Where We’re Headed, It’s about the Software

This brings us to the present, and our collective ambivalence towards space tourism and other relatively expensive products and services from Big Tech, including robotics, AI and AR. On the morning of the Blue Origin launch on 20 July 2021, one aerospace commentator opined in connection with launch success or failure, that the hardware was a mature technology, and that success was ‘…not about the plumbing. It’s about the software.’

In computing, the most recent gains in hardware performance and function had to do with Apple’s migration of its full product lineup to SOC chipsets from the dated X86 architecture. The industry is following suit, with the likes of MS and even Intel moving to ARM.

While the performance and efficiency gains of Apple Silicon over the legacy chipset have been substantial, we should anticipate further related gains to be marginal. In short, our hardware is relatively mature. Given that relative maturity, we should expect the next major breakthroughs in function, performance and outcomes of societal impact to be software-related.

It’s Still about the Software

Software is the executable instruction set between thought and problem solving. Amongst our earliest expressions of these were punch card patterns to conduct calculations at greater than human speed with greater than human reliability. Today, we are using recursive algorithms in augmented intelligence or machine learning to replicate human-like adaptive learning at faster than human speed with greater than human reliability (as in task-oriented precision), and training this tool onto ‘big data’ in order to solve generationally intractable problems in less than human lifespan. This is being supplemented with augmented reality (AR) to more reliably visually represent those problems and solutions in an analogue format that the human brain has evolved to immediately grasp.

These problems include global climate change, novel renewable energies, crop production and sustainable farming under increasingly hostile conditions, molecular and sub-molecular genetic medical therapies and prevention (including determinants of ageing and disability), pharmaceuticals and vaccines, transportation and logistics, commerce, law enforcement and intelligence, defence, quantum physics and theory, cosmology, planetary science and the search for extraterrestrial (exoplanetary) life, to name but a few. The list is long and growing.

The Next Big Thing(s)

Specifically, we should expect advances related to AI/machine learning and AR interacting with software to increase productivity, expand graphical and visual sensory input to whole new levels, enable remote engagement (allow you interact with a remote AI-supplemented robot to move about a remote location and interact with possibly tangible feedback); in short, converting actual data to visual and other sensory format in realtime to show and engage us with our world in new ways. AR-augmented gaming is a given.

Expect Apple to bend these to best-in-class realistic user experience. Apple have already prioritised AI/machine learning to sensory experiences over, for example, personal assistant function; with outputs like spatial audio, which is your system’s AI calculating your position relative to a source millions-billions of times per second to provide you with a spatially-realistic sensory experience.

Visual and tactile sensory feedback are next, and will change the way we see, interpret and interact with the world via both robotic and in-person applications. Think current planetary science, but with personal application for health and personal environmental engagement (Apple Glasses?). Think keeping you safe, with an improved quality of life as the outcome.

What specific innovations will come as a result of getting more humans into space as tourists at progressively diminishing cost is uncertain, as are which of these will influence Apple products and services. What is not uncertain is that these novel technologies, products and services will follow the same pattern as every other innovation; first to the relatively affluent before rolling out to the masses, but those technologies with mass appeal, demand and uptake will solve many of today’s problems, some of them seemingly unrelated, and transform society in ways that we cannot predict today. As it has ever been. Ad Infinitum.

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