Hello RTU followers, happy start of summer and apologies for our inactivity as of late. In light of the bleakness of current affairs and state of the world we are finding ourselves in in 2016 I thought it would be nice if we looked to the scientific developments of the future to restore some of our hope in humanity. Today I’ll be looking forward just over a decade, up until the 2030 mark and pulling out what are believed to be 10 of the biggest scientific advancements of tomorrow.
Computing Capabilities & Rise of the Robots
AI alert – computer power is expected to match the power of the human brain by 2019! The year is a guesstimate but we can safely say this will be achieved before 2030, which if you haven’t quite swallowed it, i’ll reiterate – by 2030 computers will be as smart as the human minds that created them. We’re also going to see a hell of a lot more AI roaming around, performing routine tasks that used to be human responsibilities – i’m talking rubbish collecting, supermarket packing, clerical duties. Owning an AI to help with household tasks will become commonplace by 2030, though whether the sci-fi craze of making them to model the human appearance will catch on or be thought too creepy is questionable. The next question is then whether their intellect can autonomously advance so that it surpasses that of humans.. I can refer you to countless sci-fi movies to explore this trail of thought.
Nanotechnology may well be our shining light of the future for breakthroughs in medicine and dentistry, bringing advancements for diagnosis, treatment and prevention of diseases. In five years nano-biotechnology techniques will be able to examine and filter bodily fluids for tiny particles that reveal signs of diseases such as cancer before we even have any symptoms. Then even when we do have cancer, imagine the scenario when nanoparticles are injected into the patient to directly kill cancerous cells without the effects of chemotherapy, which along with attacking cancerous cells, attack the patient overall. ‘The future of medicine won’t focus on treating the symptoms of a disease; it will focus on curing it at the genetic level.’ By mastering nanotechnology we will be able to pinpoint our medical efforts at the site of a disease as opposed to clumsily blasting the patient all over or letting a medicine be ingested and distributed over the entire bloodstream. As well as medical applications nanotechnology will have a big impact on the environment with the clean manufacturing of materials and on energy where we will be creating ever smaller devices with ever larger storage and processing capabilities.
Interest in space exploration is peaking again. With the quiet years after the Apollo missions when man conquered the moon it’s now finally time we can see a drive towards taking the next step – sending humans to Mars and creating a sustainable base there. Two key players in this endeavour are NASA (of course) and SpaceX. SpaceX’s initiative focuses on reusability of rockets – a more detailed post on their approach can be found here: ‘SpaceX – Making Humans Interplanetary‘. NASA’s mission will rely on the Orion spacecraft and an evolved version of the SLS which will be the most powerful launch vehicle to date. NASA aims to put humans up on the red planet by mid 2030s whereas SpaceX ambitiously quotes almost a decade ahead. For either mission, multiple unmanned cargo ships will need to start being sent across imminently, so that when the humans do arrive they have the supplies necessary to construct the basis of a sustainable colony.
As it stands the buy-in for a space experience is far beyond the budget of the public. It currently costs a whopping $20 million to take a cruise to the ISS and a hefty $200,000 to go on a sub-orbital spaceflight with Virgin Galactic. But the market for space tourism is on the rise. Many companies are striving to get the idea into the mainstream with wacky ideas such as building low earth orbit satellite-hotels so that guests can take spending a night under the stars to a whole new level. Companies pushing for a such visions go by the name of Space Island, Galactic Suite and Orbital Technologies. All that’s required to get that price point down is innovation and demand, i’d certainly like this one to come about so I can add it to my bucket-list.
California legalised driverless cars way back in 2012 and the UK seems likely to follow before the end of the decade. Testing so far shows very promising safety results and with the elimination of human error should greatly reduce motor accounts, which are currently thought to account for 93% of crashes. Theoretically speaking if all cars were driverless and a communication network was put in place between the vehicles, no accident should ever occur. As well as increased safety we would likely also see increased efficiency as in-built algorithms would allow cars to calculate optimum velocities, often acting as a network so that the whole column on a road would move forward at maximum speed. Sounds like a nicer commute.
Internet of Things
The internet of things is the terminology used to describe the addition of wifi capabilities to a whole host of everyday household items. Refrigerators, trashcans and even toasters are becoming computerised and locking in to an online network allowing device-to-device communication. The wifi connected appliances will allow you remotely control the temperature of your house via mobile device and perform even wackier tasks like get the toast to pop up just as you walk through the door or automatically place food orders when supplies are running low, wonderful for all us efficiency freaks out there. The main aim of this innovation is to make the home-owner feel like they can monitor their consumptions better, be it energy or food and the internet of things will undoubtably drive new trends in consumer behaviours. All of this is possible thanks to changes in 5G technology and super capacitors that will be able to store much more energy for later release than the current generation of capacitors.
Nuclear fusion is the opposite of nuclear fission, instead of a heavy nucleus splitting into smaller nuclei, lighter nuclei fuse together to create a heavier nucleus whilst emitting energy at the same time. Nuclear fusion is the process that powers the sun, with four hydrogen atoms coming together to form a helium, releasing a colossal amount of energy. Three key factors are required to achieve fusion: (1) Temperature – fusion requires a extremely high temperature to kick off the reaction, we’re talking 40,000,000 degrees! (2) Time – the components must be forcibly held together long enough to allow the reaction to begin. (3) Containment – to successfully contain the whole chaotic procedure is a feat in itself. If these conditions can be met fusion could solve the world’s energy problems for years to come whilst giving Planet Earth a welcome break from today’s energy generating procedures which spew out pollutants no end.
3D printers have become fairly commonplace over the last couple of years with many companies now using them to create bespoke holds and prototypes. Digital libraries for parts to be printed are constantly growing, meaning that the owner requires very little design skill to exploit the technology. What is very intriguing is that there is talk that scientists will, in the future, be able to print 3D functioning organs that can be tailored to suit a patient’s needs, saving millions of lives and eliminating the dependence on donors.
Virtual reality and augmented reality technologies are getting a lot of limelight recently with the phenomenon being bought to everyday users through the use of a headset and a smartphone. And the experience won’t be stopping at video games, the platform will foreseeably be used for education, communication and virtual experiences. School children can go on virtual trips to historic sites, colleagues across the world can participate in life-like meetings and a person may be able to experience the wonder of an African safari through their headset. Thinking even further ahead VR hardware and software makers are discussing the incorporation of high-end touch sensors which will stimulate the other senses making the technology leap from immersive to fully interactive and truly breaking down the barrier between the virtual and physical world.
Brave new world here we come. It will become commonplace and not at all taboo to map your foetus’s and then newborn child’s DNA to identify any presence or risk of disabilities or diseases. And this procedure won’t stop at birth, thanks to advances in single-cell analysis and the increase in handling of big data, DNA mapping will be the best way to assess and manage disease risk throughout a human life. When these types of procedures are applied to a mass populations we will then have a wealth of data which may help us predict and prevent epidemics.
So there we have it, a snapshot of some of the most exciting breakthroughs ahead. Which of these got your inner-geek jumping up and down? Drop us a comment below.