The future will be data-driven, personalized and with way more robots. These were a few of the big takeaways at the Xconomy's Boston 2034 conference as entrepreneurs and inventors played fortune-tellers for a day. Data collection, whether it’s from bicycles detecting air quality or software tracking every bodily function, will provide more information about us than we thought we wanted to know.
"Imagine that you’re going to your smart toilet and you get a microbiome profile," said biotech entrepreneur Daphne Zohar, one of several local entrepreneurs and startups with big ideas on how to apply all this personal health data. "One of the things that we’re really excited about is electronic medicine. Electronic medicine is the ability to deliver disease-modifying therapy remotely through software."
That is, if you don’t have a problem with giving up all that personal info―all in the name of good health. All of this, however, won’t be possible unless our culture fosters an interest in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), says Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway and founder of DEKA Research and FIRST, an organization dedicated to getting kids psyched about science and robots. And he’s doing that with the help of Will.I.Am of the Black Eyed Peas because he knows the widespread influence pop music stars have.
"The last thing we need to do is give more advantage to the advantaged," Kamen said. "The kids who already know that life is about science and technology and hard work and realistic goals—they don’t need FIRST. But the other kids that would love it if they were involved, typically aren’t involved because they’ve never heard of it because it’s crowded out by the world of popular culture, entertainment and sports."
Not so fast, says Assaf Biderman from MIT’s Senseable Cities Lab. He says all this focus on STEM is great but the social sciences and liberal arts are just as valuable.
“It is impossible to have engineering without social sciences," Biderman. "And I think pushing one without the other is pointless because it’s about developing technologies that solve human problems, you need to understand people.”
Another consideration as we look ahead and plan the next 20 years.