When we look around at the landscape of humanity in its current form, it feels like the visualization that most of get, is the person who is staring at their phone. Entering a world where information is limitless, entertainment is on-demand, and the entire world is literally at our fingertips. Sometimes it’s hard to step back from our current technological reality and think about what could possibly come next. The problem we face at the moment is that the rate of evolution when it comes to smartphones has been fairly slow in the past few years. If you visited a wireless store to look at the latest phones in 2012, compared to five years later in present day, the rectangular screen would still be the prevalent feature. Sure they’re faster, bigger and have incremental upgrades, but the overall philosophy remains the same.
What Silicon Valley is trying to figure out is what comes next after phones. Surely the physical object that you interact with, while ignoring the world around you is not an ideal circumstance. Or is it? Putting aside incremental breakthroughs, what is really the next step here is a massive upending of the smart phone ecosystem. If the past has taught us anything, it’s that technology does not slow down, and the real indicator for massive change is the huge investments being made into long-term technological upheaval. Hundreds of billions of dollars is being poured into things like brain research, wearables, human/machine fusion and augmented reality. So we thought we would compile some of the most interesting potential replacements for the smartphone over the coming decades. Forget bendable phones or projections, we’re tapping into what we could be doing in 10-20 years or more.
Elon Musk and NeuraLink
At the Recode conference in 2016, a highly publicized Elon Musk interview (he needs no introduction) took place where Elon mentioned the idea of going into a person bloodstream and forming a sort of “Neural Lace”, a direct connection between man and machine. This effectually makes for what is traditionally known as a cyborg. The interesting aspect to the idea is that the need for sitting down and researching something may become obsolete, as would going to school to learn. You could do advanced mathematics and physics just by using the technology tools that your brain can access instantly. This tends to be the most common suggestion of our future with machines among most futurists.
This form of technology would most certainly dull our human senses, as the technology could stimulate your intelligence and attention internally instead of externally. Elon Musk then went on to announce the creation of a new company called Neuralink, which is likely to draw quite a bit of investment. It also leads to big questions, like could you hack someone else brain, or take advantage of someone directly by accessing their darkest secrets?
Ray Kurzweil and Nanotechnology
AI is all the rage, we get it. But the reality is that we may indeed be headed into a time when machines are not only smarter than us, but rule over us, making up for the common mistakes that human emotions can often bring. Ray Kurzweil, who has been predicting the Elon Musk venture for decades, has implied that the way to achieve singularity is to first understand our own brains in a way that is as complex as the neurons that inhabit it. Ray believes that by using nanotechnology, we could manipulate and build things by self-replicating down to the very basics of what objects and life are made of.
Getting back to what would replace smartphones? Well, if advancements in nanotechnology are made, then the world on a physical level becomes a point at which manipulation can happen. In which case we could manipulate our own brains to become more intelligent, create content for ourselves based on what we may like, and even become hyper-intelligent beyond what any machine could be. So if the brain currently has around 100 billion neurons firing, what happens when we can design the brain to have a Googolplex of neurons (10 with 100 zeros) firing? That really makes Google look wimpy in comparison. The compendium of human knowledge will grow at a pace never imagined.
Facebook and AR Glasses
Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook are betting that augmented reality glasses may be the next step to replace the smartphone. And if not physical glasses, then some sort of manipulative to your eyes so that you can be immersive into modifying the world around you, or even enter a new world. We interpret the world through our senses, and the smartphone really only interacts with you on a very basic level. We stare at a rectangle for all the interaction. But imagine everything in the room you are in is editable based on what you see. Feel like changing the wall colors? No problem. What to play virtual tennis in your living room and have it feel real? No problem.
There are other advantages too. If you’re thinking about buying a chair on Amazon, you could virtually display the chair where you think you might want to put it in real-time with the exact color/size. Based on our technological advancements, this seems like a reasonable next step after smart phones. It would behave in a way where you could still use your hands, but you would no longer be tethered to the rectangle in your pocket.
Theodore Berger and Kernel
Imagine a world where your basic thoughts, your most intimate dreaming, and most vivid memories are all controllable. The initial idea here is to create a chip that could record memories and then redeliver them to the brain. So we’re still on a direct-to-the-brain kick with this one but it has a twist. Instead of connecting the brain to the Internet-of-Things, we use our own experiences and connections to shape our neurons and augment human abilities. Did you ever have a dream where you wish you could go back and live in? Or wish you could escape your reality and live somewhere else? It’s kind of like the hit BBC show Black Mirror where they did an episode called “San Junipero”, which we highly recommend watching. Sit on the couch, and instead of manipulating the world around you, you enter an entirely new world where you could be younger, more attractive, maybe even more confident. It may eliminate the need for drugs and alcohol completely.
Similar to the show though, it may require time limits, as such a powerful piece of technology could seriously jeopardize the fleshly bodies we inhabit.
The Future of The Human Race
Where are hundreds of billions of dollars being invested? In the next stage of human evolution and attention. This level of humanity and machine interconnection is going to be complex and with it’s share of real problems. Similar to the problem of a generation glued to a screen and being less social in the real world for instance.
Think this is all a bunch of hype? Maybe. But 20 years ago, the internet was just arriving to the world via a dial up modem and Times New Roman font. With just the hyper-realistic advancements in video games alone, it’s not difficult to imagine a future where in 20 years, the devices we carry around will be looked at like the stone age. The “what is reality” revolution is likely going to be just a stepping stone to what the next technological obsession is going to be. Whatever it is, it will be light-weight, easy to use, and incredibly addicting. The future is amazing, and there is most certainly something that will fully replace the smart phone within the next 20 years.
Looking for a new gadget? How about a Drone? You know you want one!