Visiting futurist gives area things to think about

Society is constantly evolving. However, advances in technology can escalate this evolution, and people need to be up to the challenge.

Otherwise, they might get left behind.

Thomas Frey, founder of the Westminster, Colorado-based DaVinci Institute and former IBM engineer and designer, spoke about future technology Monday before the Economic Club of Marquette County.

There are many ways to look at the future: climate change, cultural diversity, civil rights, business innovations, technology … the list goes on.

Frey’s talk focused mainly on technological innovations that, like it or not, are headed our way in a major way.

Imagine life, say, in 2030. Overhead, you might see a flying drone carrying a lifesaving medical device to a person located far away on a golf course, for example, thus bringing aid much faster than would be possible with a regular ambulance.

You might see driverless vehicles using a highway specifically dedicated to them.

You might use “smart chopsticks” that determine if the food you are about to eat is healthy. If you think that’s science fiction, several years ago the Chinese search giant Baidu introduced this gadget, which is designed to detect oils with unsanitary levels of contamination.

Another product that was developed not too long ago was the app iCPooch, which allows users to remotely monitor their pets and even video chat with them. It also feeds pets remotely via smartphone or tablet app.

You also might see more contour crafting, which is building printing technology that uses feeding data to a machine that, according to Popular Mechanics, sprays and smooths out walls and structural components using nozzles, arms and other tools. This means building homes, for example, with far less manual labor.

Loss of jobs usually is a bad thing. People need them. However, jobs will be available to people who can change with the new technology. They can develop it, tweak it, operate it and fix it.

There’s always the fear of automation replacing humans. It probably will in many cases. However, new types of jobs will emerge from technological advances.

It is important, though, to temper innovation with human needs and the environment. Unbridled technological advances could bring a dystopian world, like a cautionary tale out of “The Twilight Zone.”

Frey’s speech gave the basic message of making decisions today planned on the vision of the future.

That’s a good message to remember, as long as those decisions are made carefully and with foresight.