Credit: Hatim Khan / Linkedin
One of the many things that technology is capable of is transforming the world.
We are fortunate to live in a period where science and technology can help us, make our lives simpler, and inspire us to rethink how we conduct our everyday lives.
The technology to which we are currently exposed and acclimated has allowed us to develop further, and the technologies on this list, both present and emerging, have the potential to significantly improve our quality of life.
The following technologies are on our list of those that “probably” will alter our way of life in the ensuing ten years:
Sometimes new future technologies can offer amazing development, with the possibility of changing the future… while also being incredibly creepy.
This is one way to describe the idea of necrobotics which, as the name suggests, involves turning dead things into robots. While this sounds like a plot to a creepy horror film, this is a technology being explored at Rice University.
A team of researchers turned a dead spider into a robot-like gripper, given the ability to pick up other objects. To achieve this, they take a spider and inject it with air. This works because spiders use hydraulics to force their version of blood (haemolymph) into their limbs, making them extend.
Right now this concept is in its infant stages, but it could mean a future where dead animals are used to further science… it all feels very Frankeinstein-like!
Natural language Processing
Natural language processing is the big new trend taking over the internet. While you’ve most likely seen it in use in Google’s autocomplete software, or when your smartphone offers a prediction of what you are trying to type, it is capable of much smarter things.
OpenAI is a company that is at the forefront of artificial intelligence, originally taking the internet by storm with its image generator Dall-E 2. Now it is back, making a chatbot known as ChatGPT, creating poems from scratch, explaining complex theories with ease and having full-length conversations like it is a human.
ChatGPT is powered by a software known as GPT-3, trained on billions of examples of texts, then taught how to form coherent and logical sentences.
ChatGPT is an example of AI and its future. It has proven its ability to make completely new websites from scratch, write entire length books and even make jokes… although, it clearly still hasn’t mastered humour yet.
Direct air capture
Through the process of photosynthesis, trees have remained one of the best ways to reduce the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. However, new technology could perform the same role as trees, absorbing carbon dioxide at greater levels while also taking up less land.
This technology is known as Direct Air Capture (DAC). It involves taking carbon dioxide from the air and either storing the CO2 in deep geological caves under ground, or using it in combination with hydrogen to produce synthetic fuels.
While this technology has great potential, it has a lot of complications right now. There are now direct air capture facilities up and running, but the current models require a huge amount of energy to run. If the energy levels can be reduced in the future, DAC could prove to be one of the best technological advances for the future of the environment.
Sustainable living is becoming a priority for individuals squaring up to the realities of the climate crisis, but what about eco-friendly dying? Death tends to be a carbon-heavy process, one last stamp of our ecological footprint. The average cremation reportedly releases 400kg of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, for example. So what’s a greener way to go?
In Washington State in the US, you could be composted instead. Bodies are laid in chambers with bark, soil, straw and other compounds that promote natural decomposition. Within 30 days, your body is reduced to soil that can be returned to a garden or woodland. Recompose, the company behind the process, claims it uses an eighth of the carbon dioxide of a cremation.
An alternative technology uses fungi. In 2019, the late actor Luke Perry was buried in a bespoke “mushroom suit” designed by a start-up called Coeio. The company claims its suit, made with mushrooms and other microorganisms that aid decomposition and neutralise toxins that are realised when a body usually decays.
Most alternative ways of disposing of our bodies after death are not based on new technology; they’re just waiting for societal acceptance to catch up. Another example is alkaline hydrolysis, which involves breaking the body down into its chemical components over a six-hour process in a pressurised chamber. It’s legal in a number of US states and uses fewer emissions compared with more traditional methods.
Energy storing bricks
Scientists have found a way to store energy in the red bricks that are used to build houses.
Researchers led by Washington University in St Louis, in Missouri, US, have developed a method that can turn the cheap and widely available building material into “smart bricks” that can store energy like a battery.
Although the research is still in the proof-of-concept stage, the scientists claim that walls made of these bricks “could store a substantial amount of energy” and can “be recharged hundreds of thousands of times within an hour”.
3D-printed food that takes the cake
What’s for dinner tonight? Soon it could be a piece of 3D-printed, laser-cooked cake. Researchers at Columbia University School of Engineering have created a device that can construct a seven-ingredient cheesecake using food inks and then cook it to perfection using a laser.
Their creation contained banana, jam, peanut butter and Nutella. Tasty. The technology could one day be used to create personalised meals for everyone from professional athletes to patients with dietary conditions, or could be useful for those who are simply short on time.
3D printed bones
3D printing is an industry promising everything from cheap house building through to affordable rugged armour, but one of the most interesting uses of the technology is the building of 3D printed bones.
The company Ossiform specialises in medical 3D printing, creating patient-specific replacements of different bones from tricalcium phosphate – a material with similar properties to human bones.
Using these 3D printed bones is surprisingly easy. A hospital can perform an MRI which is then sent to Ossiform who create a 3D model of the patient-specific implant that is needed. The surgeon accepts the design and then once it is printed, it can be used in surgery.
What is special about these 3D printed bones is that because of the use of tricalcium phosphate, the body will remodel the implants into vascularised bone. That means they will enable the full restoration of function that the bone it is replacing had. To achieve the best integration possible, the implants are of a porous structure and feature large pores and canals for cells to attach to and reform bone.
Digital “twins” that track your health
In Star Trek, where many of our ideas of future technology germinated, human beings can walk into the medbay and have their entire body digitally scanned for signs of illness and injury. Doing that in real life would, say the makers of Q Bio, improve health outcomes and alleviate the load on doctors at the same time.
The US company has built a scanner that will measure hundreds of biomarkers in around an hour, from hormone levels to the fat building up in your liver to the markers of inflammation or any number of cancers. It intends to use this data to produce a 3D digital avatar of a patient’s body – known as a digital twin – that can be tracked over time and updated with each new scan.
Q Bio CEO Jeff Kaditz hopes it will lead to a new era of preventative, personalised medicine in which the vast amounts of data collected not only help doctors prioritise which patients need to be seen most urgently, but also to develop more sophisticated ways of diagnosing illness. Read an interview with him here.
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