3 future industry trends: space travel, life extension and AI

Space control of USSR era, KPI museum, Kiev

If you have children as I do, probably you are wondering in what world they will live when they’ll grow up. Also, maybe you just finished your High School and looking into what career you want to pursue in the college. Prediction is always difficult, but there are chances that we can, at some extent, predict the future trends based on current events and on our best guess. I was interested in forecasting and latest technology for more than ten years, regularly reading news and updates on what’s going on on the top notch of research and business. Also, I work in Amazon and I have a daily interaction with the latest tech and trends. This gives me some experience and knowledge to edit this short list of industry trends for coming 50 years and make some authoritative guess. 

Space travel 

No doubt this one will be the earliest to develop. We were travelling into space since 1957, but largely the technology of the travel didn’t change since then. We are using the same system of disposable rockets to bring payloads into space. This is an enormous amount of waste: of hardware, money, time (since we need to build new rocket to fly it again), workforce and raw materials. Every time we send something into space, we destroy a valuable piece of technology worth millions of US dollars. And no matter if this is Russian, European or US rocket, although pricing among these options are different, the concept is the same, we destroy our valuable work.  

From transportation point of view, the lean operation is when the price of the transportation is just slightly higher than the energy (in Kw) needed to produce the kinetic movement of the object. In this case the maintenance, the depreciation (amortization) of the assets (how many launches you can make with single rocket), R+D, fixed costs and so on should represent a minimum amount of the launch cost, compared to the cost of fuel. 

Although for 50 years this problem was not addressed, nowadays several private companies starting to explore the opportunity of opening the space to wider audience by reusing the rockets. The most known is SpaceX with Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launchers. But they are not the only ones. Jeff Bezos (who happened to be my big boss as well) is also working on reusable rocket through Blue Origin company. Currently, the growth of the private market in space is huge and since the opportunity in cutting costs is enormous, it is expectable that we will see spectacular changes in the space travel. This industry will probably surpass the internet industry in coming years. 

Life Extension 

The life extension and aging control is the industry (or even just a paradigm) that it’s in early stage. As we will understand better our genome, more and more individualized solution will pop up to improve our aging and extend our life. Genetics is different to the previous medical breakthroughs because it’s not an “all in one” solution that fits everybody on Earth. Genetics explores our individuality and singularity. We are all different so it’s difficult to create a single solution for everybody. Genetic engineering would allow to create personal solutions. 

It is difficult to say when we will be able to extend our lives, the aging process is a very complex problem where many factors act at the same time. Most probably the solution will be some mix of artificially grown organs, gene therapy, implants and brain stimulation. Expectedly, we will not be able to halt the aging process before 50 years in advance (so you should expect to live to around 2065 and be wealthy enough at that moment to have a chance to live indefinitely). But meanwhile, all the industry of life extension will flourish because it will bring great intermediate results. 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) 

Before we enter into the Artificial Intelligence topic, I would like to separate it from the notion of “Artificial Humans”. I don’t really think it will be achievable in this century to create a machine that would mimic a human feeling and will actually act the way a human act with all set of emotions (up to love and hate). By AI I mean a set of software that with almost random and minimum input is capable to give a precise and complete solution to a problem. The examples could be: 

You want to open a restaurant and you input some basic data as: money you currently have, in what area you want it and that’s it, and the system returns you: 

  • Is it feasible or not, if yes: 
  • The loan you should request and at which bank (based on public banking API available) 
  • What is the location that is available now (based on real time data from internet real estate portals) 
  • The layout and style of the restaurant, logo, name (type of cuisine, color of the walls, based on demographic statistics, IoT big data such as number of people crossing near the building and what type of device they are using, reviews of nearby restaurants, etc..) 
  • Providers or raw materials, number of weekly orders, prices 
  • Complete financials for first year, with balance and cashflows 
  • How many people to hire, when and at what wages 
  • And so on 

HR AI for: 

  • Monitoring performance 
  • In case of low performance, proactively creating a new job offer 1 month before laying off the bad performing employee to have time to contract a new one 
  • Conduct video interviews 
  • Identify talents, create development plans, conduct ad-hoc courses, all without any input from management, only based on preprogrammed “instincts” 
  • Mass hiring and head hunting 

Police investigation: based on limited evidence, find the guilty actor and create a case that no doubt will win the court hearing. 

And so on. This level of sophistication is very difficult to preprogram, so genuine machine learning will be needed to digest huge amount of information currently available on the web to find a useful application of this information inside the AI. We are moving fast in this direction, but truly universal, multifunctional, global and multilingual AI will probably not appear before 1950s. But as with gene engineering, the market will remain huge in coming years. 

So now you know what to expect. Without doubt there will be more industries that will flourish, like electric cars, but these will not be so disruptive (and probably will not create so many new jobs) as the ones I mentioned. Also, there probably will be other industries that are not known now (like nanotech) and will pop up in the future, but this is something I cannot comment with some acceptable level of certainty. Let’s see how future will, be, I think it will be bright and interesting.