Disruption coming your way

Tina Haapala |

Written by Gary Silverman, CFP®

Disruption. It’s a messy word. Most of us would rather not be disrupted. But there are many technological and scientific changes that have proved disruptive, and I think you’ll agree, while not perfect, have certainly made our lives better. Think about distributed electricity. The motor. Lights. Vaccines have kept a lot of us alive. Steam power systems were part of an early industrial revolution. The printing press recorded knowledge and heightened the desire to learn how to read. Telephone and telegraph systems created a path to share knowledge around the world. Television brought it into our living rooms. And the computer…well, you know that it changed a few things.

Future disruptions are in development now, but we might not recognize their potential. Dream with me as I see self-driving cars that will virtually eliminate accidents, allow a greater concentration of autos on the highways so that fewer will have to be built or expanded. Instead of owning cars we might just rent them by the hour…like cabs that are always where you want them to be. Parking lots won’t occupy such a vast amount of land around our shopping centers and schools since the cars can be repurposed while we are not in need of them. In essence, you could have public transportation efficiencies with individual automobile independence and solitude.

Drones of all sorts, on the roads, in the air, and in the water can accomplish much from the comfort of your easy chair. Imagine a drone lawnmower, a drone car wash device, a drone vacuum (I’ve got one of those), a drone gutter cleaner, a drone security guard, a drone tree trimmer. Before the robots of the future we’ll experience the time of the drone.

3-D printing is already making food, cars, houses and even body parts. Feel like chicken tonight? Call up your home device and tell it to print out a couple of breasts and a thigh. While you’re at it have it make hot dogs for the kids…but with less fat and no preservatives. Need a hard-to-find part for your bike? Just select it from a catalog, load in the required raw material and have it printed out and ready to install the next morning.

Your doctor might print out some muscle tissue for use in reconstructive surgery on that elbow of yours or perhaps some bone material to graft in. She knew you’d need that well in advance since you were regularly sending in reports using a Star Trek-like tricorder to take and transmit your vitals (including blood and urine samples). She’ll already know that you have a predisposition to certain diseases due to the gene map she made from your DNA. With this information your medical problems can start to be taken care of before you even notice you are sick.

The future might not match these possibilities exactly, but it will sure be interesting to see what will be. Sure there will be bumps along the way, but the road leads to brighter futures that for now only seem like dreams.

This article was featured in the column, "Your Money" in the Times Record News on August 9, 2015.