Future of technology


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Photo courtesy Dick Swanson/U.S. National Archives

Essay/
Future of technology
The golden quarter

Some of our greatest cultural and technological achievements took place between 1945 and 1971. Why has progress stalled?

Michael Hanlon

Contemplating the deep future, in light of the past: philosopher Nick Bostrom at the Oxford Museum of Natural History. Photo by Andy Sansom/Aeon Magazine

Essay/
Computing and artificial intelligence
Omens

When we peer into the fog of the deep future what do we see – human extinction or a future among the stars?

Ross Andersen

A US soldier takes a break during a night mission in the Pesh valley of Kunar Province, Afghanistan, 12 August 2009. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

Essay/
Future of technology
The end of sleep?

New technologies are emerging that could radically reduce our need to sleep - if we can bear to use them

Jessa Gamble

Workers at the Blue Plains Waste Water Treatment Plant, Washington DC. Robert Madden/National Geographic Creative

Essay/
Future of technology
Hail the maintainers

Capitalism excels at innovation but is failing at maintenance, and for most lives it is maintenance that matters more

Andrew Russell & Lee Vinsel

Illustration by Matt Murphy

Essay/
Stories and literature
Future reading

Digital books stagnate in closed, dull systems, while printed books are shareable, lovely and enduring. What comes next?

Craig Mod

Illustration by Matt Murphy via Handsome Frank

Essay/
Computing and artificial intelligence
Should we be afraid of AI?

Machines seem to be getting smarter and smarter and much better at human jobs, yet true AI is utterly implausible. Why?

Luciano Floridi

Demonstration being carried out of the E-Cat (Energy Catalyzer) cold fusion system, designed by Italian inventor Andrea Rossi. Photo by Massimo Brega/SPL

Essay/
Philosophy of science
The cold fusion horizon

Is cold fusion truly impossible, or is it just that no respectable scientist can risk their reputation working on it?

Huw Price

Charcoal production in Brazil. Photo by Franz Lanting/Getty

Essay/
Environmental history
Out of the ashes

It took a lot of fossil fuels to forge our industrial world. Now they’re almost gone. Could we do it again without them?

Lewis Dartnell

A pigeon involved in one of B F Skinner’s experiments. Photo by Bettmann/Corbis

Essay/
Information and communication
User behaviour

Websites and apps are designed for compulsion, even addiction. Should the net be regulated like drugs or casinos?

Michael Schulson

Illustration by Richard Wilkinson

Essay/
Consciousness and altered states
Hive consciousness

New research puts us on the cusp of brain-to-brain communication. Could the next step spell the end of individual minds?

Peter Watts

Goodbye to all that. The US Census Bureau used to have a card for every person in the country. Photo by Cetty

Essay/
Information and communication
In proof we trust

Blockchain technology will revolutionise far more than money: it will change your life. Here’s how it actually works

Dominic Frisby

Illustration by Richard Wilkinson

Essay/
Computing and artificial intelligence
Conscious exotica

From algorithms to aliens, could humans ever understand minds that are radically unlike our own?

Murray Shanahan

Lauren Bowker and her studio THE UNSEEN have come up with a revolutionary fabric that changes color with the wind. Photo courtesy The Unseen/Jonny Lee Photography

Essay/
Design and fashion
Losing the thread

Older than bronze and as new as nanowires, textiles are technology — and they have remade our world time and again

Virginia Postrel

Cards not accepted. A man counts his money at a floating vegetable market in Srinagar. Photo by Fredrik Naumann/Panos

Essay/
Economics
In praise of cash

Cash might be grungy, unfashionable and corruptible, but it is still a great public good, important for rich and poor alike

Brett Scott

At the Amazon fulfilment centre. Photo by Rex Features

Essay/
Technology and the self
Gamified life

From scoreboards to trackers, games have infiltrated work, serving as spies, overseers and agents of social control

Vincent Gabrielle

‘When Garry Kasparov lost his second match against the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue in 1997, people predicted that computers would eventually destroy chess.’ Photo by Jeffrey Sylvester

Essay/
Automation and robotics
Slaves to the algorithm

Computers could take some tough choices out of our hands, if we let them. Is there still a place for human judgment?

Steven Poole

ESA’s Optical Ground Station in the Canary Islands has set a new distance world record in ‘quantum teleportation’ by reproducing the characteristics of a light particle across 143 km of open air. Photo courtesy ESA

Essay/
Future of technology
Quantum gravity

The most exciting discovery in physics could come about thanks to telecoms satellites. Is a single theory of reality in sight?

Sidney Perkowitz

From The Song of Los (1795) by William Blake. Courtesy Library of Congress

Essay/
Computing and artificial intelligence
fAIth

The most avid believers in artificial intelligence are aggressively secular – yet their language is eerily religious. Why?

Beth Singler