If you’ve been reading my technology predictions for 2021 this week, you may have developed a sense that I’m being pretty optimistic about things, if not Utopian and idealistic. If so, well you ain’t seen nothing yet.
My optimism about technology providing a better future stems from two things: an understanding of it, and of history. The truth is, my real love in life is history – it was my favourite course in high school and I almost didn’t graduate from university because I took too many classes in it (we were supposed to take a wide variety of subjects, but nobody told me that, which is why I ultimately did graduate). A few years after university I even tried to go back and do a Master’s degree in history, but alas the University of Toronto rejected my application twice. I chalked it to snobbery against Ryerson grads. I’ve always loved history as a subject because the more you knew about it, the more you understood why the world is the way it is.
Anyhow, my first job out of school was as a staff writer at Computer Dealer News. Unlike many technology journalists, I didn’t get into the field because of a deep love of gadgets and computers, I just somehow fell into it. I’d always kind of got computers and instinctively knew how to use them, but I certainly wouldn’t have considered myself a hard-core nerd who was into the stuff. That came later, once I came to understand technology’s role in shaping history and its potential to change it. As such, I love history because it shows us how the present was shaped while technology gives us glimpses of the future. When you combine the two, I think you get a clearer picture of where it is we’re going. Most people who try to predict the future, I think, have a good understanding of the past.
That’s why I’m so optimistic about where technology is taking us – because it has significantly and continually improved the world since we first began to harness it. That’s a sentiment I’ve tried to capture empirically in the addition to Sex, Bombs and Burgers that I just recently finished writing, and it’ll be a central theme in my next book.
As such, today’s prediction centres on one of the serious problems all of our technology has wrought: global warming. Industrialization and the pollution it brought with it, first in the Western world and now in Asia, has created what some observers call an “existential problem” in that it could bring about the end of existence as we know it. If the Earth gets too hot, disaster will follow.
There continue to be doubts about whether global warming is a man-made problem or not, but regardless, most people agree that it makes sense to pollute less and conserve our resources as much as possible. Not only is it the right thing to do, it’s also the cheaper thing to do in many cases. This key recognition goes hand in hand with the fact that China and India, two of the current biggest polluters, are already transforming themselves from industrial nations to innovation nations. Doing so will inevitably mean cleaning things up.
That still leaves a good many nations, particularly in Africa, to industrialize. But, just as many developing countries skipped landline phones and went right to cellphones, so too will these countries hop over dirty methods of production and go straight for the green stuff. It will just make too much economic sense to do so.
Put all of that together and we’ll start making strides in reversing the damage we’ve done. From there, we can take further steps. Yesterday I wrote about biotech animals – how about new kinds of fish that are genetically engineered to cleanse water? Or birds that can clean the air as they fly? Sounds crazy doesn’t it? But hey, Bill Gates thinks he can come up with technology that will cool the oceans, thus preventing hurricanes. This stuff may not happen in the next 10 years, but we’ll definitely start exploring these possibilities.
I do believe that weather control technology is going to happen eventually. We’ve come up with some amazing medicines for the human body, so it’s only a matter of time before we do that for the larger world. And speaking as a Canadian, it can’t happen soon enough. Can you imagine if we could transform the entire planet into Hawaii?