What I’ve learned from reading Physics of the Future by Michio Kaku:
A lot of our best research has always been pioneered by the military. The military wants driverless cars as transports, they want robot soldiers, and they want genetic engineering to both protect from and cause genetic warfare. This makes a lot of sense. This research will make it safer for our troops to operate in dangerous places. It will probably make conflicts shorter, at least until the enemy adapts its own response.
Only after the military has made use of the technology does it open up for commercial use. In fact, many of our modern conveniences resulted from both failed and successful military research. What was expensive for the military becomes affordable to us the consumers.
As technology becomes more and more advanced and does more and more of our daily operations for us, though, relying on the military to be the chief innovator can pose a potential problem. The military builds for attack and defense, neither of which could ever be considered “friendly.” As countless sci-fi books and movies have shown us, we do not want out-of-control, sentient killer robots or genetic diseases that wipe out humanity. Kaku predicts that our most-likely future will be filled with “friendly” robots that are there to happily serve us, designed to be purely friendly–and also with easy off switches when things go awry. But this may not be the case if the military is the main creator of our robotic technology.
In America we are so proud of our Capitalism–that individuals can rise up and create the next new big thing. I think we need to start looking toward these individuals for many of our new innovations, at least if we want a more peaceful and less apocalyptic future.