Wall Street Pit

The Era Of Smartphones Is Ending

After the telco companies succeeded in making us think that we won’t last a day without our smartphones, it’s hard to believe that in a few years, our indispensable devices could become obsolete. And how will this happen you might ask? Well, the short answer is: artificial intelligence (AI) will eventually kill the smartphones and take over.

But wait. Can you even imagine how you would survive without your beloved smartphone when you can’t stop using it for almost everything you do because it’s where you keep stuff; it’s what you use to communicate, navigate through traffic, ask for information, listen to your favorite tunes, watch movies and videos, shop, pay bills, book tickets, browse the Internet, play games, take pictures, shoot videos, even exercise using those health and fitness apps. Yes, I gotta admit, it’s hard to read the entire sentence in one breath, but it’s true. Our frenetic lives revolve around these gadgets.

But despite all the things you can do on your smartphone, somehow it doesn’t seem appropriate to call it a smartphone. Sure, it has gotten pretty ‘smart’. But calling it a ‘phone’? And yes you can argue it looks like one, but still, given its multi-functionality aspect maybe redefining the word ‘phone’ per se may be in order.

Sure, it’s gotten an extra long way from being a mere communication device to what it is now — a pocket-sized personal computer that enables us to do so much stuff. Which makes it hard to imagine why smartphones will be dead soon.

And yet, it’s AI that will do the displacing. If AI and robots can displace humans, it can just as easily replace devices too.

As the features of smartphones become even more high-tech, it’s not hard to see that they’ve become improvements more than anything else. No astounding new features, just refinements.

AI, on the other hand, is having breakthrough after breakthrough. And ultimately, we might be looking at tiny devices that can be implanted in our brains and give us direct interaction with computers.

It’s the solution that Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk believes will prevent, or at least postpone, the threat of AI surpassing human intelligence. And by funding Neuralink, a brain-computer interface company, Musk has taken a concrete step towards realizing the human-computer symbiosis he has been envisioning — the merging of human intelligence with digital intelligence, so humans can keep up with AI for the next 10 to 20 years. After that, and as futurist Ray Kurzweil has predicted, computers will become “billions of times more powerful than unaided human intelligence.”

According to Musk, tech that will merge our minds with machines is about four or five years away. Based on a survey done by Ericsson in December 2015, smartphones will become a ‘thing of the past’ in about five years, and that AI will be taking over many tasks that we’re performing on our smartphones today. The Ericsson-Musk time frame match is definitely quite remarkable. On the other hand, it’s certainly looking grim for the currently flourishing smartphone industry.

A future without cellphones is hard to imagine right now. But so is a future where we’ll only have to think about what we want done and the computer will do it for us. It’s coming, though. In a few years, we will certainly realize that we’re fast approaching the moment when humans and machines merge.