Reporting on emerging technology is more challenging than you might think, precisely becauseit’s still “emerging”.
Whether it’s virtual reality, cryptocurrency, or Artificial Intelligence, much of the technology is undergoing rapid development, it hasn’t reached its potential.
In fact, often we aren’t entirely sure whatthe potential is. On CNN’s Decoded we get a snapshot in time of what it might be, and it’s had some…mixed results! Here are three of the things I’ve looked at over the past year.
Exploringthe metaverse across its many platforms was a wonderful, sensory overload.
Eachtime I took the VR headset off I crashed back to reality. Side effects of a metaverse trip include motion sickness, a sweaty face and headset lines indented into the face.
Yet there is a lot to recommend the metaverse: the skies are always blue, there’s always a party somewhere, you have endless outfits and hairstyles at your fingertips (I am partial to a mohawk), and you can catch up with friends who live thousands of miles away in a more fun and immersive way.
I truly believe that the metaverse is here to stay forsocialising and gaming, and even connecting with colleagues for meetings.
However, like many promising technologies, this one has received a lot of hype. I was shocked by the breathless market for virtual real estate – a “property”made of pixels and algorithms can sell for millions of dollars, a virtual super yacht (complete with helipad and DJ booth) has sold for $650,0000.
I think it’s great that investors and businesses see the potential of the metaverse, but I worry that many may just be throwing money into the abyss, fearful ofmissing out on the next big thing.
Over thelast year AI is the technology you’ve heard about the most, particularly sincethe launch of ChatGPT and the many AI chatbots that followed.
I have no qualmsin telling you I already use AI chatbots in my day-to-day life, I’ve used one tohone an email to a wedding photographer to haggle on price, to write up a hotelreview, and to bounce ideas off for stories I am working on.
AI is already replacing mundane tasks, and for better or worse, it will change and replace jobs all over the world – as many as 300 million according to Goldman Sachs.
Many of the fears about AI are valid, particularly when it comes to issues around bias and misinformation. Other fears are overblown.
Will AI become sentient and enslave humanity? Doubtful.Generative AI is trained on huge troves of data and information online, andit’s not always factually correct.
It can even “hallucinate”, according to industry experts, but it is not sentient. Chatting with AI becomes evenstranger off screen, I was thrilled to meet Desdemona, a humanoidrobot programmed with AI.
Our conversation was certainly original but notparticularly intelligent. Ways to foil Desdemona: switching her off, killingher Wi-Fi connection, talking too fast, and walking away – all easy options.
This was thetopic that worried me the most – and not just regarding how best to explain blockchain and Bitcoin mining.
Firstly, there’s the total lack of regulatoryoversight, which results in scandals and scams. There are the exchanges that wentbust when customers took their crypto out, there are the many ‘AltCoins’(name any animal, food item, or mythical beast and add the word “coin” to theend) professing to be the next Bitcoin, when really they are worth nothing andvanish into oblivion.
People are parting with real money for digitalcurrencies that aren’t decentralised, that have limitless supplies, and, giventhe absence of regulation, can be created by anyone.
The second issue thatworries me is how people are getting their crypto information and investment advice.
The thing Ifound most surprising about cryptocurrency is that it I am now a convert, atleast on the philosophy of Bitcoin.
I think there is a place in the worldfor a truly decentralised cryptocurrency, with which people can move moneyacross borders without taxation, outside of the remit of banks, in countrieswhere hyperinflation and political corruption risk it being worthless.
Unfortunately, Bitcoin hasn’t reached its potential. It remains volatile,and after so many crypto exchanges and wallets have gone bust or provencorrupt, trust has been eroded.
Overwhelmingly,the technology we explored blew my mind. I’ve had lots of glimpses into afuture that is better connected, more sustainable, and healthier.
For methe best of technology wasn’t found in the glitzy virtual reality headsets, oron the lifelike face of a humanoid, it was in the clinical setting of laboratoriesall over the world.
I’ve seen how Artificial Intelligence can diagnose diseasein ways that humans cannot, how Genetic Technology is curing diseases that wereincurable, and even how human organs can be 3D printed.
There is a seismicshift happening in healthcare that is already enabling us to live longer, healthier and better-quality lives, and it’s developing fast.
Imagine a worldwhere disease is eradicated, where old age isn’t debilitating, and people canlive decades longer in good health. All this may now be entirely possiblethanks to some of the greatest minds, the trailblazers of technology.