When I first learnt of the idea to genetically modify mosquitoes (GMMs) as a strategy for controlling the diseases transmitted by these much-maligned insects, I thought it was refreshingly innovative. Little did I know that scientists had been fiddling with mosquitoes, and other insects, for the same reason long before I was born.
Looked at in the longer historical perspective we have already achieved something our ancestors would consider superlongevity. In the UK life expectancy at birth averaged around 37 in 1700. It is roughly 81 today. The extent to which this is a reflection of decreased child mortality versus an increase in the survival rate of the elderly I’ll get to a little later, but for now, just try to get your head around the fact that we have managed to nearly double the life expectancy of human beings in a little over two centuries.
The chances are that, if you follow news articles about cancer, you’ll have come across headlines like “Most Cancers Caused By Bad Luck” (The Daily Beast) or “Two-thirds of cancers are due to “bad luck,” study finds” (CBS News). The story – based on research out of Johns Hopkins University – has grabbed widespread media attention. But it’s also raised the ire of science communicators who think that the headlines and stories are, in the words of a couple of writers, “just bollocks”.
By mid-century or before, many future followers predict the pace of technological progress in genetics, nanotechnology and artificial intelligence will become so fast that humans will undergo radical evolution. By the 2030s, we'll be deluged with medical breakthroughs that promise a forever youthful state of being.
Positive future watchers believe we will see more progress in the next three decades than was experienced over the last 200 years. In The Singularity is Near, author Ray Kurzweil reveals how science will change the ways we live, work, and play. The following timeline looks at some amazing possibilities as we venture ahead in what promises to become an incredible future…
Looking back on my early experience as a young engineer, I am reminded how little my colleagues and I appreciated that what we did would change the world, for good and for bad. I am also reminded how Marcel Golay, one of my early mentors understood the duality of technology and how this feature plays large in its application for the right purpose.
In Human Purpose and Transhuman Potential: A Cosmic Vision for Our Future Evolution, IEET affiliate scholar Ted Chu, a professor of Economics at New York University in Abu Dhabi and former chief economist for General Motors and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, argues that post-humanity is a logical and necessary evolutionary next step for humanity, and we need a new, heroic cosmic faith for the post-human era. “The ultimate meaning of our lives rests not in our personal happiness but in our contribution to cosmic evolution,” says Chu…
We asked “Should DIY biohackers be subject to the same safety regulations and oversight as corporate biological research labs?” Of the 573 of you that responded six out of ten (61%) believed that biohackers should be subject to some kind of regulation.
I argued in my 2013 book, The Infinite Resource, that the “seeds shouldn’t be patented” argument against GMOs and specifically against Monsanto was invalid for a very specific reason: Patents end. As I wrote then, the patents for Monsanto’s first commercial genetically modified crop, Roundup Ready Soy I, would expire at the end of the 2014 growing season. After that, farmers would be free to save seeds to replant, universities would be free to tinker with the genetic trait, seed breeders would be free to cross-breed it into other strains, and so on.
If predictions by future thinkers such as Aubrey de Grey, Robert Freitas, and Ray Kurzweil ring true – that future science will one day eliminate the disease of aging – then it makes sense to consider the repercussions a non-aging society might place on our world.
Products with the label “BPA-free” have become ubiquitous on store shelves in recent years. It’s a trend that has been driven by consumer concerns that the chemical bisphenol-A, or BPA, may be harmful at low doses. Yet a recent study suggests that the label may mislead consumers into thinking that “free” means “safer” — even when there’s a chance that the substances used to substitute for BPA may also be harmful. The study is one of the first to explore how consumer responses to uncertainty and ambiguity in risk information may lead to “regrettable substitutions” — the replacement of one material with another that is potentially less safe.
If the controversy over genetically modified organisms (GMOs) tells us something indisputable, it is this: GMO food products from corporations like Monsanto are suspected to endanger health. On the other hand, an individual’s right to genetically modify and even synthesize entire organisms as part of his dietary or medical regimen could someday be a human right.
We’re heading in to mid-November, and while the very disturbing logistics/supply chain chart showing that some personal protective equipment stock in countries battling Ebola are at “zero”–and had been for a while–have improved, the Ebola outbreak is still racing through Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. Sadly, the outbreak also appears to be gaining a small foothold in Mali.
...and probably not for the reason you think. Outbreak is one of those movies people seem to either love or hate (or possibly love to hate); almost everyone I know who has anything to do with public health, infectious diseases, or virology tends to swear up a blue storm when the movie comes up.
Back in the early 19th century a novel was written that tells the story of humanity’s downfall in the 21st century. Our undoing was the consequence of a disease that originates in the developing world and radiates outward eventually spreading into North America, East Asia, and ultimately Europe. The disease proves unstoppable causing the collapse of civilization, our greatest cities becoming grave sites of ruin. For all the reader is left to know, not one human being survives the pandemic.
We knew the risks. But last year, after my wife and I had our genomes sequenced, what we learned was still alarming. Amongst my wife’s results was a genetic variant associated with a significantly increased risk of Parkinson’s disease. And the matter-of-fact statistic on risk came with little information on how to reduce it.
Beloved aunty, Mammy Kumba, died from a stroke at her home in Barthurst, a mountainous village about six miles west of Freetown, Sierra Leone, at the start of October. Like any death this was a painful and traumatic experience for the family, but due to the timing it also put her relatives in a serious quandary. The government has directed that bodies cannot be touched until they are 100% confirmed to be Ebola-free.
The pace of technological change is governed by many factors — including public demand. Which is why we need to be demanding more. Here are 12 transformative technologies whose development should be expedited right now. To make this list meaningful, I only included those items that are within reasonable technological reach. Sure, it would be nice to have molecular assemblers, warp drives, and the recipe for safe artificial intelligence, but it’ll be decades before we can reasonably embark upon such projects.
Back in 2012, I was invited to spend a few weeks visiting at the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature (RIHN), a federally funded Japanese research institute based in the beautiful city of Kyoto. I was invited by my colleague Itsuki Handoh of RIHN. During my visit, Handoh and I came up with an idea for how to fuse two important lines of research on major global threats.
It is a risky business trying to predict the future, and although it makes some sense to try to get a handle on what the world might be like in one’s lifetime, one might wonder what’s even the point of all this prophecy that stretches out beyond the decades one is expected to live? The answer I think is that no one who engages in futurism is really trying to predict the future so much as shape it, or at the very least, inspire Noah like preparations for disaster.
On September 23, the Food and Drug Administration sent Rima Laibow and Ralph Fucetola at the Natural Solutions Foundation a warning letter claiming that their allegedly nano (colloidal) silver based “Dr. Rima Recommends™ The Silver Solution” product violates the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDC Act).
Reproducing in space, lifeboat problems, and other ethical quandaries that could arise if we travel to Mars. Disaster can happen at any moment in space exploration. “A good rule for rocket experimenters to follow is this: always assume that it will explode,” the editors of the journal Astronautics wrote in 1937, and nothing has changed: This August, SpaceX’s rocket blew up on a test flight.
Robert Frost’s famous imagery—fire or ice, take your pick—pretty much sums it up. But lately, largely unnoticed, a revolution has unwound in the thinking about such matters, in the hands of that most rarefied of tribes, the theoretical physicists. Maybe, just maybe, ice isn’t going to be the whole story. Of course, linking the human prospect to cosmology itself is not at all new. The endings of stories are important, because we believe that how things turn out implies what they ultimately mean. This comes from being pointed toward the future, as any ambitious species must be.
Transforming the world’s energy supply will take decades. It is a very tall order. But it’s starting. The price of renewables – and energy storage – continues to plunge, putting them on a path to being cheaper than any other form of energy within the coming decade. And they continue to grow exponentially – albeit it from a low baseline – spreading out into the market.
Several years ago, Bill Gates keynoted a breakfast for Seattle-based Climate Solutions, a nonprofit focused on advancing the clean energy economy and driving practical, profitable solutions to climate change. Gates opened his speech with an equation. To paraphrase: Our carbon problem = persons x services x the energy intensity of services x the carbon intensity of energy. The number of people is growing, Gates observed, and we all want more services.
As we head deeper into the 21st century, we’re starting to catch a glimpse of the fantastic technological possibilities that await. But we’re also starting to get a grim sense of the potential horrors. Here are 10 frightening technologies that should never, ever, come into existence.