In his closing keynote speech Rattner said that Ray Kurzweil’s concept of ‘the Singularity’, a point when human and artificial intelligence merges to create something bigger than itself, could be just 40 years away.
Rattner described some emerging technologies that sound like they come out of science fiction movies, including shape shifting, programmable matter, neural interfaces that allow applications to be controlled by the human mind, and advanced robots that seem almost human.
Rattner believes that these sort of advances could be less than half a lifetime away because of the way that technology is advancing at an exponential rate.
The way that these new technologies could be put to use will mark a fundamental change in the way that humans relate to machines.
For example programmable materials called catoms could be used to create cell phones that can expand in size when you take them out of your pocket.
This can be achieved because the catoms, or ‘claytronics atoms’ have sensors, processors, and electromagnetic components which control how far apart the catoms are from each other.
Computing power is another area that looks set to leap to another level, with advances in spintronics, quantum computing, and carbon nanotubes.
No doubt some of the technologies will fall by the wayside, but then who knows what will replace them. The future certainly looks interesting.