Eight Technologies: Did They Change the World?
Eighteen years ago I wrote a blog post about an article in Business 2.0 that I read, entitled Eight Technologies That Will Change the World. I thought sufficient time has passed, and it would be interesting to revisit this article and see how things have changed.
The big idea: High-tech sensors for living systems
Technology in this area hasn't moved forward much, at least for materials embedded into living beings. However, wearables have become the quickly evolving area where biointeractivity has come into play. Beginning with digital devices keeping track of our steps (there were many non-digital versions for decades before), to wearables keeping track of our location, heartrate, EKG... and with the announcement of Apple Watch Series 6, our blood oxygen levels this technology is now advancing at a break-neck speed.
It may not be the embedded devices we were all imagining, but these devices are monitoring us in real time.
Biofuel Production Plants
The big idea: Replacing oil with fuels from genetically engineered crops
The biofuel space has continued to grow considerably over the past 18 years, with multiple types of diesel fuel, ethanol and other alcohol fuels being produced. Most of us are probably driving with ethanol in our tanks, at least partially (around 10% in most places in the United States), and because of this it is likely the most popular biofuel. This popularity is in part of the US Government's subsidy of corn production, making ethanol very cheap to produce.
The big idea: Artificial systems to replace lost or disabled body parts
Bionics may be the are that has had the most profound advancement. We now have fully functional artificial hearts, cochlear implant devices, and of course biomenchanical replacements for arms and legs. Some of these even controlled in part my the brain.
There are many more advancements in progress such as silicon-based retinas, red blood cells, stem cells and other tissues.
The big idea: Computer-aided telekinesis
Up until a couple of years ago, and then more info a few weeks ago, I would have said cognitronics hasn't moved at all, but then Elon Musk announced Neuralink. Prior to this there had been research of course, but none so public or definitive as this.
The big idea: Combining statistical analysis and massive computing power to cut research time
This is one area that there have been massive leaps in. Between computation power continuing to increase at the speed Moore predicted, and the advancement in managing what we now call "Big data", data analysis capabilities have exponentially increased in the past 18 years.
The big idea: Classifying people based on their genetics
Genotyping, as everyone is probably aware, is well developed an commonplace at this point. 23 and Me certainly popularized personal DNA testing, and with the 2019 holiday season, ancestry.com spread it even further. Both companies (and others) can reveal lots of information about your ancestry as well as health issues that you may have based on your genome. This data is not always 100% accurate, but the accuracy will increase over time.
The big idea: Building complex structures, atom by atom
The idea of nanorobots was all the rage in the 1990s popular culture, and there has been some continued research in that area as well. However there hasn't been any substantial advances, although nature itself invented walking protiens long ago.
The big idea: A portable, safe, nonpolluting source of nuclear power
This is another pie-in-the-sky technology that has never made it out of the research phase, although it certainly makes for an interesting read, and should really be the base for a sci-fi book (I imagine it probably is already)
I hope you enjoyed a little stroll through memory lane. Technology always advances at a snails pace, and at break-neck speed at the same time.