Every week on Monday, the WoW! community and our invited guests weigh in at the Watcher’s Forum, short takes on a major issue of the day, the culture, or daily living. This week’s question: What Do You Think Will be the Major Tech and Science breakthroughs in the next ten years?
Mike McDaniel: Whooooo, as one of my favorite students used to say. I haven’t a clue, but no one has ever accused me of being unable to fill space with writing, so I’ll make some wild guesses, keeping firmly in mind that many such advancements come out of the blue. They’re usually things most of the public hasn’t been keeping in the “oh boy, wouldn’t be great if” mental file.
Firearms: Primarily because Donald Trump is in office, there may be money for basic upgrades that have been put off for far too long, particularly, our standard military rifle. Look for a new rifle in a slightly larger caliber, more on the order of .30 caliber, or something between that and the current 5.56 mm. I suspect the same basic rifle design will be used, as that would keep overall developmental and manufacturing costs low, but perhaps with the upgrades of the H&K version of the M4. We’d be smart to adapt the Israeli Tavor, but I doubt we’ll be able to ignore the “not invented here” syndrome. A civilian version of the same weapon would also be useful for hunting a much broader range of game than the current cartridge allows.
Science: We’ll be able to quantum teleport larger items over greater distances. The Star Trek transporter will remain fiction, but we’ll be able to do more. The commercial, and particularly military, applications are simply too lucrative for this not to be exploited.
Military: Our surface combatant warships will be equipped with multiple, powerful lasers, capable of not only shooting down drones, but missiles and aircraft, and of sinking at boats in the patrol boat class.
Our larger surface combatant warships will be equipped with electromagnetic railguns, capable of destroying virtually any ship at a very low cost per shot. Anything within 100 miles will be in grave danger from these weapons.
Our Air Force will be equipped with large, stealthy missile truck drones, capable of carrying far more missiles than our F22 or F35 fighters can manage. With the digital links of the F22, and particularly the F35, a few fighters could destroy a swarm of enemy fighters from safe distances, undetected. Such dedicated drones could theoretically carry a laser large and powerful enough to destroy enemy fighters. Our normal manned fighters aren’t large enough.
Computers: Moore’s law continues to hold. Computers will become smaller and far more powerful. An Apple Watch will have the features and capabilities of a contemporary laptop, limited only by holographic display technology. Sufficiently advanced models could eliminate the need for hand held cell phones entirely.
Look for true mental interfaces for computing. Sufficiently advanced display technology would eliminate the need for computer monitors.
Automotive: Self-driving cars will not become the future. The potential dangers, to say nothing of the legal liability for manufacturers and fleet operators, are simply too great. However, greatly enhanced safety features such as automatic braking (collision avoidance), back up danger detection, detectors for drivers nodding off, and a variety of other issues already in the tech pipeline will become commonplace.
Medicine: Effective treatments for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, as well as genetic therapies for a variety of illnesses will become commonplace. Therapies for many forms of cancer will become more effective, greatly extending life.
All of this and more may be ours, if we’re not caught up in fighting a second civil war because the political elite would rather keep their perks and rule over the rubble than advance mankind and honor the Constitution. I’m not optimistic about our chances.
Rob Miller: There are several tech advances I think we’ll see in the next ten years.
I think AI and robotics are going to be HUGE, simply because they will replace a number of human workers in some surprising places. We’re already seeing that many companies are already automating many customer service and accounts receivable functions. It’s quite plausible that we may even see AI lawyers for some functions. And many factory jobs will go the same way. Many corporate fast food restaurants will be almost entirely automated except for a couple of management staff. Supermarket checkers could also become largely extinct. So could home delivery of pizza and other foods by humans. Drones are already doing this in a few places.
There are already robot brothels in Europe and Asia, and there’s no question that a number of working girls will soon be out of work as ‘sex robots’ get more and more advanced. And as prices come down, a realistic sex robot (of either sex) with changeable personas and/or a robot maid, housekeeper or butler could become quite common. Same with many secretarial duties. Robots and AI could even be used in war fighting instead of human personnel, perhaps controlled by humans behind the lines the way drones already are. And some people may even want to have robot, AI pets instead of dogs and cats.
I would predict there will also be a reaction of sorts to this, and certain restaurants, grocers, shops, brothels etc will also retain a place simply because many humans prefer to deal with humans. And a good many other jobs will open up, as they always do.
We will see vast improvements in medical technology. Micro surgery, organ transplants and even gene manipulation will be far more advanced and commonplace. I would predict that we will even see the development of ‘farms’ where organs for transplant are grown and stored as needed. And a cure for most kinds of cancer will likely be discovered.
Look for virtual entertainment to take a huge leap, aside from the oversized cumbersome headphones. Now YOU can be part of the action! I expect hologram technology to take a huge leap. Imagine a home theater where you could watch say, ‘Sunset Boulevard’ but give Bette Davis Gloria Swanson’s role and sub Kirk Douglas for William Holden. And perhaps even create, to some degree, your own ‘script?’ Much of the tech (if not quite all of it) already exists for that.
There are other things we will likely see, some pleasant, some unpleasant. A lot will depend on how much global strife there is and what forms it takes.
Laura Rambeau Lee: In many ways technology has made our lives easier but I worry about our youth growing up not really understanding why or how things actually work. We are growing too dependent on technology. Something as simple to grasp as counting change back is a lost art as today all one has to do is put in the amount tendered and a machine calculates the amount the cashier gives back to the customer. If the register breaks I fear many would be at a loss to make change anymore. It seems a lot of jobs are this way today with people relying on technology without really understanding or being able to make the calculation on their own or even understand the process. Our schools are doing a great disservice not teaching the basics of how to do things on our own without benefit of technology.
Robotics will become more advanced and will be used much more in medicine, business and in our homes. We are already seeing autonomous cars being tested in some cities, something I hate to see being an avid car fan, but it seems to be inevitable.
As far as science and medicine we are really on the verge of some major breakthroughs. I saw firsthand when my mom was going through treatments for breast cancer that had metastasized to her liver what breakthroughs are on the horizon. She sought out and participated in experimental treatments. Both treatments had to do with delivery of chemotherapy directly into her tumors. In the first study at NIH she was treated with a chemotherapy drug coated with a lipid where they introduced the chemo directly into the tumors laparoscopically and then performed radio frequency ablation (high heat) on the chemo cells dissolving the lipid coating and leaving the chemotherapy drug directly in the tumors. The second set of treatments was similar but they used glass beads soaked with chemotherapy drugs which the doctor would place at the blood source that fed the tumors, blocking the blood flow to the tumors and again directing the chemo into the tumors. Both of these treatments killed the tumors, but being in her liver they would treat one lobe at a time and then six months later they would treat the other lobe. Unfortunately the liver regenerates, blood flows get restored and the tumors grow in other areas. By directly introducing chemo into the tumors it is much easier for a body to handle with less of the side effects of chemo infusions. She did this and fought the cancer in her liver for six years, something pretty much unheard of. Of all of the government agencies the National Institute of Heath is doing some amazing things and we should support their work. They are also creating vaccines from a patient’s own genetic material that is being used to kill cancer cells with promising results. I pray one day all cancers become curable. Many types already have high cure rates such as certain leukemias and Hodgkin’s disease.
Whatever the future advances in science and technology, we should focus on how it helps our lives and not allow it to replace how we teach and educate our children and grandchildren. We must not allow these advances to interfere with our personal relationships and communications with one another. They should always be considered as useful tools, nothing else.
Dave Schuler :It would be easier to predict what won’t happen but the question is about what will happen. Within ten years we’ll have small scale mass produced nuclear reactors. Additive manufacturing will wreak havoc on China, Inc.’s business plan because it will mean that transportation costs are more important than labor costs in determining an item’s cost.
I guess that’s all I’ve got…
Well, there it is!
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