For academics specializing in international relations like myself, 2016 was an eventful year that was full of surprises.
It was also a year of revolution in everyday life. It was during the past year that the world witnessed a number of technological breakthroughs that might change our everyday life forever.
Last year, Google unveiled its latest artificial intelligence system known as “AlphaGo” which cannot only learn super-fast but can also mimic the way humans think and make decisions.
AlphaGo was put to the test when it was arranged to play against Lee Sedol from Korea, the 18-time world champion of the Go game, in a five-game match. The world was stunned when Lee was beaten 4-1, suggesting that artificial intelligence has come of age and it won’t be long before it will be widely applied to various aspects of daily life.
2. Pokemon Go and Virtual reality (VR)
Pokemon Go, a smartphone game app jointly developed by Nintendo of Japan and Niantic of the US using revolutionary “augmented reality” technology, took the world by storm last year and became a global monster hit.
The app offered players a whole new experience by merging online images with reality and could set the trend for a new generation of online video games for years to come.
In the meantime, VR technology also saw such an enormous breakthrough in 2016 that in probably 10 years’ time, the average individual can travel around the world and even to the outer space just by putting on goggles and sitting in a couch at home.
3. Self-driving cars
The year also saw major advancements in “autopilot” technology. Tesla introduced self-driving hardware and software to its vehicles which can turn them into full self-driving cars. Google pressed ahead with its own self-driving car program in full swing.
According to the company, the technology is expected to have enormous commercial potential and could change our lives forever.
4. The space race
It was a great leap forward for China’s space technology. The country successfully completed its sixth manned space mission. The success of the mission meant China is probably just one step away from building its own permanent space station.
Also, the successful launch of the “Long March 5” heavy-lift rocket last year indicates that China is quickly narrowing the gap with the US and Russia in terms of space technology.
The International Space Station (ISS) project jointly run by the US, Russia and Europe is due to expire in 2024. Along with the rise of China, cooperation and rivalry among the world’s superpowers will get more intriguing.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan. 13
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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