Technology, the science of craft, has many effects on our world. From its positive advancement to its negative consequences, the development of technology is unavoidable. 2016 has been a challenging year for many and yet there has also been great advancement from the world of technology.
We take a look at this year’s timeline in the world of technology as the year comes to an end. Perhaps, it’s good to start with a positive outlook. In January 2016, the American Cancer Society reported a 23 per cent drop in the cancer death rate since 1991. And no, it’s not due to the fact that there are fewer smokers now but rather the fact that technology has helped the health industry in advancing towards treatment as well as early detection of diseases.
February brought forth news that UK scientists had been given the green light by its Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority to genetically modify human embryos. Scary right? Imagine what this technology, if successful, will bring to our world. Perhaps, a series of designer babies or a new generation born perfect? Having said that, many scientists also believe that this science is poised to cross an ethical line.
Another interesting development in science was a report that more positive technology ups were also reported where researchers have found a way to extend the life of mice, and Unity Biotechnology is working to bring this technology to humans.
2016 also saw more advancement in artificial intelligence (AI). Google reported that it could now determine the location of almost any picture with superhuman ability via a neural network technology. It also supplemented the Google Photo service with image captioning AI that can describe photos with 94 per cent accuracy. And, adding to its foray into AI, Google’s AlphaGo defeated the world champion at the complex board game of Go.
Virtual Reality (VR) became more of a reality. Over three million VR units were sold this year. It seems that everyone wants to join the VR world, as if our world isn’t exciting enough.
In May, Foxconn replaced 60,000 employees with robots. Though this may be more towards a corporation’s interest, we can’t help but accept that technology does help simplify process and control quality as well as generate more profits for industrial giants. We can still be positive as there will always be certain jobs that cannot be done by robots.
July came and the world literally went nuts over the first massive augmented-reality game – Pokemon Go. It got the world so excited over the game, and even Malaysians joined in the craze to hunt for Pokemons everywhere. Now, this one had a health benefit because many of us had never ever walked so much in our life before the Pokemon Go mania!
The Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) was a technological breakthrough. It offers an easy and exact way to alter genes to create traits such as disease resistance.
China is said to be holding the first clinical trials of CRISPR-based anti-cancer therapies already.
When talking about self-driving cars, Singapore announced in August that the world’s self-driving taxis were picking up passengers. Though relatively small as of now, who knows what the future may hold for autonomous cars? Many such as Google, Volvo and Tesla are already part of the leading autonomous car specialists now. If the self-driving cars are to be perfected in terms of technology, it would certainly help many, especially those who are not able to drive.
September came and the latest iPhone 7 was touted by tech critics to run as fast as a 2013 MacBook Pro. What we imagined on telephones and mobile phones two decades ago has literally evolved beyond expectations. Some of our best 2016 smartphones can now run software as fast as the best laptop from three years ago.
Then there’s the big stumble with Samsung’s self-igniting Galaxy Note 7 that caused an epic meltdown worldwide in the smartphone industry. It may not have dislodged the Korean electronics giant as a leading smartphone brand but it did have an impact on customer trust as well as brand loyalty.
There are 2.5 billion smartphones in the world today. Smartphones just keep getting smarter, faster and better. Even the older generation are now trying to grasp on to a smartphone.
The subject of cybersecurity loomed over the world too as many are now discovering that anything is literally possible in the virtual world, including the major issue of compromised personal information.
With the Digital Age, we do so many things over the Internet with our smartphones and computers that we forget that the cyberspace is just as vulnerable as our earthly world to all sort of malicious attacks. With the advent of the Internet of Things (loT), the cybersecurity issue now can extend to our homes too, as hackers are able to manipulate our personal data for their own benefits.
Drones are now no longer a dream but an item on a wish list. One can now buy a drone on the Internet or many places all over the world. We heard Amazon now delivers packages by drone with its PrimeAir services too!
That’s a wrap-up of major technology 2016 news and breakthroughs. I am sure there are plenty more that one can find on the Internet. That said, 2016 has certainly brought in a lot of positive elements as well as advancement for the world. There will always be some negative points in technology but again here, we need to understand that nothing is perfect. We just have to keep striding into the future of technology and make the best of it with humane consciousness.
If anything is now possible with technology, I can’t wait to see what else it has to offer in 2017.
Ahmad Kushairi is editor of BOTs, the weekly tech section in Life&Times. Trained in Maths, he has since traded his problem-solving skills with writing about how tech has helped to transform the world for the better