It’s true that for the longest time now, every year has seen multiple wings of technology reach one step ahead of where it was in the previous year. Technology has grown at an astounding pace recently, turning each year into a step in the evolution of tech as a whole. However, almost every bit of progress made in any field of technology recently has been powered directly or indirectly by computer science.
For example, the recently released 1.8 billion pixel photo of Mars was taken by Curiosity, the 993kg rover that NASA had placed on Mars successfully in 2012. While the hunk of metal has sophisticated machinery from almost every field of science imaginable, it’s the twin Rover Compute Element, or RCE, computers which are essentially running everything and making communication a possibility.
We expect 2020 to be a particularly big year for computer science in particular, and while we will be taking a look through other aspects of technology as well, expect computers to be the central theme in 2020, with AI, mobile computing and cybersecurity taking the lead.
NASA Will Launch Their 5th Rover Towards Mars
Curiosity might be the most relevant and effective out of them all right now, but it was not the first rover sent to Mars by NASA, as Sojourner, Spirit and Opportunity did precede it. However, the Perseverance, aka Mars Rover 2020, will be launched later this year in July/August, which will be replacing the Curiosity as the latest and the most advanced rover to ever explore Mars.
The 5th Mars rover is being seen as not just one of the biggest steps of technological evolution in 2020, but also the most advanced step in space exploration ever. Take a look at the most significant aspects of the Perseverance project as shortlisted below:
- Although Curiosity is the prime inspiration behind Perseverance’s design, countless improvements have been made over the original design
- It will carry a drill capable of drilling and collecting samples from within the depths of Mars, guided by the onboard artificial intelligence
- Perseverance will be guided by advanced AI navigation, making it possible for the rover to land itself safely on Mars
- Once on Mars, AI navigation and mapping will play an extensive part in surface navigation, research and possibly even a return trip
- The prime objective of the Perseverance is to look for the presence of ancient life on Mars, even if it is microbial
Quantum Physics and the Internet will Begin to Merge
When somebody mentions the term quantum physics, safe internet connection is not exactly what comes to mind admittedly, but that is going to start changing from 2020! Stephanie Wehner and her team from Delft University of Technology are currently in the process of doing exactly that. Highlight points of the project are as follows:
- They are developing an internet network which will be based on the principles of quantum physics
- All communications via the photon network will be completely secure and theoretically impossible to hack
- The project will initially be limited to Dutch cities
- It is expected that by the end of 2020, Delft and Hague will have a functioning quantum internet connection
It should be noted that this would be different from the Chinese project introduced earlier. As it used similar photon-based quantum technology, but in conjunction with traditional tech, leaving it vulnerable to hacking attempts.
Problems and Solutions will be Juggled in Mobile Computing
If quantum networks could be used to connect the entire world in a matter of months, and if such a move was simultaneously made affordable, then we could theoretically get rid of cyber threats for the most part. However, none of that is possible for a long time to come. The technology itself is in development, so it will be a long time before dual photon connections become the standard norm. In the meanwhile, however, there are serious security concerns to consider.
As this post about the most prevalent issues of mobile computing on Wilfrid Laurier University points out, the following should all be considered concerns for 2020 and beyond:
- Bigger screens and power-hungry apps are draining batteries faster than before
- Use of outdated mobile OS versions, without the necessary security protocols in place to protect user info
- Leaked data concerns and massive increase in the frequency of public Wi-Fi interruptions
These problems will in turn see the computer science professionals work harder towards finding solutions, and as a result, their demand as professionals will continue to grow as well. This will result in:
- An increase in the number of available jobs for computer science professionals
- A fast growing pay scale, expected to cross the $100,000/year mark on an average
Personalised Drugs and Treatment Development for Rare Genetic Disorders
Can drugs be catered to suit a patient’s unique genetic conditions? It wasn’t considered possible before, but research in this category has progressed massively, and in 2020, we could be seeing a complete change in the way we approach rare genetic disorders, but first, we need to point out the primary issue here.
- A large number of the rare genetic vulnerabilities and diseases are not treatable simply because they are rare
- Given how few people are affected by such conditions, cures/treatment options were not even being studied
- If pharmaceutical companies don’t see a financial benefit in developing such a drug, they are not likely to invest in it
The change in approach can itself be termed as personalised medication development, and it can be defined along the following lines:
- The patient’s rare genetic susceptibility/disease/genetic defect is identified first
- A treatment option that would specifically be effective for that particular patient is designed
- Due to the specific nature of the medication, it works exceptionally well for that particular patient
Treatment options for such patients go beyond personalised drug development, although it is an intricate and important part of the multifaceted approach. Options may include any one or multiple of the following:
- Gene replacement: The faulty gene is replaced, if possible, thus removing the cause itself
- Genetic editing: Making changes to the patient’s overall genetic build where possible, to improve their condition
- Antisense: Often described as a genetic eraser, it can erase problematic genetic codes and messages
We expect 2020 to be a massive year for personalised genetic treatment to go big, although the obvious financial burdens will hold it back from becoming more accessible.
Artificial Intelligence has Begun Its Quest to Find the Cure for Everything
It may already sound like science fiction, but the process has already started in 2020 itself. We will need to wait until 2023-2025, before any results can be expected, but the potentials are tremendous, to put it mildly. In order to explain the concept though, we will have to take a brief look through the medical potential of molecular biology first:
- About 1060 molecules exist in total, and within them lies the virtual possibility to synthesise any drug for any disease in existence
- The problem is that it’s humanly impossible to identify the ones needed for procuring a particular cure via the trial and error method, given that nearly immeasurable molecular volume
- “Humanly” as a keyword, AI has the capability to do the same job, but the process is faster, and more accurate
- Using algorithmic programs to both decipher the potentials of known molecules, as well as expanding the database further is already in its strides in 2020
Aside from the semi-fantastical potential for finding cures to almost all diseases eventually, there are immediate advantages to AI-powered molecular exploration as well.
- It makes drug discovery and commercialisation a more financially viable option now
- Molecular exploration by AI can see risks and opportunities that human chemists initially cannot
- The virtual simulation process minimises the rounds and risks of drug trials on animals and humans, to a huge extent
- The minimisation of risks and rounds reduces the expense in both time and money required in drug development
Quantum Computers Have Finally Been Showcased by Google
Quantum computers have been a theoretical step in the evolution of computers for a while now, but the massive potentials were realised for the first time in October 2019, when Google provided actual proof of the fact that they really are light years ahead in their capabilities in comparison to traditional computers. Other major corporations such as Microsoft, IBM and Quantum-Circuits are also expected to display actual proof of the quantum computer’s abilities by 2020.
So, what exactly can we expect from quantum computers? In accordance with what Google showcased, their 53 qubits quantum computer took 3-minutes to complete the necessary calculations and solved a problem which the most powerful traditional supercomputer would take 1.5 billion times longer to do!
Let’s take a brief look at the summary of these proposed possibilities:
- A quantum computer can process information and solve problems today, that the most powerful supercomputer available right now would take more than 1,000+ years compute
- They can decrypt even cryptographic information
- Guided by the right AI algorithms, quantum computers can be used to find the aforementioned molecules of the most importance, immeasurably faster
However, in spite of everything, quantum computers are still going to remain a conceptual product in 2020. A decade is the minimum estimated time before we can expect them to be actually useful in real life scenarios.