We can’t find any hard statistics on this, but we’re willing to bet that the last 10 years have brought us more exciting technological advancements than perhaps the 100 years before them combined.
That’s the nature of technology – a single breakthrough can pave the way for multiple new possibilities. That means innovation is growing at an exponential rate… and in all different directions. It can be hard to keep up!
So, while this decade has brought us plenty of amazing innovations, we’re going to do our best to narrow it down. Below you’ll find the 5 innovations we found most interesting over the past decade – but this is just our list. If you don’t see your favorite, let us know why you think it should have been included in the comments below!
1. Google Assistant, Siri & Alexa: AI comes alive
We’ve written about AI extensively in the past – but it’s still somewhat mysterious to most (even those who work in the field)!
However, the rise of AI-driven assistants like Google’s Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa, and Apple’s Siri have made the concept a bit easier for all of us to grasp.
Not only do these powerful tools help us send texts and set timers while cooking, they also provide an excellent introduction into the power and potential applications of AI (and/or machine learning). It’s a lot easier to see how AI can play a useful role in our lives with these consumer-friendly applications.
On top of that, engineers are learning from the way we all use these early programs – which helps them develop new technology that’s even more useful to us. It’s only going to improve from here!
2. The Self-Driving Car: Safer and smoother (but less conversational than your Uber driver)
Okay, so we haven’t quite made it to flying cars – yet. But we do have something that might be even more futuristic: cars that drive themselves.
Even though our world has become increasingly connected online, physical presence still means a lot. But the world’s population is growing, and that means our streets are becoming more congested.
The problem? Nobody’s a perfect driver (despite their claims). Humans are too, well, human to drive perfectly. The solution? Let the cars do all the driving – and coordinating. Simple, right? (And only slightly crazy-sounding…)
Google and Apple got the wheels rolling on this exciting new tech at the beginning of the decade, and although it’s still in development, the potential applications (and benefits) are just beginning. We expect driverless cars to solve a ton of problems in the coming decade, from virtually eliminating traffic accidents to reducing carbon emissions and beyond.
3. Crispr: The beginning of the end for (almost) all disease
While CRISPR is still relatively new, the potential for this gene-editing system seems endless – it essentially allows us to “find and replace” certain strands of DNA.
Why is this so incredible? Well, DNA is responsible for how wonderfully unique we all are – but it’s also responsible for a number of genetic diseases, including sickle cell anemia, cancer and other illnesses we haven’t been able to treat with conventional means.
CRISPR allows us to go “right to the source” of these diseases and remove the strands of DNA that make them possible. Not only that, but it’s also been used to create genetically modified human embryos. Highly promising – and indeed, slightly spooky depending on your perspective. In any case, this is a huge leap for our understanding of “how things work” on a genetic level.
P.S. The name stands for “Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats” – in case you were curious.
4. The iPad: Silly name, endless applications (literally)
Nobody thought the iPad would take off. It’s hard to remember, since it DID take off… and even started the “tablet revolution”. But back then, people thought the name was pretty silly – and what the heck was it supposed to be, anyway? An oversized iPhone or a dumbed-down computer?
Well, turns out we’ve found plenty of uses for the iPad (and the many imitators it’s since spawned). Now you can find them being used for all sorts of applications, from the cash register to modern smart factories. We’re sorry we doubted you, Apple. We’ll never do it again, we promise!
(We still think “iTab” would have been a better name, though.)
5. SpaceX: “Recyclable Rockets”
Recently, we wrote about why we haven’t moved to the moon yet. One of the reasons we didn’t cover: space travel is expensive!
Prohibitive costs accounts for one of the main reasons space agencies are limited in their exploration. The major reason? Most rockets are designed to blast off… then get blasted to pieces.
Elon Musk saw this problem and thought: “I can figure this out.” Next thing you know, his company SpaceX was celebrating the successful launch and landing of its innovative Falcon 9 rocket.
Even better? The launch cost just $62 million! (Oh, right – context. That’s, like, super cheap… we’re talking about a quarter of what it would’ve cost 10 years prior.)
This new cost-reducing approach will only improve, and with it, humanity will reach distant horizons we never could have imagined just 10 years ago. (Manned mission to Mars, anyone?)
Alright, those are our picks – now it’s your turn! What do you think were the most important inventions of the 2010s? Let us know in the comments below!