Looking to the future


Michigan Tech students like Elizabeth Merze above constantly strive to innovate and progress towards the future. – Photo by Kiran Udayakumar

I am excited every day by the volume of innovation that is taking place on this planet. This is regrettably a vague statement but the accomplishments of the past century are far too numerous to be listed here. The main trend that is most exciting to pull from this listing is the advancements of technol­ogy, which will enable freedom from single planetary reliance.

First, the advancements of artificial in­telligence indicate that as a design tool they become more powerful than a single human mind many times over. Ignoring aesthetics and traditional measures, they can seek out non-intuitive solutions and use strength metrics like finite element analysis to analyze the strength of an iterated design.

The final product becomes a program capable of taking design requirements and constraints and feeding back a design that is less dense and stronger than a human made design. The benefits of such a system would enhance the speed and adaptability of an in­dustry to the consumer market.

Second, material design has become a central driving force behind many innova­tions ranging from pure construction to computer design and configuration. New materials aid in the creation of more efficient and low cost solar cells. New discoveries of the potential for carbon to influence the elec­trical conditions of supercomputers or the possibility of building space elevators out of carbon nanotubes.

So on and so forth goes the list of human accomplishments that grows larger by the second. In some regards, this scary and terrifying because the pace of change accelerates con­tinuously and many new discoveries unlock ways for people to do damage to themselves or others. This is a natural reaction to changes – humans are habitual creatures and we like patterns.

Gun pow­er made the harvesting of meat easier, the tamed beast let the tilling of fields run quick­er, albeit with the danger of injury or death due to any number of accidents with the proximity of such a large work animal. Each step in history has been accompanied by growth and change.

Today that change and subsequent growth cycle is shortening – which is excit­ing. The pace is building; the acceleration is accumulating and leading us towards some­thing – something that cannot be ignored. To branch out and explore has always been a drive for humanity. To learn so as not to fear. To know so as to cope. To gain so as to become.

My final thought; do not ignore the signs of advancement, but instead support the fu­ture by any means appropriate. Investment in education, research and businesses direct­ed at reaching the stars.