Article written by Maria Fonseca and Paula Newton
Can you picture a future world where we lose the boundaries of what is reality and virtuality, what it is human and non-human? A world where we coexist with fairies, unicorns, driverless cars, crazy architectures made up with resistant but very light materials that house the 11 billion people that live in a high energy green and abundant planet? Can you imagine a world where flows of DNA communicate with each other to produce more knowledge and prevent disease? A world where we don´t see money, as our cashless transactions are all made by our phone? Well, there are some breakthrough technologies that are already shaping the world today in such a fantasist way. What technologies are these? The following list, based on a report published by MIT technology review, identifies some, the ones we believe will pave the way for significant change.
1. Nano Architecture
Nano Architecture is a technology that will soon be available – within a period of three to five years. This is being created by a CalTech scientist that is developing materials that are strong but at the same time flexible and light. Materials are being developed that are precisely tailored.This makes such materials both versatile and energy efficient. Such materials could be beneficial for a variety of different uses such as advanced energy applications and architecture.
2. Magic Leap
Magic Leap is working towards creating 3D imagery and it is estimated that this will be available within one to three years’ time. What this technology does is enables virtual objects to appear in real life. This could have tremendous implications for the gaming industry, film, travel and telecommunications. Magic Leap is working with Microsoft to create this. It uses lenses to help people to believe that objects are real. It is anticipated that this will cost similarly to mobile devices that people already use.
3. Driverless Cars ?
Everyone has been talking about how car to car communication will be coming soon. This is estimated to be available within the next one or two years, and it is comprised of wireless technology that seeks to make driving much safer. In this case the cars will communicate with one another and this will help to avoid accidents, saving lives. Driverless trains are already a fact, for example in Copenhagen. Driverless cars can be an important improvement, particularly when you consider that around the globe more than one million people die each year on the roads. There are three players working on this technology – General Motors, the University of Michigan and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
4. Project Loon
Project Loon is a technology that consists of helium balloons that will be able to offer WiFi in areas that cell towers do not reach. This will be available within a two year timeframe as well. At first glance this might not seem to be as important or as useful as some of the other innovations listed, but actually it will provide opportunities for education and the economy for more than half the world that currently does not have online access (4.3 billion people) and instant access to communication. Project Loon promise is to connect every single member of the world in whatever place they are. Google and Facebook are the ones working on this.
5. Liquid Biopsy
Liquid Biopsy is already available. This provides fast DNA sequencing that offers a simple blood test for cancer. When it is considered that it is estimated that eight million people a year die of cancer on a global scale, this could help to prevent some of these deaths by catching a cancer problem early on, in a easy and effortless way. One company working with this is Illumina, based in San Diego.
6. Megascale desalination
Another breakthrough innovation that is already available is megascale desalination. This offers reverse osmosis desalination which is currently operational in Israel. Thanks to a series of engineering and materials advances, this technology is able to produce clean water from the sea cheaply and at a scale never before achieved. It will help to provide fresh water for a world population that is growing fast.
7. Mobile money
M-pesa or Apple Pay are also already available and it provides a quick and secure approach to purchasing items with a phone. The phone becomes the wallet. This will help to reduce credit card fraud and its importance is particularly relevant to the unbanked communities in emerging economies such as the african ones.
8. Brain Organoids
Brain Organoids are yet another breakthrough technology that is already available. This works to grow human brain cells with a view to discovering how problems like dementia and mental illness occur. This will help to be able to provide treatments that may be more effective in treating neurological diseases.
9. Supercharged photosynthesis
Further away and not likely to be available for the next ten to fifteen years is supercharged photosynthesis. This can be used to boost crop yields providing food for a lot more people.The approach is engineering rice plants with a view to extracting energy from sunlight in a manner that is more efficient than the current approach. It is important and necessary because crop yields are not growing rapidly enough to feed the growing global population. The following little video explains how supercharged photosynthesis works:
10. Internet of DNA
Finally, in one to two years, the Internet of DNA will be available. This is a global network of millions of genomes. It offers technical standards that aid DNA databases to communicate. It works through the establishment of a system for trading genetic information with various hospitals and clinics. A prototype of the Internet of DNA is a system called MatchMaker Exchange, which represents something new: a way to automate the comparison of DNA from sick people around the world. It is helpful because it will allow the medical treatment of one person to benefit millions of others.
Maria Fonseca is the Editor and Infographic Artist for IntelligentHQ. She is also a thought leader writing about social innovation, sharing economy, social business, and the commons. Aside her work for IntelligentHQ, Maria Fonseca is a visual artist and filmmaker that has exhibited widely in international events such as Manifesta 5, Sao Paulo Biennial, Photo Espana, Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Joshibi University and many others. She concluded her PhD on essayistic filmmaking , taken at University of Westminster in London and is preparing her post doc that will explore the links between creativity and the sharing economy.