Exhibit A: I was driving up Silicon Valley's Route 101 in northern California last month when I noticed a strange-looking SUV in front of me. On its roof was a tripod structure topped with a spinning cylinder. Out of curiosity, I sped up and pulled even with the driver's side. Inside I saw a man in the driver's seat, kicked back and relaxing with a People magazine. I realized this was one of Google's self-driving cars, which were being tested in the area.
Exhibit B: Home sick with the flu one day, I was watching The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and his guest was Missy Cummings, an associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT. She was talking about how drones are changing the future of battle. They're not only more effective, but also cheaper to build and fly. Organizations that use drones can also save a ton of money by not putting resources towards "an expensive pilot that costs millions of dollars to train." The professor noted that within a few years, the technology will likely move into the commercial space, where companies such as UPS and FedEx might use drones to ship packages across the United States.
Exhibit C: Attending the Consumer Electronics Show this year, you would have thought it was the Year of Smart: smart homes, smart cars, smart fridges, smart forks and spoons, smart watches, smart TVs, and even smart toilets. All of these devices have the ultimate goal of tracking, storing, analyzing, optimizing and educating us humans on how we can be better, healthier, fitter or smarter. It was all a bit overwhelming. If only everything that happens in Vegas really did stay there.
I look back at the time my parents taught me how to parallel park, and it's a very fond memory. Now all you need to do is push a button and your car will parallel park itself. Makes me wonder what our lives will become. Is the future really about pushing a lot of buttons to get things done?
For me, all of these recent experiences bring to mind Pixar's 2008 movie Wall-E, the computer-animated sci-fi film that critiques mankind's impact on the planet. When humans first appear in the movie, which is set in the distant future, everyone is sitting on a space cruise ship, strapped to cabana chairs and grossly overweight. As computers took over everything, people decided to kick back and relax.
Taken together, do you think all this technological advancement will make us smarter or dumber?