Top 5 2014: Advancements

Now, I’m not the best person to talk to about politics, economics or technology, but I feel like I know a fair bit (particularly as technology is one of my biggest interests). So, today I’m going to take a punt and talk about some of the biggest advancements for humanity in 2014 as part of my “Top 5 2014” series of blogs & videos I’m running. This post is the 4th out of 5.

It would be hard to talk about all the advancements we’ve made this year, because we’ve made millions, but here are a selection of my favourite ones which I’d like to talk about. Note, they’re not in a particular order either.

5. Improved Payment Systems

This isn’t exactly a new topic but it is an area that’s had a huge improvement and better integration with the public this year. The way we pay for things is changing, you can now pay for items in many of the worlds biggest retailers using a contactless card or your smartphone.

This technology has existed in America and various Asian countries for a while now, but many British banks introduced contactless cards to their customers in 2013, and this year they are starting to take off. Google’s “Wallet” NFC-payment application has existed for a few years now, but this year Apple introduced “Apple Pay” which may give mobile payments the push they need. The technology is in place and all we need now is for society to make use of it in order for it to become normal rather than a gimmick. It’s something that I’m sure many metropolitans are thankful for when they want to grab their coffee and go in as little time as possible.

4. People Talking About Assault

I know, this is a bit of a dark topic, but it’s a very important one. This year I’ve noticed that a lot of people have been honest about being abused: be that from celebrities, family members or even within the YouTube “community”. It’s something that’s been talked about, and rightly so. How can we expect to do anything about it, or get people to think before they do it and hopefully stop it, if we don’t talk about it? If the only people who know it has happened are the abuser and the victim – nothing will change. Congratulations, well done, and thank you for taking the first, huge, leap to fixing the problem.

3. Human Rights

It’s been a huge year for human rights, particularly for women and people with alternative sexualities and genders. The HeForShe movement was set up this year and claims to be “a solidarity movement for gender equality”, it was first introduced by Emma Watson along with a remarkable speech which clearly lays out what “feminism” actually is and why we ALL need it (even men).

How about the story of Alanah Pearce vs GamerGate trolls? If you didn’t know, GamerGate was a series of threats and abuse towards women in the gaming industry. Alanah Pearce, a female gaming journalist, worked out that threats towards her were not coming from middle-aged men, but young boys. Brilliantly, she contacted their mothers about what they had been saying. Since then, Twitter and Women, Action & the Media have teamed up to produce better reporting tools for abuse on the micro-blogging site.

As for same-sex couples; they can now get married in 35 American States (as opposed to only 18 this time last year) as well as the The UK (excluding Northern Ireland), Luxembourg, Finland and various parts of Mexico (and the countries which already allowed same-sex marriage before 2014). AllOut, a campaign for equal rights of all sexualities and genders, also had huge success in getting the International Olympics Committee to include sexuality in Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter to protect athletes and fans. This was following huge controversy around the Winter Olympic Games being held in Russia this year, as Russia has a terrible reputation for human rights, particularly surrounding sexuality.

There were also positive movements regarding the recognition of genders alternative to male and female, and the public acceptance of these genders. The latter may be partially due to more appearances of trans* actors and characters in the media, such as Laverne Cox who featured in Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black” and also appeared on the cover of Time Magazine where the headline read “The Transgender Tipping Point“.

2. Drones

These aren’t just ideas in old films anymore, they are real… and very cheap. Besides entertainment, drones have many uses in our society. For example, Farmers are able to use them to monitor crops and control water and pest management more accurately. Amazon has announced that it is testing the use of unmanned drones for delivering products. With drones being available for such cheap prices, we can only expect them to become more common.

1. The Internet of Things

Last of all, one I’m very excited about, the Internet of Things. This is essentially the idea that all of our electronic devices will connect and therefore “talk” to each other. It not only allows us to control all our appliances with our smartphones, but also allows for the collection of data which enables our devices to make smart decisions and therefore provide us with a seamless, automated experience. An example could be when you’re driving home, your car is detected within 15 miles of your house, it’s getting closer and it’s 2 degrees Celsius outside. Your heating system knows this information (as it talks to your car) and therefore makes the decision to turn on your heating and warm up your house before you arrive home.

Many of the biggest names in technology, including Google, Apple and Intel, have been working on standards for this and it’s already started to come in to homes with products such as the Nest Learning Thermostat and Phillips Hue lightbulbs. This technology opens up many possibilities for our homes, vehicles and lifestyles in the future.

2014 has been a huge year of advancements, and I look forward to 2015 being filled with even more. If you haven’t already, go ahead and watch my vlog from yesterday which focuses on the lighter-hearted subject of pop culture.