We already have autonomous systems and we even have a few examples of symbiotic autonomous systems but it is like the brothers Wright saying they had a plane. Yes, indeed, that is what they flew, but it would be difficult to compare that plane with today’s A380 and even more difficult to compare that with today’s civil aviation (infrastructure, planes, market, economics, regulatory environment).
That first plane compares pretty well to the point we are today in terms of symbiotic autonomous systems.
In a way the technology that we have today provides the basic components for future symbiotic autonomous systems, but again, it is like saying that the Wright plane had wings, rudder and engine as today’s planes and a stretch of land it used to take off and land.
We have technology that can let a robot harvest energy from plants (using the photosyntheses processes of algae, as an example), technology that provide vision and understanding to a robot (the forecasted market value in this area is over 5B$ by 2020), technology to interface robots and living being, including BCI (whose market value is placed at over 1.2 B$ by 2024), technology for smart autonomous robots (expected to exceed 7.5B$ market value by 2020), and technology for meta-systems of autonomous systems (swarms).
Looking at Gartner 2016 emerging technology hype curve we find in the Innovation Trigger area general purpose machine intelligence, an important component of future autonomous systems, with a predicted landing time (time to hit the market) over 10 years. In the same range is Huma augmentation, neuromorphic hardware and brain computer interfaces.
Closer in time we have the commercial unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV-drones) with a time to market between 5 and 10 years along with smart robots.
Autonomous vehicles are also considered with a time to market over 10 years but they are placed on the peak of inflated expectations.
I am basically in agreement with these expectations, although, as I said, one could claim, as an example, that self driving cars are already a reality.
The transition from something that is making the news and something that is accepted as “normal” to the point of no longer making news is over 10 years in this area. Hence, precisely because we have headlines anticipating the first autonomous taxi in Dubai in July 2017 we can bet that we will have those taxis as common as the ones clogged in the traffic today in the fourth decade of this century, not before.