10 Things Children Born in 2018 Will Probably Never Experience

February 01, 2018

It’s All Coming Back to Me Now

2017 was a year filled with nostalgia thanks to a number of pop culture properties with ties to the past.

We got another official Alien film, and Blade Runner came back with new visuals to dazzle us. Meanwhile, “Stranger Things” hearkened back to the Spielbergian fantasy that wowed so many children of the ’80s, and “Twin Peaks” revived Agent Cooper so he could unravel yet another impenetrable mystery from the enigmatic mind of David Lynch.

As these films and TV shows remind us, a lot can change over the course of a few decades, and the experiences of one generation can be far different from those that follow closely behind thanks to advances in technology.

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While the “Stranger Things” kids’ phone usage reminded 30-somethings of their own pre-mobile adolescences, children born in 2018 will probably never know the feeling of being tethered to a landline. A trip to the local megaplex to catch Blade Runner 2049 may have stirred up adults’ memories of seeing the original, but children born this year may never know what it’s like to watch a film on a smaller screen with a sound system that doesn’t rattle the brain.

Technology is currently advancing faster than ever before, so what else will kids born today only read about in books or, more likely, on computer screens? Here’s a list of the top 10 things that children born in 2018 will likely never experience.

Long, Boring Travel

Mobile devices and in-flight entertainment systems have made it pretty easy to stay distracted during the course of a long trip. However, aside from the Concorde, which was decommissioned in 2003, humanity hasn’t done nearly as much to increase the speed of air travel for international jet-setters. Beyond sparsely utilized bullet trains, even the speed of our ground transportation has remained fairly limited.

However, recent developments in transportation will likely speed up the travel process, meaning today’s kids may never know the pain of seemingly endless flights and road trips.

Supersonic planes are making a comeback and could ferry passengers “across the pond” in as few as 3.5 hours. While these aircraft could certainly make travel faster for a small subset of travelers, physical and cost limitations will likely prevent them from reaching the mainstream.

However, hyperloop technology could certainly prove to be an affordable way for travelers to subtract travel time from their itineraries.

Already, these super-fast systems have the ability to travel at speeds up to 387 kmh (240 mph). If proposed routes come to fruition, they could significantly cut the time of travel between major cities. For example, a trip from New York to Washington D.C. could take just 30 minutes as opposed to the current five hours.

Driver’s Licenses

Obtaining a driver’s license is currently a rite of passage for teenagers as they make that transition from the end of childhood to the beginning of adulthood. By the time today’s newborns are 16, self-driving cars may have already put an end to this unofficial ritual by completely removing the need for human operators of motor vehicles.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), an average of six teens between the ages of 16 and 19 died every day in 2015 from injuries sustained in motor vehicle collisions. Since a vast majority of accidents are caused by human error, removing the human from the equation could help to save the lives of people of all ages, so autonomous cars are a serious priority for many.

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, is confident that his electric and (currently) semi-autonomous car manufacturing company will produce fully autonomous vehicles within the next two years, and several ride-hailing services are already testing self-driving vehicles.

Biology’s Monopoly on Intelligence

Self-driving cars are just a single example of innovations made possible by the advancement of artificial intelligence (AI).

Today, we have AI systems that rival or even surpass human experts at specific tasks, such as playing chess or sorting recyclables. However, experts predict that conscious AI systems that rival human intelligence could just be decades away.

Advanced robots like Hanson Robotics’ Sophia are already blurring the line between humanity and machines. The next few decades will continue to push boundaries as we inch closer and closer to the singularity.

Children born in 2018 may never know what it’s like to join the workforce or go to college at a time when humans are the smartest entities on the planet.

Language Barriers

Another promising use for AI is communication, and eventually, technology could end the language barrier on Earth.

Communication tools such as Skype have already incorporated instantaneous translating capabilities that allow speakers of a few languages to freely converse in real-time, and Google has incorporated translating capabilities into their new headphones.

Other companies, such as Waverly Labs, are also working on perfecting the technology that will eventually rival the ability of the Babel fish, an alien species found in the book “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” that can instantly translate alien languages for its host.

Children born in 2018 may find themselves growing up in a world in which anyone can talk to anyone, and the idea of a “foreign” language will seem, well, completely foreign.

Humanity as a Single-Planet Species

Technology that improves human communication could radically impact our world, but eventually, we may need to find a way to communicate with extraterrestrial species. Granted, the worlds we reach in the lifetimes of anyone born this year aren’t likely to contain intelligent life, but the first milestones on the path to such a future are likely to be reached in the next few decades.

When he’s not ushering in the future of autonomous transportation, Musk is pushing his space exploration company SpaceX to develop the technology to put humans on Mars. He thinks he’ll be able to get a crew to the Red Planet by 2024, so today’s children may have no memory of a time before humanity’s cosmic footprint extended beyond a single planet.

Quiet Spaces

Overpopulation is one of the factors that experts point to when they discuss the need for humanity to spread into the cosmos. Urban sprawl has been an issue on Earth for decades, bringing about continued deforestation and the elimination of farming space.

A less-discussed problem caused by the continuous spread of urbanization, however, is the increase in noise pollution.

Experts are concerned that noise is quickly becoming the next great public health crisis. Data collected by the United Nations estimates that by 2100, 84 percent of the world’s 10.8 billion citizens will live in cities, surrounded by a smorgasbord of sound.

This decline in the number of people who live in areas largely free from noise pollution means many of the babies born today will never know what it’s like to enjoy the sound of silence.

World Hunger

Urbanization may limit the space available for traditional farming, but thanks to innovations in agriculture, food shortages may soon become a relic of the past.

Urban farming is quickly developing into a major industry that is bringing fresh produce and even fish to many markets previously considered food deserts (areas cut off from access to fresh, unprocessed foods).

Vertical farming will bring greater access to underserved areas, making it more possible than ever to end hunger in urban areas. Meanwhile, companies are developing innovative ways to reduce food waste, such as by transforming food scraps into sweets or using coffee grounds to grow mushrooms.

If these innovations take hold, children born in 2018 could grow up in a world in which every person on Earth has access to all the food they need to live a healthy, happy life.

Paper Currency

The advent of credit cards may have been the first major blow to the utilization of cash, but it wasn’t the last. Today, paper currency must contend with PayPal, Venmo, Apple Pay, and a slew of other payment options.

By the time children born in 2018 are old enough to earn a paycheck, they will have access to even more payment options, and cash could be completely phased out.

In the race to dethrone paper currency, cryptocurrencies are a frontrunner. Blockchain technology is adding much needed security to financial transactions, and while the crypto market is currently volatile, experts are still optimistic about its potential to permanently disrupt finance.

Digital Insecurity

Today, digital security is a major subject of concern. Hacking can occur on an international level, and with the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT), even household appliances can be points of weakness in the defenses guarding sensitive personal information.

Experts are feverishly trying to keep security development on pace with the ubiquity of digitalization, and technological advances such as biometrics and RFID tech are helping. Unfortunately, these defenses still rely largely on typical encryption software, which is breakable.

The advent of the quantum computer will exponentially increase computing power, and better security systems will follow suit. By the time children born in 2018 reach adulthood, high-speed quantum encryption could ensure that the digital world they navigate is virtually unhackable.

Single-Screen Computing

While most of our digital devices currently make use of a typical flat screen, tomorrow’s user interfaces will be far more dynamic, and children born in 2018 may not remember a time when they were limited to a single screen and a keyboard.

The development of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) have shifted the paradigm, and as these technologies continue to advance, we will increasingly see the incorporation of new capabilities into our computing experience.

Gesture recognition, language processing, and other technologies will allow for a more holistic interaction with our devices, and eventually, we may find ourselves interacting with systems akin to what we saw in Minority Report.


Intel Bets It Can Turn Everyday Silicon into Quantum Computing’s Wonder Material

December 18, 2016


Sometimes the solution to a problem is staring you in the face all along. Chip maker Intel is betting that will be true in the race to build quantum computers—machines that should offer immense processing power by exploiting the oddities of quantum mechanics.

Competitors IBM, Microsoft, and Google are all developing quantum components that are different from the ones crunching data in today’s computers. But Intel is trying to adapt the workhorse of existing computers, the silicon transistor, for the task.

Intel has a team of quantum hardware engineers in Portland, Oregon, who collaborate with researchers in the Netherlands, at TU Delft’s QuTech quantum research institute, under a $50 million grant established last year. Earlier this month Intel’s group reported that they can now layer the ultra-pure silicon needed for a quantum computer onto the standard wafers used in chip factories.

This strategy makes Intel an outlier among industry and academic groups working on qubits, as the basic components needed for quantum computers are known. Other companies can run code on prototype chips with several qubits made from superconducting circuits (see “Google’s Quantum Dream Machine”). No one has yet advanced silicon qubits that far.

A quantum computer would need to have thousands or millions of qubits to be broadly useful, though. And Jim Clarke, who leads Intel’s project as director of quantum hardware, argues that silicon qubits are more likely to get to that point (although Intel is also doing some research on superconducting qubits). One thing in silicon’s favor, he says: the expertise and equipment used to make conventional chips with billions of identical transistors should allow work on perfecting and scaling up silicon qubits to progress quickly.

Intel’s silicon qubits represent data in a quantum property called the “spin” of a single electron trapped inside a modified version of the transistors in its existing commercial chips. “The hope is that if we make the best transistors, then with a few material and design changes we can make the best qubits,” says Clarke.

Another reason to work on silicon qubits is that they should be more reliable than the superconducting equivalents. Still, all qubits are error prone because they work on data using very weak quantum effects (see “Google Researchers Make Quantum Components More Reliable”).

The new process that helps Intel experiment with silicon qubits on standard chip wafers, developed with the materials companies Urenco and Air Liquide, should help speed up its research, says Andrew Dzurak, who works on silicon qubits at the University of New South Wales in Australia. “To get to hundreds of thousands of qubits, we will need incredible engineering reliability, and that is the hallmark of the semiconductor industry,” he says.

Companies developing superconducting qubits also make them using existing chip fabrication methods. But the resulting devices are larger than transistors, and there is no template for how to manufacture and package them up in large numbers, says Dzurak.

Chad Rigetti, founder and CEO of Rigetti Computing, a startup working on superconducting qubits similar to those Google and IBM are developing, agrees that this presents a challenge. But he argues that his chosen technology’s head start will afford ample time and resources to tackle the problem.

Google and Rigetti have both said that in just a few years they could build a quantum chip with tens or hundreds of qubits that dramatically outperforms conventional computers on certain problems, even doing useful work on problems in chemistry or machine learning.

From: https://www.technologyreview.com/s/603165/intel-bets-it-can-turn-everyday-silicon-into-quantum-computings-wonder-material/

D-Wave confirmed as the first real quantum computer by new research

June 16, 2014


Ever since D-Wave arrived on the scene with a type of quantum computer capable of performing a problem-solving process called annealing, questions have flown thick and fast over whether or not the system really functioned — and, if it did function, whether it was actually performing quantum computing. A new paper by researchers who have spent time with the D-Wave system appears to virtually settle this question — the D-Wave system appears to actually perform quantum annealing. It would therefore be the first real quantum computer.

Up until now, it’s been theorized that D-Wave might be a simulator of a quantum computer based on some less-than-clear benchmark results. This new data seems to disprove that theory. Why? Because it shows evidence of entanglement. Quantum entanglement refers to a state in which two distinct qubits (two units of quantum information) become linked. If you measure the value of one entangled qubit as 0, its partner will also measure 0. Measure a 1 at the first qubit, and the second qubit will also contain a 1, with no evidence of communication between them.

Researchers working with a D-Wave system have now illustrated that D-Wave qubit pairs become entangled, as did an entire set of eight qubits. (The D-Wave uses blocks of eight qubits, as shown below). [DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevX.4.021041 – “Entanglement in a Quantum Annealing Processor”]

Assuming the experimental evidence holds up, this fundamentally shifts the burden of proof from “Prove D-Wave is quantum,” to “Prove the D-Wave isn’t quantum.” Evidence of entanglement is the gold standard for whether or not a system is actually performing quantum computing.

So, now what?

Now that we have confirmation that D-Wave is a quantum computer (or at least, as close to confirmation as we can likely get), the question is, how do we improve it? As we’ve previously covered, the D-Wave isn’t always faster than a well-tuned classical system. Instead of arguing over whether or not an Nvidia Tesla GPU cluster with customized software is a better or worse investment than a supercomputer that’s cryogenically cooled and computes via niobium loops, we’re going to look at what D-Wave needs to do to improve the capabilities of its own system. As Ars Technica points out, its architecture is less than ideal — for some problems, D-Wave can only offer less than 100 effective qubits despite some newer systems having 512 qubits in total, because its architecture is only sparsely connected. Each group of eight qubits connects to itself, but each island of eight qubits has just eight connections to two other adjacent qubits.

D-Wave has stated that it intends to continue increasing the number of qubits it offers in a system, but we can’t help wondering if the company would see better performance if it managed to scale up the number of interconnects between the qubit islands. A quantum system with 512 qubits but more than just two connections to other islands might allow for much more efficient problem modeling and better overall performance.

Inevitably this kind of questioning turns to the topic of when we’ll see this kind of technology in common usage — but the answer, for now, is “you won’t.” There are a number of reasons why quantum computing may never revolutionize personal computing, many of them related to the fact that it relies on large amounts of liquid nitrogen. According to D-Wave’s documents for initial deployments, its first systems in 2010 required 140L of LN2 to initially fill and boiled off about 3L of fluid a day. Total tank capacity was 38L, which required twice-weekly fill-ups. The Elan2 LN2 production system is designed to produce liquid nitrogen in an office setting and can apparently create about 5L of LN2 per day at an initial cost of $9500. [Read: Google’s Quantum Computing Playground turns your PC into a quantum computer.]

Did I mention that you have to pay attention to Earth’s magnetic field when installing a D-Wave system, the early systems created about 75dB of noise, and it weighs 11,000 pounds? Many of these issues confronted early computers as well, but the LN2 issue is critical — quantum computing, for now, requires such temperatures — and unless we can figure out a way to bring these systems up to something like ambient air temperature, they’ll never fly for personal use. Rest assured that lots of research is being done on the topic of room-temperature qubits, though!