The world is changing rapidly and it can be difficult to keep up with all the different technologies being developed at the same time. From agriculture to medicine to energy, advances are being made every day and some of them will change the world as we know it.
Learn a little about these 10 new technologies that could directly impact your life over the next few years.
In Vitro Meat
Regardless of your stance on vegetarianism or meat eating, there is no denying the fact that our current meat purchasing system is unsustainable. A large amount of resources is spent on feeding, slaughtering and transporting animals — and this leads to the waste of huge amounts of water and energy. The animals we breed also produce large amounts of methane, which is a significant contributor to climate change.
In addition to the environmental implications, there is also the ethics of handling farm animals. Many animals are kept in cramped, enclosed spaces for life and are never allowed to roam. Whatever you say about the ethics of killing animals for food, the conditions in which many animals grow up must be terrible for everyone.
However, it is unrealistic to imagine a future in which people do not eat meat. Humans are diverse eaters and we certainly could survive without meat, but in most parts of the world there is a culture of meat that cannot be erased. To answer this, there is meat in a test tube.
In vitro meat is meat that is grown in a laboratory. Now, before you say «Phoo» and ignore the rest of this section, try to think scientifically. Meat is made up of atoms, and if you can recreate those atoms in a precise way — but in a different way — it’s still meat. If you were given two cuts of beef, one in vitro and one from a cow, and you couldn’t tell them apart by taste, texture, or whatever, would that still be rude?
The answer is that lab meat doesn’t have to be a coarse curd. We can create meat that is identical to the current meat. It’s not gross — it’s a practical replacement. Professor of molecular biology at Stanford University Pat Brown said this in an interview with The Guardian:
I’m not interested in making new food just for vegans. I cook for people who are comfortable eating meat and want to continue eating meat. I want to reduce the human footprint on this planet by 50 percent.
Also, meat in a test tube is never alive, so it never dies. From an ethical standpoint, this makes more sense. Ecologically, growth requires fewer resources. However, from an economic point of view, the price of in vitro meat is still too high for mass production. And with the big farm lobby in the US and other countries, there can also be a legal barrier.
This technology may be years away from mass production, but when it arrives, it could change everything.
Wheelchairs, while the best we have at the moment, are extremely limited. They find it difficult to get in and out of themselves, put disabled people physically below their peers, and they cannot climb stairs.
All this could change if powered exoskeletons become a reality. As with many new technologies, production cost is currently a big issue, but the price of exoskeletons should come down in the future. Right now ReWalk is the best alternative to a wheelchair, but there are many others like Hybrid Assistive Limb (HAL) and Tek RMD.
In particular, ReWalk allows paraplegics to stand and walk, providing more exercise, a healthier lifestyle and the ability to see their peers. Larry Jasinki, CEO of ReWalk Robotics, had this to say about his company’s technologies:
This revolutionary product will have an immediate, life-changing impact on people with spinal cord injuries. For the first time, people with paraplegia will be able to take this exoskeleton technology home, use it every day, and maximize the physiological and psychological benefits we have seen in clinical trials.
In addition, the larger and more durable type of power exoskeletons have much more applications. Emergency responders can use exoskeletons to increase their strength, allowing them to lift large amounts of debris and rescue survivors from collapsed buildings or rock slides, or allow them to lift larger patients on their own.
The US military is also funding a host of exoskeleton ventures designed to help soldiers go further and carry more.
For a prime example of how this can benefit people, think of Stephen Hawking and others who suffer from ALS and gradually lose the ability to move their bodies. Brain-controlled computers, combined with other technologies, could change all of that. Even a single brain-controlled computer without connected prosthetics could allow users to surf the Internet, play games, or watch movies—something that many of us take for granted.
Remember Hyperloop? This is Elon Musk’s lofty goal to create super fast vehicles. Theoretically, it can take passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 35 minutes — a trip that typically takes six hours. This theoretical system has a top speed of 760 mph, and designs have been developed for both passenger and passenger vehicles, with cost estimates for the Los Angeles to SF route of $6 and $7.5 billion, respectively.
So it’s clearly an expensive system. But Hyperloop and other ideas like it are part of the high-speed transport trend. Since the world has become global, people need to move from one place to another faster than ever, and flights from one end of the world to another can take up to 14 hours, and even more if you need connecting flights.