How the future shows up: a little at a time, not a big bang

John Markoff, in As Aging Population Grows, So Do Robotic Health Aides, discusses Naira Hovakimyan’s vision for home drones playing a role in home care for elders:

The ranks of older and frail adults are growing rapidly in the developed world, raising alarms about how society is going to help them take care of themselves in their own homes.

Naira Hovakimyan has an idea: drones.

The University of Illinois roboticist recently received a $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation to explore the idea of designing small autonomous drones to perform simple household chores, like retrieving a bottle of medicine from another room. Dr. Hovakimyan acknowledged that the idea might seem off-putting to many, but she believes that drones will not only be safe, but will become an everyday fixture in elder care within a decade or two.

“I’m convinced that within 20 years drones will be today’s cellphones,” she said.

I think she meant ‘I’m convinced that within 20 years drones will be as prevalent as cellphones are today’. I buy that.

Even more interesting is how the future shows up: not in the anthropomorphic, uncanny valley robot servant, but in an array of semi-intelligent gizmos that act more like insects or jellyfish than people. A little at a time, not a big bang.

Written by

Founder, Work Futures. Editor, GigaOm. My obsession is the ecology of work, and the anthropology of the future.

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