5 Superpowers Humans Will Have by 2050
What separates humans from animals is the extent of our tool use. We develop tools to make every aspect of our lives easier and more efficient and we’re able to teach our use of tools to other humans, allowing for their continued advancement. For the majority of our history, our tools have been used by us to directly affect the world around us. Now, however, we are developing many tools that will fundamentally change the way we interact with objects and people around us.
When I was a kid, I loved comic books. Even now, I love seeing superheroes on the big screen (especially if the story is done well). Some of my favourite open-world video games were superhero-based (City of Heroes, Champions Online).
The struggles of superheroes to use their amazing abilities to overcome adversity is so often inspiring and they live in a world that is so obviously full of possibility. Something we sometimes need reminding when life gets us down.
As kids, the question often comes up: ‘which super power would you like?’ (for the record, my favourite was super speed). Soon, however, technology will enable humans to have some superpowers of their own.
1. Perfect Sense of Direction
The GPS on our smartphones already gives us the ability to find anywhere we want with minimal effort, but this doesn’t really feel as if it’s a personal power. We’re still holding on to a device, looking at a screen when we use it.
Advances in wearable and implantable technology, however, will enable us to experience the ability to find whatever site we want without the use of an external screen. This may take the form of information fed to an implanted device that sends images to a digital contact. Or it could be in the form of a ring or pouches on a belt that give us subtle cues to guide us in the direction we want (a sensation on the left side to turn left, right side to turn right, colour changes to indicate distance).
In whatever form the technology takes, it will be an interesting and useful addition to the set of human senses.
2. Super Hearing
Earbuds are the latest addition to the repertoire of audio listening devices. Wireless connectivity that fits within your ear means you can be listening to music or speaking on the phone while almost no one around you knows (especially in the winter while wearing a hat!).
But earbuds and small, personal speakers in general, provides a lot of potential even greater improvement. Not only will this addition to the industry provide cost reductions for hearing aids, but they could come standard with everything from increased hearing sensitivity to directional listening and recording to omnipresent voice communication with smart devices.
3. Understanding of all Languages
One of my favourite enhancements that will eventually come standard with earbuds, and one that is powerful enough to deserve its own spot on this list, is real-time language translation.
The first ear speaker with this ability is already on the market. Known as ‘Human Headphones‘ the full ear speaker comes with noise reduction, enhanced hearing, and real-time translation. This last has been tested by some independent reviewers and found to be acceptable.
In its current state, both the ear speaker and the translation ability are a bit unwieldy, however, computer-aided language translation is a difficult nut that has only recently begun to be cracked with something approaching success. As the technology improves (and it will — quickly), this will a standard technology, driven both by business and tourism.
4. Super Vision
I’ve written about this before several times (5 Technologies that will Change Communication in the 2020s, 10 Things That are Rare Now but Will Be Common by 2030, ) but I don’t believe it can be understated how important digital glasses, and then contacts, will be in changing the way we interact with the world.
We are visual creatures more than anything else and these technologies will change the way we perceive, and interact with, the world. This ranges from the relatively simple digital zoom like that used by cameras and navigational overlays for find our way or discovering tourist attractions to the power of augmented reality.
And make no mistake, augmented reality will be a game changer. When this technology becomes widespread and photo-realistic, we will have the ability to experience the world however we want it to look.
Want everyone to look like your favourite superstar? No problem. Want the world and all the people to look like something out of a comic book or cartoon? Done. Imagine creating a visual form for the voice of your smart speaker? Easy.
For business, tourism, and sub-cultures, this means the city-in-a-city idea becomes a structural reality, with virtual environments overlayed on real ones.
Wearables, but to a much greater degree implantable technology, will allow us to interact with machines to a degree never before achieved by humans. Gone will be the clunky interface of the keyboard or touch screen. Now we will be able to command our devices with our thoughts alone.
We will be cyberpathic.
Like augmented reality and real-time translation, it’s difficult to comprehend how much this will change our society. All of the other technologies on this list will be augmented by this one development. It will impact everything from basic communication to transportation and everything else.
We are on the cusp of small but significant technological changes that will give us powers we could previously only dream of. Powers that will radically change the way our society functions.
But what do you think? Is there anything you’d add to my list? Which technology are you most looking forward to? Most dreading?