25 Years of Emerging Tech
As we continue to celebrate our 25 years in the tech recruitment sector, we thought it would be worthwhile to highlight a few technologies which have exploded onto the tech scene and truly made an impact.
These technologies changed how we interact with and utilise data and even our day-to-day operations in both business and our personal lives. These technologies include Blockchain, Bitcoin, Virtual Reality (VR) and the IoT. We will highlight these four advancements and how they have come about and changed over the years.
Managing Businesses Through Blockchain
Often confused with Bitcoin, Blockchain is the underlying technology used by Bitcoin to operate. Concretely, it's a chronologically growing database, which protects stored transactions from being tampered with.
This database, or ledger, collects and records monetary transactions validated by the network in elementary units called blocks. Once validated, these blocks are added to an existing sequential chain of cryptographic hash-linked blocks to ensure the data's integrity—hence the name blockchain.
Blockchain didn't appear out of the blue. It was the product of the evolution of fintech and virtual currencies over the last few decades. At the end of the previous century, the widespread use of the Internet favoured the emergence of digital currencies as an extension of electronic cash systems. Many projects were developed to create new digital currencies: E-cash, E-gold, WebMoney, and Liberty Reserve, are just a few.
Despite massive success in the 1990s, these projects had ceased to exist by the beginning of the new century, either through bankruptcy or being halted by authorities. A currency capable of disappearing overnight is an absolute financial nightmare, but this situation was inevitable due to such digital currency systems' centralised nature.
There was also always a need for a central authority to fight fraud and manage trust within the system. Because of this fatal weakness, the opposite, decentralised model was presented as a solution. However, it was hard to establish trust in such environments without any central authority. This contrast made creating a reliable digital currency a challenging mountain to climb.
Thankfully, the progress of cryptography and the emergence of some clever solutions such as proof of work (for example, the hashcash Project) brought hope of breaking the deadlock.
The Invention of Bitcoin
In 2008, Satoshi Nakamoto revealed a digital currency called bitcoin. This new currency effectively harnessed cryptography techniques to manage ownership and secure the system, thus becoming the name cryptocurrency. In his published whitepaper, he presented his vision for a new peer-to-peer electronic cash system, Bitcoin, and described its underlying machinery, Blockchain.
Currently, Bitcoin and Blockchain have gained massive popularity in both business and tech. Nevertheless, predicting what direction Blockchain will take is hard. Often said predictions would exaggerate the speed of advancements and also not articulate the long-term impacts. But within the blockchain industry, many believe changes coming will be as significant as the original invention of the Internet. We can expect that as blockchain matures and more people catch on to this new mode of collaboration, it will extend into everything from supply chains to internet dating. And given how far blockchain came in 10 years, perhaps the future could indeed arrive sooner than any of us think.
Artificial Intelligence and the New Era
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has become more prominent in tech and has led to some profound applications in both tech and business. This is a technology that has only been used for about 60 years. The word AI was first coined in 1956 at a Dartmouth conference. The first digital computers began to appear in university laboratories during this time. The majority of the attendees were mathematicians and computer scientists.
There was a lot of excitement at this meeting since early successes in this area gave them hope. This resulted in overconfident AI predictions based on euphoria. It was thought that if computers could solve problems that humans found difficult, such as mathematical theorem proving, then computers should be able to solve simple problems.
However, it turned out that this was not the case. Overconfident optimism was the reality. Problems humans find challenging can be easy for computers and vice versa. This was perhaps unsurprising, considering that computers speak the mathematical logic language and, as a result, are supposed to outperform humans in particular logic problems.
However, over the last 25 years, AI innovation has grown by leaps and bounds. In 2004, for example, the first DARPA Grand Challenge was held in the Mojave Desert, meant for autonomous vehicles. None of the cars managed to finish the 150-mile route. Skip to 2009, when Google started to develop a driverless car, which went on to pass a self-driving test in 2014.
One of the latest recent advancements in AI would also include Google's infamous DeepMind Technologies' AlphaGo. AlphaGo was an AI machine used to beat, allegedly, any human opponent in the popular strategic game Go. It managed to do just that at the Go championship in March 2016 against Lee Sedol, the then-world champion.
AI still has quite a few hurdles in the future. Actual artificial intelligence is one of them, as we still don't know how to create consciousness or artificial intelligence in a more complex manner. However, the next 25 years will be one of the significant advancements for AI.
Virtual Reality: Seeing Into The Future
Digital reality developments today are based on concepts that date back to the 1800s, almost to the dawn of realistic photography. The first stereoscope, which used twin mirrors to project a single image, was invented in 1838. This evolved into the View-Master, which was patented in 1939 and is still in use today. The term "virtual reality" was first used by VPL Research founder Jaron Lanier. He started designing the required equipment, such as goggles and gloves, to experience what he called "virtual reality."
Technologists had been working on artificial worlds well before that. The Sensorama in 1956 was a landmark moment. Morton Heilig has a history in the film industry in Hollywood. He was curious as to how people could feel as if they were "in" the film. The Sensorama created a simulated, natural city environment in which you "ride" a motorcycle. In the built "world," multisensory stimulation allowed you to see the lane, hear the engine, feel the vibration, and smell the motor's exhaust.
The 1970-80s were an exciting time for the VR industry. Projects working on haptic devices and other instruments that would allow users to walk around in virtual spaces ran alongside optical advances. The Virtual Interface Environment Workstation (VIEW) system, developed at NASA Ames Research Center in the mid-1980s, combined a head-mounted computer with gloves to allow haptic interaction.
Today's virtual reality gear owes a debt of gratitude to the six decades of pioneering inventors who paved the way for low-cost, high-quality applications that are now widely available. Visit The Franklin Institute's virtual reality flight simulators to immerse yourself in a virtual world.
The Innovation of Interaction: IoT
The Internet of Things or (IoT) is a recent innovation. Since the early 1800s, however, there have been dreams of machines interacting with one another. Since the telegraph's invention (the first landline) in the 1830s and 1840s, computers have provided direct communication. On June 3, 1900, the first radio voice transmission, dubbed "wireless telegraphy," occurred, adding another critical component to the IoT's growth. In the 1950s, the first computers were developed.
The Internet, a vital component of the Internet of Things, began as a DARPA project (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) in the early 1960s and developed into ARPANET in 1969. Commercial service providers started to promote ARPANET's public use in the 1980s, enabling it to develop into the modern Internet. The Department of Defense provided a reliable, highly functional system of 24 satellites for the Global Positioning Satellites (GPS) to become a reality in early 1993. Privately operated commercial satellites were quickly launched into orbit after that. Most of the IoT depends on satellites and landlines for essential communication.
IPV6's wise decision to expand address space was another crucial component in creating a working IoT. "The address space expansion means that we could assign an IPV6 address to every atom on the surface of the earth and still have enough addresses left to do another 100+ earths." says Steve Leibson of the Computer History Museum. To put it another way, we won't run out of internet addresses any time soon.
When thinking of the IoT, consider the idea, "any device capable, can be interconnected with other devices." The IoT is ripe for new and creative ideas to add to the tasks already in use. Imagine an alarm waking you at 6 AM and then simultaneously signalling your coffee maker to turn on and start brewing coffee. Imagine your printer knowing when you are running low on paper and automatically ordering more. The IoT can be used to organise such things as transportation networks. Smart cities can use it to reduce waste and maximise the efficient use of energy.
In truth, the IoT provides a nearly endless supply of opportunities to interconnect our devices and equipment. In terms of creativity, this field is wide open, with infinite ways to interconnect the devices. It can be an exciting time for innovative individuals, in part, because we don't fully understand the impact of these interconnections. The IoT offers both opportunities and potential security problems. At present, the Internet of Things is best viewed with an open mind for creativity and a defensive posture for privacy and security purposes.
The Next 25 Years
The innovations that have shaken the tech sector over the past several decades are only the beginning. As we continue to expand our capabilities to create, connect, and understand at an exponential rate, it is safe to say the future will be quite different in 25 years. Granted, we may not be riding around in hovercars, but we may be living in a future where tech has developed to help us meet many more of our challenges, whether personal, business, or global. We will be sure to come back in 25 years with another blog to mark some of those innovations.