A Future Engineer’s Take: Tomorrow’s Tech That Will Make Us Better

Aug 22, 2019

by ASME.org

A new weekly summer series from ASME Global Public Affairs Executive Intern Paul Cipparone, who is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering at George Mason University.
 
For my last Capitol Update article, I would like to do something special. I will go over a few technologies that I am excited about for the future. These might not all have the planet-wide impact that the PC or the Internet did, but they are part of what’s motivating me to go back to school next week; I hope to someday work with them in the future.
 
Fitness technology excites me for the same reason fitness in general does- it is hard to see a downside to people becoming more competent, resilient, thoughtful, and integrated. While there are ready examples of technology making us less like all of those things (addictive, FOMO-inducing social media posts come to mind), I prefer to focus on the technology that encourages people to be better. This includes the user-friendly fitness rings of the Apple Watch and the mathematical number-crunching of calorie-counting apps such as MyFitnessPal. It is easy to find news articles about how technology is encouraging us to be lazier, more entitled people, which makes it easy for us to forget the unprecedented power that we now have to optimize our physical and mental well-being.
 
Another thing I’m excited to work on is smart homes and other household systems. When I was a kid, I would imagine a setup in my house where I would wake up and pull some kind of rope or throw a switch that would activate a machine to make my breakfast, get my clothes out, and pack my backpack. I now have a similar dream on a bigger scale: a world where there is mass-market access to technology that allows people to spend less time on day-to-day tasks. The success of the Roomba has shown the potential for putting technology to work on this kind of labor, but that is just the beginning! I envision dryers that use machine learning to identify articles of clothing and fold them, or augmented reality overlays on household wiring that show the correct inputs and outputs. These kinds of innovations will have the most direct impact on our daily lives.
 
As a total contrast to this, a huge technology that may have a very indirect, but significant impact on our lives that I’m excited for is blockchain. Blockchain is a complex system that involves distributing data throughout a chain of encoded blocks. The distributed nature of this storage allows it to be managed not by a central authority, but by consensus of the group using it. Through an incentive system, the data stored there can be almost always verified as accurate as entered, making it very difficult to change the data in a malicious way. However, despite blockchain’s focus on security, it is not 100% secure, the data is only accurate based on its initial entry. Blockchain may only really be good for systems where the initial data is entered by a trusted source and manipulations of the data are secure from there, such as currency. Even so, this is still an impressive functionality that is awaiting its huge capitalization.
 
I’d like to thank ASME for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts over the last few weeks. I have truly enjoyed my time here and I hope my articles have been thought-provoking. If you are interested in getting in contact with me please don’t hesitate to reach out to the ASME Capitol Update team!