Tristan GreeneEditor, Neural by TNW
Tristan is a futurist covering human-centric artificial intelligence advances, quantum computing, STEM, physics, and space stuff. Pronouns: Tristan is a futurist covering human-centric artificial intelligence advances, quantum computing, STEM, physics, and space stuff. Pronouns: He/him
Another year has passed; the newest iPhone’s been released; and TNW’s writers have been replaced by robots. It’s time to look back on 2017 as we settle into the holidays, snug and warm in our beds, with visions of cryptocurrency bubbles popping in our heads.
Here, we’ve gathered several breakthroughs we had the privilege of reporting on in 2017, that we hope will inspire you to do great things 2018.
Quantum computers are real
A practical quantum computer is no longer the stuff of far future science fiction. IBM, Google, and Microsoft are all creating systems that will serve as prototypes for future machines of unimaginable power.
In 2017 IBM’s quantum systems performed simulations that’d never been done before. And the company’s researchers built a 50 qubit quantum system. We can’t wait to see what they do in 2018.
In China, we saw the first steps taken towards the internet of the future. Scientists were able to use quantum teleportation to send encrypted messages from our planet to a satelite in space.
As someone who remembers rotary phones it’s spooky to live in a world where communication via quantum entanglement is a real thing.
AI prepares for prime time
If defying the laws of physics doesn’t frighten you then maybe the killer robots will. We’re closer than ever to the dreams of Isaac Asimov and George Lucas, as far as robotics are concerned.
And in 2017, when we weren’t talking about the eventual rise of the machines, we were busy being amazed by advances in machine learning.
Google’s AI started making better AI programs than the researchers who created it, and Facebook’s AI started creating its own languages. Plus, the machines learned to paint.
AI was used to detect cancer, but it was also used to exploit women by manipulating pornography. And if that wasn’t enough, a developer decided to make a religion to worship the machines.
We’re worried about the fate of the human race — or, if you’re reading this in 2018: we love our new robot overlords!
Cars can drive themselves
We spent half the year trying to predict when driverless cars would arrive and the other half pointing out they’d arrived.
Arizona played host to an entire fleet of driverless cars that mingled with regular traffic. A shuttle in Vegas became the first freely available autonomous public transit, and immediately got into an accident. Like most accidents, humans were at fault.
Researchers spliced an animated GIF into live bacteria
No, seriously, this happened. A group of researchers conducted a successful experiment to embed an animated GIF into the genes of live bacteria. Why? Because they could. Science!
Scientists turned bugs into cyborgs
Ray Kurzweil predicts that humans will merge with technology within the next couple of decades. In 2017 a group of researchers merged computer chips with the brains of dragonflys. By hacking the insects they were able to use computers to gain mind control and “drive” them.
Hyperloops check out
The future of transportation is a trip from Los Angeles to New York that takes a few hours. Until 2017 it was all just white-papers and speculation. A couple of successful tests proved the technology, and suddenly hyperloops became real.
Virgin Hyperloop One unveiled the details of its plan to create these underground tunnels all over the world. There’s still a lot of speculation about where the first tunnel will be built (and who will build it), but there’s no longer any question: we’re getting hyperloops.
Google’s Pixel 2 changes the game
Even before Google activated the dormant AI chip in its device (a sentence that sounds menacing in any context) the Pixel 2 was taking our breath away with it’s fantastic photos.
We spent hours upon hours gawking at its magnificent effects and startling quality. If Google’s Pixel 2 is a sign of things to come in digital photography, DSLR cameras are officially on notice. Though, it’ll take more than AI to kill DSLR.
Let us know what your favorite technology breakthroughs of 2017 were in the comments.
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