Riyadh audience hears of a time when spacecraft will be flying multiple times a week

Riyadh audience hears of a time when spacecraft will be flying multiple times a week
Participants look to the stars on the sidelines of the three-day Future InvestmentInitiatives conference in Riyadh. (AFP)
Updated 27 October 2017

Riyadh audience hears of a time when spacecraft will be flying multiple times a week

Riyadh audience hears of a time when spacecraft will be flying multiple times a week

RIYADH: Emerging technologies are already transforming the world we live in but with self-driving cars, private space flight, gene editing and other breakthroughs on the horizon, the pace of progress is set to accelerate, the Future Investment Initiative heard.
“Artificial intelligence alone, which is in really very early stages of development, is altering nearly every facet of modern life,” said Wendell Wallach, technology and ethics chair at Yale University, who hosted the session on “Seeing around corners: What new technologies are driving the future?”
He described the cumulative effect AI will have on other fields of research as it evolves. “Technology is moving into a drivers seat as a primary determinant of humanity’s destiny,” he said.
Delegates were asked to consider which of several emerging technologies will have the greatest impact in the 21st century, including consumer space travel, defense technology, self-driving cars, the Internet of things and universal internet connectivity, with the majority voting for the latter two.
Saudi Telecom Group CEO Khaled Biyari pointed to “the marriage of computing devices” and the “coverage promised by new technologies.”
“It really opens up a huge array of possibilities,” he said, describing the essence of a smart city “where I can use my smart phone to do almost anything — to pay for my ride, to control my home, to search.”
“There are so many new ways of getting value from our assets. It’s a completely new era for us in the telecommunications industry.”
George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic, painted a picture of space travel that will open up commercial services in the next year.
“The number of people who have been to space is approximately 550. We now have more than 600 people signed up to go,” he said, envisaging a time when “hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands” have access to space flight.
“We believe that increasing access to space for the whole planet … for all of us is a really great opportunity because that space perspective is so important to the future of humanity,” he added, pointing to a time when space craft will be flying multiple times a week and point-to-point travel offers transportation at four times the speed of a normal jet airliner.