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Chantel Prat is quoted in this Information Age article about the key events in the story of technology and AI.

Tech and society

Michael Baxter

16 November 2019

Key events in the story of technology

The former editor of Information Age, Michael Baxter draws upon material from his new book to discuss key events in the story of technology

In the story of technology where do you begin? In my new book, co-written with Julien de Salaberry, called Living in the Age of the Jerk, we go back in time, way back. But for the sake of this article, I begin the story of key events in technology with Charles Babbage — who designed the first computer.

I could have begun with the invention of the steam engine, the early innovations of the industrial revolution of the 18th Century such as Arkwright’s Water Frame, or even further to the printing press, the invention of writing, the wheel or even to the point when our early ancestors learned how to make fire.

But in the book, we focus on what we call the fifth industrial revolution, a revolution that will follow on immediately and to an extent overlap with the fourth industrial revolution. The fifth industrial revolution will culminate in the augmentation of humanity, changing us so completely that you could even argue we are no longer the same species.

In a way the iPhone and Android are fifth industrial revolution revolution products because while they have not literally augmented us, for many of us, they are akin to a new appendage. In the very near future will be supported by always there AI assistants, which may even access via our thoughts. Our memories could be enhanced, even our intelligence. We could be physically augmented too, like bionic men and women. If you ever saw the 1970s TV series Six Million Dollar Man, you will know what I mean. Finally, there is our DNA, it won’t be long before even this is changed, literally changing us physically.

So what are the key events in the story of technology as just told above?

  • 1987: the Culture Series of books by Ian M Banks begins with Consider Phlebas, the books introduce the idea of neural lace, a fictional technology for enhancing the brain with a mesh of artificial neurons creating an interface between machine and brain
  • 2003 the Hunan Genome is sequenced at a cost of $2.7 billion.
  • 2005: Boyden ES, et al. Nat Neurosci publish a paper showing how a protein in a certain type of algae reacts to light. This was a key moment in the development of optogenetics, technology for turning targeted neurons in the brain on and off, with extraordinary applications.
  • 2007: Apple announces the iPhone, and later in the year Google reveals the Android.
  • 2012: Jennifer Doudna, and Emmanuelle Charpentier from the University of California, Berkeley and Umeå University in Umeå, Sweden, publish a paper showing how CRISPR/Cas 9 is used by bacteria to protect themselves from viruses by editing their own DNA.
  • August 2013, researchers at the University of Washington claimed to have created the first human to human brain interface, with one individual able to send instructions on playing a simple video game to another individual, on the side of the campus, directly from his brain. Chantel Prat, assistant professor in psychology at the UW’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences said: “We plugged a brain into the most complex computer anyone has ever studied, and that is another brain.”

Read the entire article here.