossible. Visionaries will have to believe that.