futuretalk's Blog Posts

Astronauts to land on speeding asteroid by late 2020s

May 28 2008 / by futuretalk
Category: Space   Year: General   Rating: 7 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

A lump of rock more than 40 meters in diameter speeding through space at 28,000 mph, once considered the most dangerous object in the universe, is about to become the site for humanity’s next “giant leap for mankind.”

NASA engineers have selected asteroid 2000SG344 – which in 2000 was given a significant chance of slamming into Earth with the explosive power of 750 Hiroshimas – as the perfect space object to study. The operation would take place before the 2030 Mars journey, a speculative trip bandied about ever since the first President Bush mentioned in 1989 that America should send men to the red planet.

The asteroid mission represents a crucial step for America’s space program. A report to be published next month in the journal Acta Astronautica describes plans to use the soon-to-be-developed Orion space ship for a three-to-six month round-trip to the asteroid, with two explorers spending up to two weeks on the rock’s surface.

As well as providing experience for longer Mars trips, samples taken from the rock could help scientists convert sub-surface ice into drinking water and breathable oxygen, understand more about the birth of the solar system, and how best to defend Earth against dangerous asteroid collisions. (cont.)

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What happens when machines learn to speak?

May 28 2008 / by futuretalk
Category: Communication   Year: General   Rating: 9 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

Throw away the computer mouse, keyboard, and TV remote. A new speaking machine, expected in the next decade, is about to become your newest “electronic” friend. This new voice-interactive machine will browse the Internet searching for information it thinks will interest you, and will help unravel the maize of TV channels. The machine will converse in a pleasant voice as it listens carefully to your instructions, then offers suggestions on what Internet data or TV programs it thinks you might enjoy.

This new voice-interactive machine will appear as an avatar – an on-screen image resembling your favorite movie character, religious icon, or loved one. On command, it will appear on the TV screen, computer monitor, car radio or cell phone, addressing you by name, and asking what you would like.

Most people think interactive systems like these are a long way off, but two trends are quickening the pace. Improved speech-recognition systems will soon enable people to converse with computers in normal-spoken language, and entrepreneurs are rushing to the Internet creating new business applications with software “agents” that take advantage of speech recognition.

Microsoft’s Bill Gates claims that by 2012, voice-enabled “smart” systems will allow us to converse naturally and comfortably, directly with our display, reducing need for mouse and keyboard. Avatars will help us shop, work, learn, and conduct business and social relationships on the Internet. At home, they will provide security, change lighting and temperature as needed, and deliver news, sports, games, and entertainment anywhere in the house. (cont.)

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Robots will surpass human intelligence by 2030, scientists say

May 26 2008 / by futuretalk
Category: Technology   Year: General   Rating: 6 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

Personal robots have been a long time coming, but scientists now say we can expect revolutionary machines that surpass human physical and intellectual abilities within 22 years.

Today’s robots are mostly industrial types found in factories. An example would be an arm that inserts a product into a box and places it on a conveyor belt. Domestic robots in the service area – vacuum cleaners, lawn mowers, and security systems – are just beginning to find their way into homes. UN statistics show worldwide robotics sales increasing by double digits every year, which has encouraged a host of companies to invest aggressively in robotic products.

Robo-pets like Sony’s Aibo and NEC’s PaPeRo, priced from $2,000 to $5,000, are pleasing children and providing companionship for handicapped and elderly people around the globe. Available soon in the $10,000 to $30,000 range will be human-like robots such as Sony Qrio, Honda Asimo, and Toyota Personal Robot. These realistic marvels can speak and understand crude language, recognize family members by sight, and perform many butler, chef, and maid services.

European scientists, inspired by human biology, have created the world’s first shape-shifting robot. This amazing machine has the ability to morph into different shapes. It can start off as a small car with four wheels. If it approaches an impassible wall, it searches for a hole or crack and transforms itself into a snake. After passing through the hole, it might encounter a staircase where it would transform into a climbing device, go up the stairs, and then become a car again. (cont.)

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The future of relationships

May 26 2008 / by futuretalk
Category: Relationships   Year: General   Rating: 8 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

Technology promises radical change in relationships.

We are in the midst of a sea of change, in which not only are many traditional relationships failing, but unexpected new arrangements are beginning to appear; gay marriages are becoming increasingly popular, and many people are consciously choosing to live alone. How does technology affect relationships? Telephones, cameras, and camcorders have long been instrumental in bringing people together. Today, many spend time chatting on the phone or the Internet – trying to develop or strengthen friendships.

Now technology is entering a bold, but controversial new step. In the UK, University of Redding’s Kevin Warwick, and his wife Irena will soon link their emotions together with chip implants. Tiny silicon chips will enable the couple to “read” each other’s feelings wherever they are. Every feeling – positive and negative – will be shared.

This technology will not be endorsed by everyone. Many believe sharing every feeling is too invasive – some feelings need to be private. But we live in a time when over half of all marriages end in divorce, so researchers in their search to fill needs, examine where technologies might help. (cont.)

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Civilization began slowly, but now it's off to the stars

May 22 2008 / by futuretalk
Category: Other   Year: General   Rating: 9 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

Author William McGaughey interprets world history as five civilizations appearing in succession over the last 5,000 years, each introduced by a new communication technology. In the first civilization, humans only wrote in graphic form, then about 3,000 BC alphabet writing was devised, and this began the second civilization.

This eventually led to the invention of the printing press in China in 593 AD and the world’s first printed newspaper in Beijing in 700 AD. These events were the beginning of the third civilization. The fourth civilization started in the 20th century with electronic recording and broadcasting, which is now merging into the fifth civilization which utilizes computer communications and the Internet, and is still in its infancy today.

Leaving the communications world, futurists ponder where we go from here. In 1964, Russian astronomer Nikolai Kardashev introduced a method for categorizing civilization advances based on energy consumption which he divided into three stages, Type I, II, and III civilizations. Type I harnesses all the energy from its planet, Type II, its sun, and Type III, its galaxy. Others have since added Type IV, which controls extra-galactic energy including dark matter that makes up 73% of the universe.

Today, physicists rate Earth at Type 0.7. Astronomer Don Goldsmith. reminds us that Earth receives only one billionth of the suns energy, and that we utilize just one millionth of that; however with the help of advanced nanotech and greater-than-human intelligence, many predict we could reach Type I status by 2100 or before. (cont.)

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Telepresence, avatars enrich our lives in near future

May 21 2008 / by futuretalk
Category: Other   Year: General   Rating: 11 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

Imagine a future where there is no clear distinction between real and simulated events. Welcome to the world of virtual reality. In contrast to today’s crude videoconferencing methods, tomorrow’s revolutionary “telepresence” systems expected by 2015 or before, will look and sound like you are actually together in real reality. You’ll establish eye contact, look around each other, and otherwise have the sense of being together.

Tomorrow’s Internet will power this new system. Cameras will transmit live two-way pictures over a terabyte-speed network similar to today’s Internet2. With sensors embedded in clothing to track movement, parties at both ends can project themselves into a virtual reality 3-D simulation of the event – everyone interacts with everyone with “telepresence.”

“This new system marks the beginning of a revolution expected to take us by storm in the next decade,” says Dr. Pierre Boulanger, University of Alberta VR researcher. People separated by distance can be together in this virtual world, to enjoy a living room chat, share meals at the dinner table, or cozy up even more intimately. Everyone feels hand shakes, hugs and kisses as if they were real.

In addition, say goodbye to confusing controls for home entertainment systems and computers. Lifelike 3D avatars (virtual assistants) which speak perfect “human” will become our primary interface with all our technologies.

These amazing screen images will do just about everything for us. They will answer questions; negotiate Internet transactions; make it easy for us to operate computers and home entertainment systems; and maintain household temperature, lighting and security. These cute creatures, resembling favorite celebrities or loved ones, will appear on our TV, cell phone screen, and car radio display. Later, advances in holography will enable avatars to jump off the screen and follow us around the house. (cont.)

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Earth 2030 - healthier, safer, more enjoyable

May 20 2008 / by futuretalk
Category: Other   Year: General   Rating: 12 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

What will life be like in 2030? Those who ponder such things, futurists and other visionaries, suggest exciting and sometimes fantastic possibilities. As we begin our trek into the world of tomorrow, predictions of things to come rush towards us at breathtaking speeds.

Experts predict that between now and 2020, we will see more science and technology advances than we experienced during the entire 20th century and from 2020 to 2100, developments will outpace the last 20,000 years of human progress.

Nobody knows for sure what will happen in the future, but by projecting present-day knowledge, we can make plausible guesses. Hollywood creates fantastic futures, but they always talk about worlds gone mad, or make it sound so negative that none of us would ever want to live there.

But from research that’s underway today, and scientific projections of things to come, we can piece together a probable future world, and what life might be like living in that world. Readers are invited to track me down in 22 years and tell me whether I was right or wrong.

People: World population has climbed to 9.3 billion, and most people look forward to a life expectancy of 200 years or more. Advanced nanotech has eliminated world hunger in 2030 and could, experts say, provide a comfortable life on Earth for up to 100 billion people in the future. (cont.)

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Designer babies - 'eugenics' twentyfirst century style

May 19 2008 / by futuretalk
Category: Health & Medicine   Year: General   Rating: 7 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

Science fiction has been preoccupied with technologies to control the characteristics of our children ever since Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Now, experts say, human eugenics and the dream of creating genetically-engineered superhumans is about to become reality.

As a species we’ve always looked for ways to be faster, stronger, smarter, and live longer. Many enhancements we take for granted today; blood transfusions, vaccinations, and birth control, seemed unnatural or immoral when first introduced. Yet over time we’ve become accustomed to these controls over our minds and bodies, and have used them to better ourselves and our world.

At the turn of the 20th century, eugenics in America took the form of state-mandated sterilization for people with mental retardation, or somehow deemed to be a dreg on the public. Margaret Sanger started Planned Parenthood during this time to help rid society of the genetically unfit. In Nazi Germany during World War II, eugenics took the form of the Holocaust.

Though the idea of creating designer babies goes against much of our bioethical thinking, over the next two decades, says Futurist Magazine writer Eric Swedin, we will see an ever increasing number of humans born with enhanced genetic characteristics.

Some level of eugenics exists today as evidenced when parents wish for a specific gender in their child. More than 2,000 couples have spent $20,000 each for gender-selection treatments offered by pioneer Doctor Jeffrey Steinberg at clinics in Los Angeles and Phoenix. (cont.)

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Robotic systems to boost economy, standard of living

May 19 2008 / by futuretalk
Category: Technology   Year: General   Rating: 12 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

Since the dawn of humanity and the advent of civilized life, humans have depended on technology. Carving out flint stones, controlling fire, inventing the wheel, and developing the printing press have brought us to self-serving gas stations, ATMs and automated checkouts. Technology has always sparked the engine that drives civilization forward, and will continue to be essential for progress into and through the extended future.

Experts predict that by 2015, automation will further evolve with “smart” radio-frequency identification chips (RFID), which will identify store items you select and automatically charge them to your credit card as you walk out the door.

More sophisticated robotics will take us to the next level. By 2025, auto-drive systems installed in cars, trucks and busses will speak perfect human, and armed with superior intelligence and senses, along with radar and infra-red abilities, will quickly make driverless vehicles the safest method of transportation.

Two-legged robotic systems will advance during this same time-frame. Sony Qrio, Honda Asimo, and Toyota Personal Robot models will morph into machines that see, hear, move and manipulate objects at levels roughly equivalent, and in some cases superior, to humans. (cont.)

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Healthcare 2010-2025: regenerative medicine cures most diseases

May 16 2008 / by futuretalk
Category: Health & Medicine   Year: General   Rating: 8 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

A recent government report, 2020: A New Vision – A Future for Regenerative Medicine, predicts a revolution in medical technology is underway that could eliminate most diseases in the future.

Scientists in this revolution are focusing on actually curing health problems, not just treating them. Their goals include developing therapies to completely eradicate diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, osteoporosis, arthritis, and spinal cord injuries. Virtually any disease that results from damaged or failing tissues can be targeted for elimination with regenerative medicine.

Derived from biology, biochemistry, physics, engineering, and other fields, this medical revolution will utilize stem cell therapies, genetic engineering, and nanotech to repair tissues and organs inside the body, and build new body parts in the lab when necessary. Given cohesive government initiative and adequate funding, the report states that progress could be realized in the following timeline:

2010-2015 – Develop multiple applications for skin, cartilage, bone, blood vessel, and some urological products; enable insurance companies to cover these procedures; establish FDA standards for newly-developing technologies; make available cell banks for unlimited tissue storage; and allow researchers access to materials they need to design new therapies and create cost-effective production methods. (cont.)

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