COVER STORY: I IMAGINE
I IMAGINE: How Technology Will Shape Scientific Research in the Next Century By Charles Cooper When the New York Academy of Sciences marked its centennial in 1917, just eight percent of homes had landline telephones, and it took a full five days to travel from New York to London. Albert Einstein would introduce the idea of stimulated radiation emission that year with the publication of On the Quantum Theory of Radiation. However, it wasn’t until mid-century that researchers were able to apply his insights to build the maser, and then the laser. In a speech he gave in 1917, inventor and Academy Honorary Member, Alexander Graham Bell offered several prescient predictions about things like industrialization and the prospects for commercial aviation 100 years later. Yet even the most clairvoyant observers at the time would not have foreseen the transformations wrought by science and technology in the world of 2017. But what about 2117? What can we expect in the coming century given our understanding of the trajectory of scientific and technological advances? We put that question to Academy Members in a number of different disciplines, and here’s what they said.
Ryan Rose Customer Experience and Product Design Cisco Systems
NO KNOWLEDGE EVER GETS LEFT BEHIND AGAIN A century into the future, predictive analytics and machine learning systems will be in a position to anticipate what human beings need to know, according to Ryan Rose, who leads Customer Experience and Product Design for a new social learning platform at Cisco. “Right now, we’re just trying to leverage data to give us better ideas,” said Rose. “But if we project 100 years ahead, computer systems won’t just be making recommendations to people, they will make the decisions. Machine learning won’t be just about finding a way to get that information to a human. It will make the leap in logic to actually say, 'This customer needs this system to be this way’ and then make that happen.” With machines poring through disparate bits of information, systems will be able to connect the dots to register what Rose describes as “instant adaptation.” “That’s going to be huge. You will see innovation occurring as quickly as the machine thinks it and asks, 'Why don’t we try this?’ You can still have all of the human touch points, but the speed at which this happens will be much faster simply because we will not be waiting on someone to say, 'I think that these things are related.’” Rose also expects a future in which no knowledge gets left behind as information is captured and retained digitally. “Now, when we want to review knowledge from yesteryear, it’s archived in a movie or maybe some type of audio recording that we cannot interact with. But think about a society with access to the great experts or just the everyday experiences of people from any time. We’ll have all this information about individuals, their knowledge and expertise, and it will be stored so that someone in the future can ‘speak’ with any individual. Your descendants will be able to get a better understanding, even if it is just a digital understanding, of what you felt or thought.” “The interaction could be something as simple as a 3D projector or augmented reality, but you’ll be able to talk back and forth through natural language processing. I think there is a great future where the wealth of information about humanity is preserved and being able to interact with those moments in perpetuity.” The New York Academy of Sciences Magazine • Fall 2017