It’s hard to wait for the future to get here and give us all the amazing things we’ve dreamed up in our countless sci-fi books and movies (I’m still waiting for the hover-boards Back to the Future promised me). Though much of what we’ve seen on the big screen is still decades or millennia away… or straight up impossible by our current understanding of the universe, there are several sci-fi level technological and scientific advances we’re likely to see in just the next decade.
Blogger Jordan Lejuwaan over at High Existence has compiled a list of ten such advances to look forward to in the not-to-distant future:
We are living in an extremely exciting time in terms of science and technology. Things that have always been considered science fiction are becoming normal day-to-day components of our lives. And while we have been seeing invention after breakthrough over and over in the last couple of decades, this next ten years is going to blow everything else out of the water.
The awesome thing about all these scientific discoveries it that they create technology that allows us to make more breakthroughs even faster. Our ability to innovate is increasing exponentially as the years go by. To give you an idea of the magnitude of this reality, here are 10 amazing innovations to different sectors of life. They should give you a pretty good idea of what changes will be made by 2020.
1. Bio Technology
Bionic Hand Controlled by Brain Signals
Okay, it doesn’t let you crush rocks like you would think, BUT it does allow people without fingers to have fully functional hands that can pick up and handle delicate objects. It is completely controlled by the brain and requires no surgery. Touch Bionics, the company the produces the Pro Digits hand, is able to install the hand complete with “living skin,” a plastic covering resembling human skin, for under $50,000. A small price to pay for a new hand I think.
Revolving Tower in Dubai
While Dubai is currently known for it’s ridiculous extravagance, developers in the region are building a tower that has fancy and extremely practical applications.
This beautiful building is going to be made of 59 independently rotating modules/floors so that inhabitants will have a constantly shifting view of the outside world. Each floor will rotate at approximately 6 meters per minute so that the inhabitants will not notice the movement. The independent rotations will also give the building an ever-changing exterior that can warp into very complex designs.
All of that aesthetic stuff is great and all, but the real innovation comes from the wind turbines built in between each floor. The resulting pollution-free energy will be enough to power the tower and several buildings in the surrounding area. Just Wow.
3. Computer Speed, Size and Usability Speed
Most people tech-nerds know of Moore’s Law from 1965 (the number of transistors we are able to cheaply put in computer chips doubles every year, thereby doubling the speed). However, most people don’t know that Moore, himself, came out and said his law will most likely fail finally in 2020 where the number of transistors we can put on chips will be limited by the laws of physics. Does this mean the exponential rise in computer processing speed will come to a halt in ten years?
Not a chance, says Jim Tully, chief of research for semi-conductors at Gartner. “The technology which will replace this is a bottom-up approach, where chips will be assembled using individual atoms or molecules, a type of nanotechnology.”
Ray Kurzweil, a well-respected Futurist, stated in 2008 that when this molecular computing technology comes out in 2020, computers will have the intellectual capability of human beings. You might want to digest that for a minute before moving onto the next section.
Size and Usability
That Macbook Air is pretty damn thin. So thin, in fact, that it makes you wonder if physical computers will even exist in 2020. Well according to developers at Intel, the keyboard and mouse surely won’t. Who needs QWERTY when you can control a computer with your mind?
“We’re trying to prove you can do interesting things with brain waves,” said Intel researcher Dean Pomerleau. “Eventually people may be willing to be more committed … to brain implants. Imagine being able to surf the Web with the power of your thoughts.”
Pomerleau and countless research groups around the world are working with brain scanning devices to map blood flow in the brain. They have found that when different individual focus on the same image, they have very similar patterns of blood flow in their brains. For example, one British group announced that they could discern where subjects where in a computer generated virtual environment by looking at where blood flowed in their brains.
4. Cars and Fuel
There are tons of different fuel-types for the “automobiles of tomorrow” but the only kind that seems to have any realistic chance of actually being used by the masses in the next ten years is electric. We still can’t figure out how to make hydrogen fuel cells efficient, safe and practical and hybrids/deisal cars are yesterday’s news. Fossil fuels are so 2009…
This is the Tesla Model S sedan that will be coming out in 2011 for the modest price of $57,000 (very good for a luxury, electric car).
Besides the sexy curves, you get 160, 230 or 300 miles per charge depending on the battery size you choose. And another small detail, it goes from 0 to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds while seating 7 people.
So despite all of the automaker’s best attempts at making alternative-fuel cars so hideous that no one would ever buy them, it looks like market competition will soon push some very attractive and efficient cars onto the market.
5. How We Interact with the World
The way in which we interact with the outside world has changed SO much since the introduction of the internet, smart phones, etc. In the very near future, another huge jump will be made: integrating the information on the internet with our surroundings.
By that I mean being able to look at a building, product or place and immediately seeing information about the subject on our devices and eventually just with our eyes.
If you’re still confused as to what I mean, check out the earliest innovation of this concept, Goggles by Google. This app allows you to take a picture of whatever you are looking at and instantly receive info about it on your Android phone.
Like the video says, Goggle is only scratching at the surface of this technology. Kurzweil says that “By 2020 we’ll routinely have pop ups in our visual field of view that give us background about the people and places that we’re looking at.” Your memory and the vast information bank of the internet will be one at all times.
Until we can do this with a chip in our brain, a new device has come out that overlays video onto our normal vision using special glasses. It’s called the Vuzix display Wrap 920AR and it goes on sale soon for around $800.
Solar energy will soon leave fossil fuels and inefficient wind farms in the dust. According to Kurzweil, “the cost per watt of solar energy is coming down rapidly and the total amount of solar energy is growing exponentially. It has in fact been doubling every two years for the past 20 years and is now only eight doublings away from meeting all of the world’s energy needs.”
Emerging technology from a company called Sandia is making the reality that much closer:
Sandia’s solar cells are made of 100 times less material than the current top solar cells while operating at the same efficiency. Since the biggest hurdle in the path of solar power is the expensive and large nature of solar panels, these new microscopic cells will make a huge difference. For example, current panels are massive and require large motors to move them to track the sun. Sandia’s cells, on the other hand, would only need to be moved a fraction of a millimeter to track the sun efficiently while weighing next to nothing.
Even more amazing, they can be suspended in liquids and printed on flexible materials, allowing the cells to be places on any surface. What if your entire car was covered in these powerhouses? Bye bye, Chevron.
While we still can’t cure the common cold, custom-made organs are just around the corner.
A company called Organovo has developed the first commercial 3-D bio printer that builds custom organs cell-by-cell. Each individual cell is based upon sample cells from the body of the customer. Organovo reports that veins and arteries will be available in 5 years, and more complex organs like hearts and livers in 10.
On a more general note, nanotechnology is revolutionizing the health world. The awesome combination of a higher understanding of how DNA works and the ability to create very small cellular parts is painting a very bright future for medicine.
Scientists are finding specific sequences of DNA that code for conditions like schizophrenia, autism and even aging. The cures are actually in sight.
8. Success and Popularity Accessibility
By that, I mean the ability of a Joe Nobody to come from nowhere and suddenly gain recognition and become a well known someone. The internet has been continually leveling the playing field so that you don’t need million in capital or marketing to get your ideas, creations and business into the spotlight.
10 year-olds are making thousands off their viral YouTube videos. Anyone with a business idea can start a website and get going for little to no capital. Even Twitter (which I am not a big fan of) can launch people into the spotlight if they can work the system in the right way.
Many people are getting huge jobs because companies are seeing how well their content does on the web. For example, Fede Alvarez, a director from Uruguay, recently had this short film go viral and was offered $30 million from a Hollywood company to direct a film for them.
The internet is the perfect tool for capitalism, entrepreneurship, and dreaming. Whatever you can dream up, you can make possible on the World Wide Web.
The first decade of the 21st century has been a remarkable time for innovation in robotics. While we’re still far away from having bots helping around the house or doing our construction, big strides have been made towards that future.
Recently a robot was able to teach itself human facial expressions by randomly contorting its face and receiving feedback on what resembled real expressions.
10. Clothing Nanotechnology in Clothing
Nano-fibres will make garments tremendously more comfortable and durable. “By this process the textile products can be made more attractive, strong and responsive to customers’ choice.”
Fiber-based nanogenerators will build up electrical energy in clothing from physical movement, ultrasonic waves and even blood flow. “If we can combine many of these fibers in double or triple layers in clothing, we could provide a flexible, foldable and wearable power source that, for example, would allow people to generate their own electrical current while walking.”
Extremely hydrophobic (water-resistant) nanofilaments allow for completely waterproof clothing. It can be submerged in water for two months and still remain dry to the touch. “The water comes to rest on the top of the nanofilaments like a fakir sitting on a bed of nails.” (Whatever that means…)