Tech Trends: When the Future Meets the Present
Cloning and 3D printing used to be strictly reserved for sci-fi movies and novels. But, as science continues to advance at a nearly exponential rate, the gap between speculative fiction and reality is closing.
Advancements in technology are also becoming more affordable. 3D-printed organs could quickly become a cheaper alternative to current treatments. Likewise, augmented reality is finding its way into every online business and marketing plan.
The future of tech trends is exciting. However, many recent breakthroughs require ethical, legal, and financial oversight to ensure that new tech promotes a more ethical, equal society.
When you see the word “cloning,” you’re usually reading a sci-fi novel or an article on unsuccessful experimentation. However, cloning has come a long way since Dolly, the cloned sheep, stunned the world in 1996. Dolly lived to the age of six when she died from untreatable lung cancer.
Today, pet owners and animal lovers may have the opportunity to make a clone of their best pals. Dogs can be cloned for owners with a price tag of around $50,000, and cloning cats sets pet owners back around $35,000. Extinct species may also make a return, as scientists are looking into bringing back the woolly mammoth using Asian elephant cells as surrogates.
However, cloning animals is an ethical quandary that is yet to be fully resolved. Many governing bodies, like the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA), prohibit the cloning of animals. The AQHA can’t stop horses from being cloned, but they do prevent cloned horses from being officially registered. This is largely due to fears about cloning overtaking traditional breeding, thus leaving “the remaining breeding market inadequate.”
3D printing has officially replaced modeling clay and paper mache as the technology of choice at science fairs and for replica-model making. Recently, the cost of 3D printing has dropped dramatically, meaning that the general public can get their hands on the technology to print their minis and make other projects.
3D printing is already being used in some healthcare operations. Many hearing aids are 3D printed for a better, cheaper product. Likewise, prosthetics can now be 3D printed. This is particularly useful for younger folks, who may quickly grow out of their prosthetics.
Further biomedical applications, 3D-printed organs, are currently under FDA review. The FDA has already approved 85 devices for its 510(k) pathways and more 3D-printed models are being pitched every year. Of course, the FDA has to be certain of the effectiveness and longevity of any organ replacement before it enters public use, but 3D-printed hearts and lungs may soon be the norm for folks who need to receive major surgery.
The internet of things (IoT) was arguably a bit of a gimmick until a year or two ago. Telling Alexa or Siri to “turn off the lights” was fun, but the full integration of the IoT into our everyday life hadn’t yet been realized.
Today, the IoT can support every part of our lives. Business managers can assess productivity and occupancy rates at work using integrated digital technology. Likewise, safety inspectors can assess risks and identify areas for improvement before they become hazards.
The IoT may also hasten the green revolution. A smart grid, which operates using the IoT, may reduce our energy use and help everyone bring down their reliance on fossil fuels. This is particularly important today, as smart meters can help folks turn off unnecessary appliances during peak hours to save money and reduce fuel use.
Travel and Transport
We’ve been promised flying cars for years. Media from The Jetsons to Blade Runner predicted that we’d live in a world where we can wait in traffic lines from 1,000 feet in the sky. The legal and logistical demands of traffic in the sky would be immense. However, the technology needed for flying cars may soon come to public markets.
Hugh Martin, chief executive officer of Lacuna Technologies, says that flying cars may be commercially available by 2024. Rather than being an advanced sales pitch, Martin believes that the flying car’s real potential is in delivery services and freights. If postal carriers can take to the sky, they’ll be able to deliver packages that much sooner.
We may also be on the precipice for the widespread adoption of self-driving cars. Tesla and Ford already offer self-driving cars, and other brands may be quick to follow. Folks today are finally getting the message that autonomous cars are safer than human-driven vehicles, as AI drivers never fall asleep or miss road signs.
Advancements in technology have started to blur the line between science fiction and reality. 3D-printed organs, flying cars, and the IoT all promise to create a better, more human-friendly future. Some oversight will still be needed to ensure that breakthroughs like cloning and self-driving cars remain ethical, but a future led by technological breakthroughs can help us all live healthier and happier lives.
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