The Top 3 Coolest Technologies You’ll actually Live to See

Nathan Smith

     Most everyone’s familiar with the starship Enterprise, the lightsabers of the Star Wars universe, the Cylons of Battlestar Galactica, but for the most part we toss these things to the ravenous lions’ den of science fiction and smirk at the idea of ever seeing such things in real life.  But what have we really been neglecting here?  Moore’s law is one that really attracts attention: it states simply that every two years the circuitry of computers decreases in the amount of space it takes up by about 50%.  Considering this figure, and that Moore has seemed to have hit the nail right on the head when looking at the past few decades leading up to today, the mind reels at just what kind of technology could debut just a year from now.

     When futurists talk of superb new devices to be one day invented, they often neglect the fact that it’s incredibly discouraging to hear that one will not actually live to see the invention of said device.  Where’s the fun in having Scotty beam you up if you’re six feet under at the time?  However, while there are some fantastic things to come in the distant future, there is still plenty to be excited about in the near future.

1 — Robots: The promise of robots has been one given at least more than once in the past, and unfortunately all that’s really been delivered are Frisbee-sized vacuums that can sense when they’re about to bump into a table leg.  However, advances in artificial intelligence and robotic engineering are rapidly increasing, leaving the door open for many exciting possibilities.

     For instance, in 2007 South Korea’s Ministry of Information and Communication released a statement that claimed that sometime between 2015 and 2020 every home in South Korea, as well as many homes across Europe, will house a robot.  Before any naysayers chime in with bits like “Aren’t microwaves robots?” it should be stated that we’re not talking little Roomba vacuums here; we’re talking full on robots.  Not necessarily arms, legs, eyes, the whole nine yards, but certainly automated and moving (for lack of a better term) creatures, either rolling or walking around the home, performing tasks that might seem tedious to you or I.

     For you sports fans out there, in 1997 RoboCup envisioned a scenario in which by 2050 a team of fully autonomous robot players would be able to beat the top human soccer teams of the world.

     But the fun doesn’t stop there.  For those with a grim anticipation of the robot uprising, when man will have his last day and the robot will reign supreme, a 2006 statement from the Department of Defense will be particularly harrowing.  In said statement, the DoD stated that by 2015 at least one third of the United State military will be comprised of robots.  But the buck doesn’t stop there.  By 2035, the DoD expects to have the first fully functional automated robotic soldiers off the assembly line and out fighting in the name of truth, justice, and the Cylon way.

 

2 — Medicine: When considering the future, what becomes particularly exciting is the idea of advancing medical technology.  After all, how is anyone going to fight the coming robot menace if they can’t heal from their injuries quickly and efficiently?

     Ever find yourself in a dire case of liver or heart failure?  Wish there was some way to stop the aches and pains?  Well, according to the Federal Initiative for Regenerative Medicine (FIRM), by 2020 patients will be able to utilize regenerative medical technologies, such as cell-printing for instance, to reproduce once dead tissues and even entire organs that have fallen to disease, injury or general abuse.  What is most exciting about this technology is not that it could lead to the production of new bits and pieces as complex as limbs one day, but that the body which takes in this new tissue will not have it rejected by their own immune system.  One of the issues with surgeries like kidney transplants is finding a compatible donor, someone with a renal system similar enough to that of the individual in need of the kidney, usually a member of the immediate family.  Even then, there can still be complications.  However, with processes like cell-printing, a piece of the patient’s own DNA is used to produce an organ that would be an exact copy of the original, right down to the cellular level, meaning that the patient’s body would not attack the organ after transplant.

     Now, while there with shots in the dark there are many misses.  For example, our good friend Arthur C. Clarke theorized that by 2023 scientists would be capable of cloning dinosaurs (Michael Crichton would be so very proud).  However, we should also be cautioned that just because an advancement seems far-fetched it does not mean it is impossible.  No one wants to be the guy in the 18th century who said there was no conceivable use for radios.  But if we’re willing to talk more “fringey” ideas, I’m a personal fan of what Ray Kurzwell stated in 2005: that by 2025 it will be possible to reverse engineer a human brain.

 

3 — Virtual Reality: Many experts expect all communication to become purely based on IP addresses sometime within this decade, which opens up many doors for the wave of social networks on the rise.

     Once again we turn to the late, great Arthur C. Clarke for our first prediction.  According to Professor Clarke, by 2025 virtual reality will be utilized via direct input to the brain, immersing one fully in a “virtuality” of their own creation.  At first glance the idea seems rather silly, but what must be considered is that the world around any given individual is really only the amalgamation of several bits of data being perceived by their own brain and processed into a “reality” that the mind can fathom.  With this in mind (if you’ll pardon the pun), it does not seem so fictional to one day be able to manipulate the brain, conceivably through the rapidly growing advances in nanotechnology, into constructing a “reality” within a person’s own mind.  The possibilities really are endless!  However, as some transhumanists and professors of philosophy have pointed out, if we humans, living sometime around the universe’s 15 billionth birthday, can produce such a simulated world, who’s to say some other civilization did not do the same before us (or even for us)?

     To revisit an already mentioned source, in 1999 Ray Kurzwell speculated that by 2030 virtual reality would become so widespread that, regardless of where you are, you can be contacted by a friend — or your run of the mill social network creeper.  Once again, though this technology seems rather outlandish, when considering the leaps and strides made in nanotechnology and related fields, the idea of producing a social network accessed through synaptic connection to the human brain is not so untenable.  With this, the possibilities keep on popping up.  One particularly popular feature might be the ability to essentially look at someone’s future equivalent of a Facebook profile simply by looking at them — any fans of Eden of the East may find this very interesting.

 

     The future certainly holds an exciting potential for the world, whether we look as far off as a century or as close as a decade, it’s difficult not to become excited by such possibilities.  While we may not be able to troll the Milky Way with a balding captain on a faster-than-light starship, the good people of the world today can certainly anticipate such exciting technologies as advanced medical technologies, revolutions in communications and video gaming, and of course the robot apocalypse.