It was not uncommon back in the day to make insane predictions about the future, usually suggesting what the future would be like 50-100 years down the road. Oftentimes these predictions were truly outrageous, and many of them people still clung to with some tenuous hope. Some remember being told that flying cars would be a common thing by now, and other still hope for a practical hoverboard, or an android with an artificial consciousness like in a sci-fi movie. While these particular ideas are still very much the stuff of fiction, you don’t need to look into the far future to find amazing things happening in the world of technology. Our science is still advancing quickly, and we are learning new ways to manipulate the world around us for the betterment of all. There are advances we are much closer to achieving for real than the far flung predictions of the past, and many of them are even more groundbreaking.
10. Our World Is Increasingly Digital And Connected
Some people complain that the world is becoming too connected, and too quickly. Unfortunately for those who feel we should divorce ourselves more from our technology, the trend appears to be going in the direction of as much digital connection as possible. Companies are increasingly pushing digital integration between devices and appliances, and big names like Samsung are leading the charge. Samsung is working on a smartphone app, that’s ultimate goal is to allow you to control pretty much everything in your house with your phone. This would require appliances with digital connections of course, but Samsung has a major advantage over other players who have tried and failed with similar systems in the past – Samsung happens to also be in the home appliance business, allowing them to integrate all of their products seamlessly if they wish.
It’s not just homes though, that are becoming more connected to the digital world. While we have been able to use our keys to unlock our cars from a distance for years now, more companies are looking into options to unlock the car with your smartphone for added convenience – one less key to carry around. Some companies have found a simple way to install a system in any car that has electronic locking systems, so you can conveniently unlock it with your cell phone . This technology still has the drawback that it can’t start your car, and obviously doesn’t work without power in your cell phone, but with the popularity of apps and smartphones, the integration is likely to only increase as time goes on.
9. Home Power Generators Are Becoming More Common
As the energy crisis around the world continues, and people become increasingly fed up with the rising energy costs, more and more homeowners are looking into installing solar panels on their roofs, to supplement their usual power needs. As solar starts to look like a better and better idea, some governments are offering tax incentives, and contractors are starting to see a new opportunity for lucrative business. Despite the newfound popularity though, some people are still on the fence. Many people like the idea, but the initial cost upfront for installation – even with the cost you know you’ll save in the long run – can be quite steep, and for many people it is simply unaffordable. For this reason, some new solar companies are allowing leasing or other similar options to help people start to switch as much as possible to renewable energy .
Of course you also have the option to set it up yourself, but while going with a company with a leasing option won’t give you independence from energy companies, it will supplement much of your current energy usage with a renewable, earth friendly resource. One of the biggest disadvantages is that in its current state, the technology does not allow for the best storing of energy. This means overnight, or if it’s not that sunny for a while, you can be rather low on energy – making it not the most dependable thing ever. In order to deal with this issue, Elon Musk of the Tesla Company recently announced a new battery, designed to better hold power from home solar panels, until a time when the power needed to be used . Perhaps one day, most or all homes will have solar panels, and Elon Musk’s battery will allow for efficient enough use that we can power our homes with it entirely.
8. Virtual Reality Is Improving Medicine
When most people think of virtual reality, they think solely of its application in video games, and the sad failures that most of those attempts have been. People will point to things like the Nintendo Wii, or the Xbox Kinect, designed to get you more involved and make the experience feel more like reality. Many people have also heard of the Occulus Rift project, a headset designed to cover your eyes and give you an immersive gaming experience. However, while virtual reality is moving at a snail’s pace when it comes to gaming technology, and isn’t really in a state worth using for that purpose, it is actually greatly helping the medical field – even in its infancy.
Medical personnel have been experimenting with primitive forms of virtual reality – or as immersive experiences as they can, for various forms of rehabilitation for years. Primitive forms of virtual reality can help with PTSD, help people suffering with phantom limb syndrome, improve teaching methods for autistic children, and in more recent years, increasingly advanced systems have been constructed to allow medical students as real an experience as possible when practicing surgical techniques . An incredibly detailed and realistic proctology simulator recently made the news and could definitely be a great improvement to teaching methods. As these simulators become more and more advanced, surgical techniques can only improve, and mistakes will naturally decrease. Doctors will be able to spend more time learning in a realistic environment first, without the chance to make a mistake while practicing on a real patient.
7. 3D Printers Have Revolutionized Prosthetic Limb Construction
Many people have heard of 3D printers and the things they will allow us to do in the future, but they are already allowing us to do many amazing things that people don’t even realize. While it certainly hasn’t come about yet that you can create anything in your home from a few prepared ingredients or components with one, they have already proven incredibly useful for the construction of prosthetic limbs. In fact, with 3D printing and scanning, creating useable prosthetic limbs has become way easier and more affordable than ever before. In many countries with Africa, due to landmines and wars, many children are missing limbs. In the country of Uganda, roughly a quarter of a million children need a prosthesis , but there are only about 12 people in the country capable of doing the necessary work. As you can imagine, this is a bit of a crisis for the people of Uganda.
The University of Toronto, along with a couple other collaborators, have been working to get the technology into the hands of the people of Uganda, and get as many people as possible trained in its use. They believe that instead of just sending over a few prosthetic limbs, or coming to visit and making a few, they need to teach people how to do it themselves, and put the means in their hands. They will still be visiting of course, but for the purpose of teaching all the ins and outs of the new 3D printing technology, and the limb scanning and printing software that they have devised specifically for the purpose of artificial limb construction. While this is only a small step, it’s still an important one, and there is clearly much more 3D printing will be able to do for the world in the future.
6. Cloning And Transplanting Organs
Organ transplantation is an incredibly tricky and imprecise business. To put simply, even if you have an exact “match”, the recipient will still need to be on drugs for the rest of their life that suppress their immune system so their body doesn’t reject the new organ. These drugs can have all kinds of nasty side effects including drug induced Diabetes Mellitus. The only way to ensure there is no possible rejection issue, scientists realize they need to make an organ that mimics the exact cells of the person’s body. In other words, they need to make another of the same organ using the cells of the person who needs to organ in the first place.
For a time, these experiments were hitting a snag because adult stem cells can only go so far in their usefulness. Because adult stem cells have a limited amount of ways they can be modified into the proper kind of cell, more advanced techniques have to be utilized. The idea is to create an embryonic stem cell using the cells of the person who needs to organ. The process, which was first used on sheep, takes a human cell and puts it in a donated egg, thus creating an embryonic clone of the adult DNA. According to Wired , while the technology is very much in its infancy, scientists were recently able to pull off this scientific experiment – a result that could one day lead to a real revolution in organ transplantation.
5. Solar Power Collecting Satellites
The race for energy is heating up as fossil fuels run out, and our use of and dependence on them continues to annihilate the world around us. Since the tsunami that hit the nuclear plant in Fukushima, Japan, the Japanese have been increasingly looking for another solution for their energy problem. They have very little land and not really much of anything in the way of fossil fuel related resources. Before, they were trying to overcome the shortfall with nuclear power, but since Fukushima that doesn’t appear to be a safe option anymore. Japan decided that since they didn’t have enough room on land, that they would look to space for the answer.
The Japanese plan is to launch satellites into orbit that would contain solar panels and other means to store and then transmit the energy back to earth. The Japanese plan is being researched by their space agency, and they hope to complete the project within 25 years. The project is extremely ambitious, as it would require a lot of satellites, and the capability to efficiently beam the energy back to a collecting station of some sort on earth. They were considering a type of laser, but were worried about atmospheric interference, and are likely going to be using microwaves in their plan to complete the task. While it would be an incredibly expensive undertaking, it could revolutionize the world. If we could gain all our power from a renewable resource like the sun, and successfully beam the energy back, we might never have an energy crisis again.
4. Jellyfish Could Hold The Key To Immortality
Years back a discovery was made of a jellyfish that could age in reverse. That is, instead of getting older, it was getting younger. And when it finally got young enough, it turned back into its species version of an embryo, and then started to grow old again. The scientists who observed this were amazed and utterly baffled. Every rule we knew about life was thrown out the window when it came to these mysterious jellyfish – jellyfish that are slowly taking over much of the ocean, probably in part because their numbers hardly ever deplete. While many people might expect that humanity would run with this idea and throw money at it in the hopes of becoming immortal, very little research is being done on the matter.
For years after the initial discovery it hardly got much attention, and only one scientist is seriously studying it at the moment. He believes that if we can actually figure out how the jellyfish does it, that there is the possibility of finding a way to evolve and become immortal ourselves. The problem is that there is very little funding, very little interest, and the proper experiments needed are difficult to perform in a laboratory setting. Still, the question remains of how the jellyfish is capable of this in the first place, and when the question is finally answered, humanity could change forever.
3. Drones Are For More Than Warfare
Currently drones are used mostly just for warfare purposes, even when used more passively, but that is quickly changing. As drone technology develops due to the amount of money the military has tossed at it, corporations have started to take an interest in how the technology could be used in a more commercial setting. Some people have suggested that one day we could see drones being used to deliver pizza, or for farmers looking to quickly dust their crops, or for search and rescue missions in dangerous places. However, we don’t need to look that far into the future, because some companies are already working on drones for commercial use.
Some people may have heard the buzz from Amazon a couple months back when they introduced their plan to come up with a drone delivery system. Considering they also said they planned to deliver things people didn’t necessarily ask for, some people questioned if the whole thing was a joke. It turns out though that the technology Amazon is working on is very real, and while there is no ETA of official release, they seem confident that it will work well. Another company called Zookal in Australia has been experimenting with drones to deliver people textbooks. While they are seen only as invasive and dangerous military craft by many, unmanned flying devices of nearly every size imaginable may soon be a ubiquitous part of regular life.
2. The Coming Of Designer Babies
One thing that you will hear in news headlines, are shouts about the coming of designer babies and how horribly it will end the world – or how great it will be, depending on the publication. It’s also a favorite trope for sci-fi stories, but the truth is that not only are designer babies possible, but to a certain extent we have already been going down that road for quite some time. For example, many parents will actually choose to have a child aborted simply because it has an extra digit, and the amount of woman who get an abortion after finding out that the baby will have Down Syndrome, is hovering around 90%. More recently, scientists found a way to do something called a mitochondrial transfer , where the DNA from one man and two woman could all be involved in the inherited genes of a baby. Many people feel that is too close to playing God, and that we should basically stop what we are doing right now.
However, it is not exactly like this kind of thing is as new as people realize. While the technology to choose your babies traits, and control how it will come out are increasing constantly, we have been selecting for traits already for a long time. Most people pay attention to the looks of their partner and their health when it comes to how their children will come out. One expert pointed out that with sperm donations, people can already find it incredibly easy to match up exactly what looks and genetic traits they want, and with prenatal screenings and abortion, most people who have the money can get fairly close to what they are looking for. For this reason, she argues that we are already creating designer babies, but the argument is more over how far we should go, not so much how far we can go.
1. The Growing Threat Of Artificial Intelligence
One of the most popular parts of any sci-fi movies are the robots, or any type of artificial intelligence really. People are fascinate by creating a computer that can think, and reason and appear to be as human as possible – most movies set in the future are not complete without some form of that technology. And, in more recent years as technology has grown at an exponential pace, some people are starting to get seriously worried about artificial intelligence. Now, we should be clear that when tech leaders talk about artificial intelligence, it is unlikely they are talking about artificial awareness. Right now the ability to create something that can actually have an artificial consciousness is really unlikely, considering humans don’t really understand the mechanisms behind their own very well yet. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t any threat.
Recently Elon Musk made a controversial comment about something dangerous possibly happening with artificial intelligence in the next five to ten years. Stephen Hawking said that it could be the end of the human race, and Bill Gates answered several questions about the subject in a Reddit AMA, and made it clear he thinks it’s a real threat. In fact, his company devotes roughly a quarter of their research to artificial intelligence. Now people may wonder what all the fuss is if a uprising of conscious machines isn’t likely, but it’s more subtle than that. As we continue to rely on machines , and make them smarter and put them in control of more of our daily tasks, we put ourselves in a dangerous situation. Even if the machine can’t think, if it is highly intelligent in its programming, and we rely on it too much, it could one day act in a way outside the parameters we expected, and cause all kinds of trouble. Bill Gates wasn’t concerned so much about a robot uprising, but more about the wrong type of AI being unwittingly unleashed on the internet at large – who knows what a rogue AI could accomplish in a short time.