Credit: Microsoft

Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft asked people who hold research positions in the company to share their thoughts on future developments in their different fields. Microsoft chose 17 women in order to draw attention to the opportunity for careers for women in STEM fields. The researcher’s ideas about future technology in 2017 and 2027 make for interesting reading and the world will be a better and more interesting place if half of what they envision comes to pass.

One theme that runs through many of the researcher’s predictions is that by 2027 we’ll be living in what might be called a smartworld. Advances in AI, computer vision, natural language processing, probabilistic programming, and smart objects will embed us in a world that responds to our presence by serving up information about many of the things in our immediate environment. All we will have to do is ask and objects will be identified, local conditions will be described, and the path to a desired location will be laid out on the street in front of us.

Credit: Microsoft/YouTube

Credit: Microsoft/YouTube

All of the researcher’s ideas are worth checking out. Here are several that I found particularly intriguing.

Sara-Jane Dunn a scientist at Microsoft’s Cambridge research lab, holds out the possibility that a theory of biological computation will emerge by 2027 that will probably not look anything like the silicon-based computation we are familiar with today. The result could be profoundly disruptive – living software that opens up entirely new industries and solutions in the areas of medicine, energy, agriculture and materials. She’s suggesting the possibility of a revolution in the nature of computing itself.

Mary L. Gray, a senior researcher at Microsoft’s New England research lab, suggests that social and computer scientists will develop a better understanding of groups that live in information bubbles as early as next year. Mapping connections among people and measuring information flow into and out of the bubble can produce insight into how these groups form and the cultural, economic and political impact they have.

Nicole Immorlica, another senior researcher at the New England research lab, proposes that economists will develop theories about the sub-optimal decision making that occurs when people are faced with the complex decision spaces that can be produced by big-data analytics. These theories can form the foundation for machine learning applications that people can use to optimize decisions in complex spaces.

Immorlica also suggests that by 2027 a significant proportion of personal income is likely to be derived from the data people generate as they interact with the smartworld instead of the work that they do for their “job” as we understand it today. She suggests that an economy based on generating data through daily living could result in a redistribution of wealth.

Asta Roseway, a principal research designer at Microsoft’s Redmond research lab, focuses on how smartworld technology will affect agriculture, ecology and the environment. She proposes that in 2017 the combination of sensor-loaded smart objects, computer vision, and advanced machine learning will enable farmers to increase efficiency and productivity. She also suggests that development in these technological areas can contribute to low-energy farming, forest preservation and urban-space agriculture by 2027.msoft-research_msoft

This is only a small sample of the thoughts Microsoft’s researchers have about our technological future. What makes their ideas especially interesting is that these women are the scientists and research specialists who are working to see their ideas come to fruition. You can check out what all of them have to say on the Microsoft blog.