5 Technologies That Are About to Transform the World

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With the year we’ve all had so far, it’s pretty easy to be pessimistic about the future. Between our sometimes farcical presidential race, racial tensions, terrorism, the loss of several cultural icons, and the unfathomably depressing images coming out of the Middle East, no one would blame you if you sometimes worry that humanity’s best days are behind it.

But Chris Dixon, a partner at top VC firm Andreessen Horowitz, has a different perspective. The world today, he notes in a recent, cheering Medium post, is much improved from 200 years ago, when life expectancy was all of 35 and 95 percent of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty.

What caused this quantum leap forward in human flourishing? Technology, of course, And the fruits of human ingenuity still have a lot more to offer us, Dixon reassures the downcast. We’re on the edge of great advances that will produce similarly huge improvements in the quality of our lives. Here are a handful of the eleven imminent breakthroughs he lists, in case you’re in need of a dose of hope.

1. Clean energy

Did you know every month this year has been the hottest on record? That should scare us all. If we’re going to be saved from slowly roasting the planet — and ourselves — to death, it looks like technology is going to have to save the day. Dixon is optimistic.

“Due to steady technological and manufacturing advances, the price of solar cells has dropped 99.5% since 1977. Solar will soon be more cost efficient than fossil fuels. The cost of wind energy has also dropped to an all-time low, and in the last decade represented about a third of newly installed US energy capacity,” he notes.

2. Flying cars

If you’re still wondering when you’re going to finally get that flying car promised by untold numbers of sci-fi stories, Dixon has a cheerful answer for you: soon. (Your jetpack might be on its way too.)

He notes there is “a new wave of startups working on flying cars (including two funded by the co-founder of Google, Larry Page),” and explains that “flying cars use the same advanced technology used in drones but are large enough to carry people. Due to advances in materials, batteries, and software, flying cars will be significantly more affordable and convenient than today’s planes and helicopters.”

3. Artificial intelligence

“The broad promise of AI is to liberate people from repetitive mental tasks the same way the industrial revolution liberated people from repetitive physical tasks,” writes Dixon.

Isn’t that a nicer sounding way of saying that robots are going to steal all of our jobs? Nope, he continues, reassuring anxious technophobes (and some quite prominent economists who have started taking these concerns seriously). “History has shown that while new technology does indeed eliminate jobs, it also creates new and better jobs to replace them,” he argues. We’ll soon see if he’s right.

4. Pocket supercomputers

Actually, you probably already own a version of this technology. “An iPhone 6 has about 2 billion transistors, roughly 625 times more transistors than a 1995 Intel Pentium computer. Today’s smartphones are what used to be considered supercomputers,” Dixon points out. The consequences of that leap are presumably only beginning to play out.

5. Thought-controlled prosthetic limbs

Tech is about to radically change how medical science operates, according to Dixon. And among the developments he discusses are some that seem nearly magical — like the ability for patients to control prosthetic limbs with only their minds using brain-to-machine interfaces. All hail, science!

Check out the complete post for the other technologies Dixon lists, as well as more details on many of the advances above. Or, if you’re looking for more techno-optimism, check out this recent roundup of technologies top VCs think will change the world in the next five years.

Are these tech advances enough to make you optimistic about humanity’s future?