The fifth technological revolution is about to begin

May 11, 2011 | 00:10
The fifth technological revolution is about to begin
The fifth technological revolution is about to begin
We’re at the dawn of the fifth technological revolution. At least, that’s the working premise of the recently founded think/do tank the Hybrid Reality Institute.

If you thought you could lay back and enjoying the vista’s of the fourth tech revolution –the Information Age- you are sorely mistaken. Humanity has a habit of exponentially shortening the time lapse between successive technological revolutions.

The first took place 250.000 years ago, when tools made of stone inaugurated the Stone Age. The second revolution had an incubation time of 240.000 years, when 8.000 B.C. the wheel was invented and Agrarian Age commenced. After that it took humanity roughly 9000 years to work up to the Industrial Age which started in the 18th century A.D. Two-hundred years later we entered the Information Age in the late 1970’s. And now, less than fifty years after that, it’s time to get ready for the Hybrid Age.

In the Hybrid Age humanity will be so immersed in technology that Ayesha Khanna founder of the think tank speaks of a ‘human-technology co-evolution’. There are five characteristics of our near future that make Khanna declare the dawning of a new age.

First, technology is already everywhere and its presence will only increase. Second, technology is becoming intelligent. It will grow beyond being a simple tool to wield by people. Instead it gains autonomy. Third, it will be able to interact socially with humans as it develops the ability to listen to speech commands and be able to react. Fourth, different fields of technology will be integrated. For instance, biomechantronics is a cross-over between biology, mechanical engineering and electronics creating a host of evolutionary possibilities. And last, because there are so many technological applications by now, they themselves become responsible for a constant increase in the development of new technologies. For instance, the data processing capabilities of computers enables humans to invent and test new applications at an ever-faster rate.

Yes, they gave it a good thought at the Hybrid Reality Institute. And even if you don’t want to go along with the the-future-is-here-now excitement, they pose some interesting research questions that are worth checking out. What are the effects of technology on society? How does it affect our lives, our identities, our species? And because this is the Hybrid Age, the think/do tank is interactive of course. You can participate in global brain storm salons, strengthen the think tank with your own research or join the conversation via those relics of the Information Age: Twitter, Vimeo, Flickr or the BigThink Blog.

Hybrid Reality Institute

Interview with founder Ayesha Khanna in the New York Times/Bits

Photo: Quantum Phase Electronics Center, University of Tokyo

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