In 1735, Jonathan Swift talked in his Gulliver’s Travels book about Mars and its two moons… 142 years later, intensive spatial research discovered and publicly admitted that the planet has, indeed, two moons. Jules Verne dreamed even more and further: lunar modules that will return to Earth as splashdown capsules, electric submarines, skywriting, and many more. They were all in his books before 1900, and all came true a little later after 1960. These science-fiction scenarios turned into science facts and they’re just the tip of the iceberg.
The 21st century we are all living in today is light-years away from everything that those bold men put on paper. The rate of shifting fiction to reality is now higher than ever. The best part is that the more breakthrough discoveries we make, the further we can push science and technology. Everything’s accelerating at a high speed now.
Want to find out which science-fiction scenarios will become a reality in the next years?
Computers: unimaginably small, fast and flexible
You’re probably reading this on a computer. Even if it’s a smartphone, a tablet or anything else, it’s still technology with a computer in the back of its mind. It seems to me that computers deserve a first place at the top of the science-fiction scenarios. Since their invention, they have changed our lives in unimaginable ways.
In 1965, we embraced Moore’s Law, which allowed us to nearly double the speed of computer chips by doubling the number of transistors from their structure. Moore knew, however, since then, that by 2020 physics will turn against us. Adding new transistors will become impossible and we’ll have to come up with something else to speed up our computers.
Bright minds think alike and so they are already working on a new type of computer chip that should be ready by 2020. According to Jim Tully from Gartner’s semi-conductors research, it will be “a type of nanotechnology” where “chips will be assembled using individual atoms or molecules”. And Ray Kurzweil was kind enough to spell it in plain language: should this become reality, “computers might have the intellectual capability of human beings”.
I promised you faster, but also smaller. So here’s the catch with computers’ size and usability: the plan is to make computers so small and accessible that you… could control them with the power of your mind! Again, by 2020, we might give up on keyboards and the mouse just to control a computer with the mind. According to Dean Pomerleau from the Intel research team, “we’re trying to prove you can do interesting things with brain waves.”
Science-fiction scenarios you might think. Well, it already started: as we speak, brain-scanning devices around the world work hard to research the way our brains react when focusing on particular images. Researchers are trying to map the blood flow in the human brain and use that information in a computer generated virtual environment. Soon enough, we might get to surf the web with our thoughts (and, perhaps, a tiny brain implant of a chip).
From science-fiction scenarios to facts
About 25 years ago, concepts like documents and hyperlinks were so hard to understand for most of us. A few people, however, together with Vint Cerf (vice president of Google), put together the system behind those notions. Today, many of us can’t imagine life without the internet.
Nevertheless, Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, has even bigger plans: “I would like us to build a world in which I have control of my data, I own it […] We’ll be able to write apps which take data from all different parts of my life and my friends’ lives and my family’s lives.”
So the internet is pictured together with smart devices and artificial intelligence, everything in an effort to declutter our lives. We could manage our workloads better, we could get rid of our hundreds of emails in an instant, we could pick the right present for someone dear in the blink of an eye.
The perspective is to continuously pump surrounding information into the internet. We might easily get to the place where we stop in front of an object and instantly receive information about that item. At first, it will happen on our devices and later, as already suggested, we could literally see the data in front of our eyes. Pretty much how RoboCop used to get its information on the villains.
Health, medicine and biotechnologies will skyrocket
Medicine progress is still controversial. We cannot brag about skipping common colds, yet we will somehow get to wear bionic, brain controlled members or custom-made organs. Heck, we will even have custom-made babies! These science-fiction scenarios are now in progress.
Bionic hands are in the first line, especially since Touch Bionics already developed such a prototype. The hand is not just a disgusting piece of metal, but an item with an incredibly natural appearance. It is covered in a thin plastic that looks just like the human skin, it is completely controlled by the brain, and it doesn’t even require surgery!
But it’s not just the outside that can be fixed. In the next 10 years, we might walk the streets wearing 3D printed organs inside of us! Organovo is currently working on / with a 3D bioprinter that could produce organs, cell-by-cell. It’s not about plastic that human body tolerates. In fact, organs “manufactured” this way will have as base a sample of cells taken from the body host. They are now looking further towards the production of arteries and veins, hoping to make the switch to full organs in the next 10 years or so.
Now just a few words on this chapter and we’ll move on: bionic items are on the surface, printed organs are inside of us, yet genetic discoveries are our own essence. Medicine is about to change that too, through its research in terms of genes. Designer babies are one of the many science-fiction scenarios, currently shadowed by lots of ethical controversies. Getting to know how your baby will look before you give birth shouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. And when you have the chance to interfere and “fix” the fetus while in the womb – healing it by potential anomalies or diseases, it would be even better!
Genetic deals, however, with some other aspects as well. Research regarding autism and Alzheimer, schizophrenia, and even ageing is on the rise. Soon enough, everything we know about all these might turn upside down.
Wardrobe will become a more interesting thing than ever
Fashion is one of those fields drizzled with science-fiction scenarios. In the following years, the clothes we’ll find on the market should serve much more than just covering our bodies. However, let us start with the basics.
If you are a fan of just getting dressed with your clothes, you will probably appreciate the chance of wearing water-resistant garments. Nanofilaments that are extremely hydrophobic should offer you 100% water protection. The fabrics researchers currently work on should resist, fully submerged in water, for up to 2 months, and still feel dry when you touch them.
So nanotechnology will rule clothing, but there is something else that starts with “nano” and that slip inside. Nanogenerators, for instance, will find their way into your fabrics and start building electrical energy. From physical movements and ultrasonic waves to blood flow, all these could serve as an energy source.
Until then, however, we might soon witness the skinny jeans that serve as a smartphone charger. A first line was just released this summer, by a fashion brand located in California. The model carries a special, hidden pocket where you can insert a small battery with its own power cord. For now, it’s only compatible with iPhones, but it could go even further.
Even so, this is penny compared to what Google is planning to do. If you haven’t heard of its Project Jacquard, you might want to take a peek. The giant developer is looking into building electricity-conducting yarn with regular clothing items. The use? Well, it’s all about creating flexible touchscreens that you could wear.
Similar attempts have been made in the past, but they were all from small start-ups. Google, on the other hand, with its huge resources and the newly signed partnership with Levi’s, could bring this up to a consumer level. Sooner than you would imagine!
Opinions expressed here by Contributors are their own.