On The Horizon – Part Four

This is Part Four of a six part series on Predicting the Future. Click these links to get caught up on all the fun so far: Part One, Part Two, Part Three.

With our minds wandering twenty five years down the road, one thing becomes abundantly clear: we have no idea what’s going to happen. Based on an exponential thinking approach, trying to visualize the future becomes a nearly impossible task. Attempting to piece together all the possible incarnations of current technology and trending them ahead that far into the future seems like trying to paint the Mona Lisa with a paintbrush held in your mouth. I’m sure someone is capable of that, but I’m not that guy. For reference, let’s back up 25 years and see what was invented in the world of 1991:

Internet
Enough said, really.

Okay, more stuff happened in 1991. But how many of you wondered: hey, how the hell could anyone reasonably predict cloud computing back then? Yeah, I have no idea either. Some may have been close, and perhaps the concepts existed back then, but surely it was a thought that was versed in science fiction. Trying to gaze into the crystal ball for clues about the world almost three decades away is a task to say the least. At this point it feels like taking a multiple choice test, except you didn’t study and the material you’re being tested on doesn’t exist yet.

Millionaire
Let’s hope it wasn’t the million dollar question. Source (edited)

Well, we’ll give it our best shot anyhow. There’s a bit of cash on the line, you know? Now let’s take a breath, put our thinking caps on, and shift our focus to the world of the next generation.


THE WORLD 25 YEARS FROM NOW (2041)

Mr. Hematite – This time around I’m shooting for the stars with my most optimistic prediction yet. In 25 years, most life-threatening illnesses and serious disabilities (ie cancer, blindness, paralysis, etc.) will be cured or entirely treatable.

technology_immunotherapy1n
Pictured: Cellular-sized assassins. Source

Alright, so it’s not so much one thing or product as much as it’s a broad, sweeping prediction about one field in particular: the Medical Sciences.

Cancer is something you hear about often these days. There are over 100 types, and most people I know has a family member or knows someone who has fought a battle with cancer. I know I do. It is never something you want to hear about, and the implications can be very dire. Coupled with self-destructive treatments (such as chemotherapy), cancer is one of the most dangerous diseases that can befall our kind. In 25 years however, I see cancer, and moreover people passing away because of it, becoming the stuff of history.

Cancer is usually the runaway division of your body’s own cells. It can result in tumours, not all of which are harmful, but the ones that are can spread to other parts of the body and sharply decrease its ability to function normally. Previous treatments included beams of concentrated radiation and invasive excisions of tumours, neither of which guaranteed successful destruction of tumours and came with the possibility that they’d grow back¹.

From my reading, I see the big problem in fighting cancer is because cancer cells go unnoticed by the patient’s body. This is because the cancer cells are the patient’s own cells. They aren’t foreign and are therefore not an intuitive target for the immune system. This leads to treatments like chemo which act as more of a shotgun, when what you’d really want is a scalpel – they can be much more precise. This is where immunotherapy comes in. Immunotherapy is by no means a new idea, but it’s recent in terms of practical application. It involves artificially stimulating a patient’s own immune system to target cancer cells as hostile and then eliminate them². This is the scalpel I was talking about. In a recent clinical trial, gene-editing of T-cells to target specific cancer proteins resulted in an over 90% success rate. And by success I mean their symptoms ceased to exist and they were cured. That’s a fairly significant result, especially when you learn that the 29 people that participated in the trial were terminally ill.

Beyond cancer, there’s reason to believe blindness, deafness, and even paralysis may become a distant memory within the next 25 years due to stem cell treatments, gene-editing, advanced technological prostheses or aids, and other medical techniques and developments that I can’t even fathom. Science will enable us the ability to regrow organs, greatly reducing the chance of rejection after transplants. “Smart blood” (blood editing and aided by nano technology) will keep us healthier for longer and maybe even let us exercise without getting winded. Our life expectancy will grow even older than is possible today, and I can see people beginning to routinely live into their hundreds. Advances in this field will change humanity on a fundamental level.

If what’s shown in that video is something we’re capable of and developing today, just imagine what miracles the medical sciences of the 2041 world will bring. Now, how about a notch on our plot?

FPS VR JPEG
I don’t think anything on this time frame is a sure shot, but it’s 100% plausible.

Mr. Magnetite – I’m keeping my segment short and sweet this week because I don’t want to fail my finals, but sit back, throw on Elton John’s “Rocket Man,” and relax. I’m sending you all back to space. Namely, to a Mars base.

nasa-mars-base-15091801
“Is this Arizona? Oh look hun, a nice garden and a huge yard for the kids!” – A couple that didn’t use a real estate agent. Source

No, I didn’t plan that mad rhyme. In 25 years time I’m betting that not only will a moon base be regularly manned and become a hub for booming business, but also that we’ll set our sights on Mars. Mars, our smaller, drier, red-er planetary sibling, is just waiting for us to claim it. Getting there will cost billions upon billions of dollars and very well may claim the lives of many brave explorers, but I believe that once we make it a mission, nothing will stop us from getting there and setting up shop. What could we stand to gain from such an endeavour? Well, besides the possibility of even further decreases in space travel costs and a broad spectrum of science discoveries, we’ll create a backup copy of the human race.

What do I mean by backup? It’s quite simple, really. Imagine the Earth as a giant island, housing everyone that has ever lived. If it’s hit by, say, a space rock only a few kilometres wide traveling at 90,000 kilometres per hour, then it’s safe to say that no more people will live. Ever. If you have two islands separated by an unimaginable distance, there’s a fair chance that both won’t be destroyed at the same time, thereby giving us a greater chance at still doing this living thing for the foreseeable future.

 

Planets JPEG
The ultimate case of where having two is WAY better than one. Source (edited)

There are extreme hurdles to jump over before we’re at the point of setting this base up, though. Costs of launching materials/people and then transporting them to Mars, sending enough people to set a base up, finding a source of drinkable water, being able to grow food in Martian soil (or alternatively), the insane space radiation during transit to Mars, and the hostile Martian environment are just a few. But, with enough interest and money, this will happen. There are even a few far-fetched academic papers on the logistics and astronomical financial possibility of terraforming Mars to create a perfect second home. How? Well maybe steer ice-heavy asteroids into the planet to seed oceans, nuke the ice caps to create an atmosphere, or genetically modify bacteria species to survive in Mars’ hostile environment.

So, maybe one day far from now, the Mars we know:

mars_23_aug_2003_hubble
Old and busted. Source

Could look more like this:

terraformed_mars_by_daniellf
New hotness. Source

Okay my prediction might be a little tough to nail down in a 25 year time period, but it’s so hard to predict the economic conditions that would enable it to happen. That being said, I’ll go ahead and plot this where you’re all thinking.

FPS Mars
Yeah, probably not in 25 years. But man, this stuff is going to happen!

Mr. Wüstite – With the modern relationship between us and our mobile devices growing stronger each year (and our dependence on them), I can make one inevitable conclusion: in 25 year’s time, our minds will become one with technology.

res_4005414_pc_brainq75
Your brain is basically just a very powerful computer (for now). Source
The possibilities that stem from this concept are both dizzying and seemingly limitless. What if, when you wake up one morning in 2041, a virtual heads up display (HUD) came alive in your field of view, displaying any number of biometric analyses such as heart rate, blood sugar, temperature, and the amount of REM sleep you got that night? What if all your text messages, emails, Facebook feed, videos, online stores, and more could be accessed through your new virtual mental operating system? Most excitingly though, what if one day you could sit in a chair, plug in, and learn Spanish simply by pressing the ‘Enter’ key?

post-38723-neo-i-know-kung-fu-gif-imgur-bujp
Maybe Spanish isn’t the first thing I’d download to my brain. Source

Well, we probably won’t be instantly learning kung fu in 25 year’s time, but there is a firm possibility that we’ll have access to the first technologies of its kind. Imagine a platform that would allow accident victims to retrain their bodies, thus helping them regain the mobility they once had, or being able to learn a language through several short data downloads directly to your neocortex.

It seems like complete science fiction, but it’s being developed today. Some researchers have been using a method called decoded fMRI neurofeedback (whoa), coupled with brain training to induce brain patterns of a learned behaviour. Now, the technique is very much in its infancy, but the far-reaching implications of it include being able to feed the brain electrical stimuli that mimic brain patterns, thereby inducing the brain with new knowledge. In simple English, this mean that we could possibly one day ‘download’ new information (or facts) directly into our brains that we could have instant and direct access to. Where was this when I was in school?

giphy
I developed the first direct brain interface for learning in the 70’s. It was called sleeping on your textbooks. I got mixed results (see: none). Source

 

The only hiccup I see here lies in the mystery of consciousness. What is it, exactly? What makes you, you? Is it an emergent property that stems from all the working parts of the brain and how they interact, or is it something more? If it turns out to be what I described, then could it be digitized? Could we just reprogram or upgrade ourselves at will? How will beaming new information directly into our brains affect our personalities and experiences? Will we solve consciousness before these cognitive technologies exist? There are so many questions that only lead to more questions. Furthermore, I see problems related to developing high levels of physical skill through these techniques. Just because you’ve been endowed with the knowledge of how to make a free throw doesn’t mean you know the weight of the ball in your hands, how to size up the rim some distance away, or when to release the shot. But, who knows what this technology will make us capable of.

It’s an extremely exciting prospect of being able to just download anything you ever wanted to know, but there’s a long road to get there. 25 years should just about do it, though. Let’s see where brain interface technologies plot on the FPS.

FPS VR JPEG
Another one for the possible pile. But, when you’re sweet-talking some beautiful Spanish lady because of a language course that was inserted directly into your brain, you’ll thank me for telling you all about it.

And with that, Part Four of our prediction series is in the books. Next week we double the time frame and knock on 2066’s door. I hope my grandkids don’t mind, there’s no chance they’ll think I’m cool.

Cheers.

Featured image: Heading for Mars. – Source


¹ – The Wikipedia entry on cancer. Source

² – http://www.cancer.org page on Immunotherapy. Source


{the hematite blog} is a very new blog by a very regular guy that wants to learn and write about all sorts of stuff. I’m a little rusty, and this blog is about my journey to shake some of that rust off, get better at stuff, learn, and try new things. Maybe we can all learn something along the way. Thanks for stopping by!

Follow {the hematite blog} on WordPress (by clicking the ‘follow’ button in the bottom right corner or subscribing by e-mail), and check us out on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr!

 

Advertisements

Share Your Thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s