2013 in Review: The Eight Biggest Stories In Exponential Tech

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It’s been a fast-moving year, so before diving headlong into 2014, we thought we’d tap the brakes and revisit some of the year’s most notable stories in exponential technology. Keep in mind, this ain’t science, and the list is by no means all-inclusive. If you have a favorite topic we missed, forgive but don’t forget—tell us in the comments!

Google Robotics

In December, Google announced they’d acquired seven robotics companies over six months. Then they announced an electrifying eighth purchase—Boston Dynamics and their menagerie of mind-blowing bots. Added to Google’s ongoing artificial intelligence research, the potential for smart, capable robots seems greater than ever.

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Bitcoin Mania

The virtual currency, Bitcoin, had a hyperactive year. In short: bubbles, busts, hackers, heists, speculators, regulators, pirates, and IPOs. Bitcoin evangelists believe it’s the beginning of a momentous shift from traditional centralized currencies to decentralized digital currencies. Skeptics think it’s a fascinating experiment, but ultimately untenable.

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A Computer for Your Face

For $1,500, tech geeks rocked Google’s touch- and voice-operated augmented reality Glass device—even as skeptics warned Glass would mark the end of privacy. Oculus took their Rift virtual reality headset from duct-taped ski goggles to $75 million venture darling. Gamers and developers say its the real deal. A consumer version is on the way.

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Driverless Cars

Self-driving headlines were previously dominated by Google, but 2013 brought the idea mainstream as heavy hitters including BMW, Nissan, Toyota, and Ford promised the tech from 2020 to 2025. Tesla beat all, pledging 90% automation in 2016. CEO, Elon Musk, said the last 10% is a more difficult problem and further away.

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Technological Unemployment

Some economists suggested stubbornly elevated unemployment isn’t cyclical, it’s structural. The culprit? Advanced robots and automation are taking jobs from humans, and it’s only going to get worse. History tells us such arguments fail to predict all the new things humans will do instead—but a few experts insist this time is different.

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Uncle Sam Wants Your Data

According to secret documents leaked by Edward Snowden some of the biggest names in tech had enabled the NSA to snoop on, well, just about everyone. The Snowden affair has changed the cost-benefit calculation of information exchange, somewhat tarnished trust in big tech companies, and heightened interest in information security.

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Drone Delivery

Drones for good? What a novel idea. Amazon grabbed headlines by promising door-to-door fulfillment of orders by drone. But the firm wasn’t the first to suggest drone delivery. Matternet proposed an automated, Internet-inspired drone network to deliver goods in cities or medicine to poor rural areas seasonally cut off by flooded road.

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Buy Your Next 3D Printer…at Staples?

Staples announced it would offer the $1,300 3D Systems Cube desktop 3D printer, while other firms introduced cheap (or free) 3D scanners. Is 3D printing poised to go mainstream? Autodesk CEO Carl Bass cautioned against the hype but went on to say, “Just as rip-mix-burn became the anthem for digital music, we are starting to do the same thing for the physical world with capture-modify-print (or download-modify-print)…”

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Image Credit: University of Salford/FlickrBoston DynamicsOculus VR/YouTubeNRMA Motoring and Services/FlickrThierry Ehrmann/Flickr, Amaze646/Shutterstock.comMatternet, Tony Buser/Flickr

Discussion — 5 Responses

  • Artem Larin December 31, 2013 on 3:32 am

    What’s about mechanical heart implanting breakthrough (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/10532427/France-implants-its-first-artificial-heart.html), +5 extra years for longevity just for 180 000 EUR.

  • dobermanmacleod December 31, 2013 on 10:22 pm

    http://pesn.com/2013/12/30/9602416_S-Korean-manufacturing-company_signs_license_with_Brillouin-LENR-technology/

    How about this? A LENR boiler that can be used to swap out conventional coal-fired boilers at power plants? Using this technology hydrogen is 5 orders of magnitude more energy dense as fossil fuel, plus clean (i.e. no radioactive material in or out).

    http://www.refinery29.com/2013/12/59596/scientists-reverse-aging-mice

    Or how about this? A compound that actually reverses aging in mice, set for human trails in 2014. This is probably the first of many low hanging fruit in our quest for radical life extension.

    • Facebook - alain.ditlecycliste dobermanmacleod January 1, 2014 on 5:20 am

      Brillouin may make a surpise, but two other competitors will sure be present in 2014.

      Andrea Rossi and his e-cat announce that the Elforsk report on the second round of independent testing should be ready in March.
      Defkalion, just announced they finished their R&D phase, and were comissioning a new reactor… news end of January they say… I wait.. but they are often late.

      some see Chinese connections…
      Japanese corps (Toyota, Mitsubishi) may also cause surprise, since Cold fusion never died in asia.

      for those interested in knowing what is happening in the domain, with a business perpective I have done that executive summary
      http://www.lenrnews.eu/lenr-summary-for-policy-makers/

      You can also read the site of LENR for the win , and the question “are LENR devices real”? It is cited in my exec summary.

      if you are still unsure cold fusion is real, you may find many reference in my exec summary, but the best is clearly the book (published as PDF for ICCF9, but best is to buy a copy on amazon) of Charles Beaudette “Excess Heat”
      http://iccf9.global.tsinghua.edu.cn/lenr%20home%20page/acrobat/BeaudetteCexcessheat.pdf

      the best book to rule out the myth.

  • donwilhelm3 January 30, 2014 on 5:16 pm

    Even with google’s robotics acquisitions, they still don’t have consciousness. This is because even mighty Google still believes that language is symbolic, that the brain has representations and does computations, and that perception and action are separate processes.
    This short-sightedness of Google presents huge opportunities for more innovative companies.

    • Aguna Bella Ubawitz donwilhelm3 February 10, 2014 on 4:06 am

      Well, Kurzweil’s site has this shocking novel on convergence of singularity, AI and transhumanism – The Bequeathal: Godsent. It’s concepts are so fresh that I’m sure Google (Ray is one of their directors or something) will get plenty ideas.