When we look back at the early 2000s, it’s hard to fathom that we are now in an era where self-driving cars, touchscreen phones, high-speed Wi-Fi, and other unique innovations exist. As we usher in a new decade, let’s look back at the past 20 years to appreciate how far we’ve come.
- Artificial intelligence (AI)
From self-driving cars to robots, AI is responsible for many of the amazing technology we see today. AI utilizes complex processes and algorithms like data annotation, language processing, human-in-the-loop systems, etc., to create smart computers that cater to our needs and perform various tasks with higher efficiency. The current state of AI already has many practical applications in medicine, law enforcement, scientific research, retail, manufacturing, etc. Many AI applications also improve the quality of life for many people, especially seniors and PWDs. For example, self-driving cars, voice-prompted assistants, and robot nurses allow them to live independently and decrease the burden on their families.
Crispr is a gene-editing technology still in the early stages of development but has undeniable potential in eliminating diseases and deformities. For example, genetic disorders like sickle cell anemia are attributed to mutations in DNA. Through Crispr, these mutated strands of DNA can be spliced and replaced with the correct ones, curing the disease. It doesn’t just have the potential to cure individuals but also keep the disease from passing on to future generations. It also has applications in developing allergy-free foods and reviving extinct species.
- Renewable energy sources
Depleting non-renewable energy has been a growing concern for decades, and scientists were scrambling to find alternatives, which they found in solar panels, wind turbines, and hydropower. These alternatives are cheaper than gas or coal and provided ample energy for a typical household. So far, there are still limitations for renewable energy, which causes local governments to be skeptical if it’s worth uprooting preexisting infrastructures to switch to renewable energy. However, scientists are continuously working to make renewable energy cheaper and more efficient than fossil fuels. So far, eleven US cities have converted to at least 90% renewable energy, and it’s likely we’ll see that number grow in the future.
- Electric cars
Jumping from the previous point, non-renewable resources weren’t just an issue faced by power plants but also by the automobile industry. Gas was becoming more expensive, and vehicle owners were demanding alternatives. For a time, all carmakers could build were fuel-efficient cars, but the development of electric cars started a revolution. Electric cars were much cheaper than fuel-run cars and decreased the strain on the environment, making them alluring to more discerning consumers. There used to be limited options for buying electric cars, but now, almost every major car manufacturer has an electric model available.
There is probably only a tiny percentage of the world population that doesn’t own a smartphone, showing how much we’ve come to rely on these pocket-sized supercomputers in our daily lives. This device serves countless purposes, from communication to entertainment, and it’s no surprise people spend an average of 4.2 hours a day on their phones.
- 5G Wi-Fi
As its name suggests, it’s the fifth generation of Wi-Fi and is currently one of the fastest internet speeds available to us, making HD streaming and gaming smoother for users. It also makes data transfer and online processes more efficient. This is important since people spend most of their time online, and having fast internet reduces time lost from waiting on buffering times and for files to download or upload.
- Fast-charging batteries
Batteries have long been an essential invention, but their importance can’t be understated in an era of portable devices and electric cars. Many people are deterred by electric cars because they don’t want to wait an hour or more just for their vehicle to finish charging. However, companies are developing lithium-ion and graphene batteries that can be fully charged in minutes. These innovations still maintained a respectable battery life and did not have the risk of overheating. These innovations can help change the public perspective on electric cars and reduce dependence on gas.
- Biodegradable packaging
Besides our heavy reliance on fossil fuel, one of the heaviest burdens on our planet is the large volume of plastic and other non-biodegradable trash. The biggest source of plastic is packaging from food, water, and other necessities. Manufacturers also use them to keep products fresh longer. In addition, the government requires plastic seals so consumers are assured their products are untouched. However, they are single-use, and millions of tons of these plastics only end up in landfills.
To offset this, scientists have begun developing alternatives as stable and as inert as plastic but can biodegrade under specific conditions. This has a massive impact on our growing plastic crisis and can be the starting point for a less plastic-centric society.
- Wearable health devices
For sickly and elderly discharged patients, it’s important to monitor various parameters to avoid aggravating their condition. However, hospital trips can get expensive, even if it’s just for checkups. It can also be difficult to assess when discomfort warrants a visit to the doctor or is just psychosomatic. Thanks to wearable health devices, people can easily and accurately monitor their condition to minimize costs and stay healthy. Advancements in technology have created sensors to detect blood pressure, heart rate, blood oxygen, breathing, etc. These devices allow for less invasive diagnosis and act as early warning systems for irregularities like arrhythmia and tachycardia. Some devices are even linked to hospitals and emergency services and can send calls and alerts during an emergency. This is lifesaving technology as there have been cases where patients died due to being unable to call for help or communicate their plight to the 911 operator.
It’s hard to imagine that we lived without these great inventions in our lives at some point. Given how fast technology is evolving, we can only anticipate more innovations to improve our lives, reduce dependence on non-renewable resources, and cure diseases.