For those of you who paid attention during history class you will remember that the first Industrial Revolution began when it was discovered that water and ultimately steam could be used to mechanize and get more work done more efficiently. The use of electricity ushered in the second industrial revolution and allowed mass production to begin to take place.
Many may also be familiar with Moore’s Law, named for Intel co-founder Gordon Moore. In an article in Electronics magazine in 1965, Moore laid out his prediction that the number of transistors that could be placed on a silicon chip would roughly double every two years due to technology advances. Over 50 years later his theory is still valid. This was the driving force of the third industrial revolution that saw electronics and information technology create automation that has dramatically changed our daily lives over the past few decades.
Your smartphone may be the perfect example of how far we have come since the 1960’s and how technology still continues to expand at an exponential pace. A typical iPhone 6 is 32,600 times faster than the Apollo-era computers that NASA used to put a man on the moon. Yet despite that massive amount of power in your hands being used mainly to take pictures to post on social media, it too will be outdated when the latest and greatest iPhone hits the streets this Fall.
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These staggering computing speeds have produced huge quantities of data that now have to be stored, organized and analyzed. Thanks to Moore’s Law, we have gone from measuring data in bits to bytes. Terabytes, petabytes and even exabytes are used to measure the floods of data that now stream continuously through every aspect of our connected digital world, with each level of measure multiplying 1024 times as much volume as the previous measure.
The fourth industrial revolution is now taking place right before our eyes. Self-driving cars will become a reality that most people will utilize sooner rather than later. Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are already influencing and enhancing the way we shop online and interact with the world around us. The space industry is also getting cheaper to operate and is experiencing massive innovation as private industry applies economies of scale and commercialization. Cubesats are being produced on assembly lines while SpaceX is reusing Dragon rockets to slash the cost of putting satellites and payloads into space. Every week you can read about larger satellite communications constellations slated for deployment. The amount of data that the billions of smartphone users on the planet will access with the help of satellites is about to explode. Managing that traffic and optimizing the performance of these networks represents a great new opportunity and challenge for X2nSat and others in the SatCom Industry.
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Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg recently had a very public disagreement about the future of AI and if it could be a threat to mankind. The advances we will see as a result of AI and machine learning will be unlike any other that we have ever seen in our lifetime. I am sure our parent’s generation and those before them felt the same way as they marveled at electricity in homes or the ability to fly from New York to LA in one day. The industrial revolution and Henry Ford’s assembly line caused some to speculate that workers would become obsolete. We are asking the same questions today as new technology is applied to replace repetitive mundane tasks as well as increasingly complex ones.
Advances in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning represent the next great frontier for allowing technology to fulfill the premise of Moore’s Law for the next 50 years. Many parts of our world, such as Africa, have been bypassed by the first three industrial revolutions. Many of these impoverished populations could see the biggest improvements and changes to their quality of life if mankind can harness these emerging capabilities to provide the greatest good for all. It is an exciting time to be alive!