Imagine what can be done with lighting that is as thin as paper and can be printed. This Fast Company article describes a new technology that may change the way you illuminate your world.
The Japanese lead the way in developing life-like robots. It appears that robots are much less respected in North American culture, perhaps due to Hollywood’s depiction of androids gone bad. Maybe a humanoid appearance will change that. It will be interesting to see how these mechanical people are received in other parts of the world.
Your burgers and “chicken” salads could soon get much more interesting. Beyond Meat is a company aiming to use plant extracts to make meat substitutes that will taste like the real thing (not tofu) but be much healthier. The health and environmental benefits could be significant.
This New York Times article describes China’s plans to cap coal use by 2020 and total CO2 emissions by 2030. What is not mentioned is that China’s one child per family policy has led to a population pyramid that will mean a huge number of workers retiring in the next few years, with not enough replacement workers to fill their jobs. This labour shortage will increase wages and accelerate the “re-shoring” of manufacturing to the western world as automated factories become more cost effective than Chinese labour. The result could be a large economic slowdown for China, including a decrease in energy consumption. At the same time, solar and wind power will continue to be more cost competitive and may replace much of the coal use worldwide. This will hopefully lead to a reduction in coal use even more quickly than China has planned.
For years I have been reading about the potential for “robots” small enough to fit inside our bloodstreams that can target and deliver drugs to specific cells, most notably cancer cells. Dr. Bachelet Ido hopes to begin human trials by 2017. In this fascinating 2013 video from TedMed Israel, he describes the amazing work his team is doing in the field of DNA nanotechnology, where DNA molecules are used to build “smart” nanobots, some of which can even be controlled by a wifi signal.
Robotics and Artificial Intelligence are quickly replacing many traditional jobs, and not just in manufacturing but in services as well as white collar offices. This article provides an interesting take on the debate over the ultimate effects of automation on our ability to maintain a functioning economy. I do not agree with everything the author says, and will elaborate in future posts of my own, but his point of view is becoming more common. Check the comments at the end of the article for differing viewpoints. This topic is far from settled.
In this video from the Wall Street Journal, a car factory robot at the US National Institute of Health performs 12 million drug tests per week, to find treatments for the 6500 disease for which we currently have none. To do the same work by hand would require 600 humans. This illustrates the acceleration of medical research, as well as the displacement of human jobs by robotics.
This Fast Company article addresses the very important topic of our growing waste problem and is worth reading. The next couple of decades will see unprecedented levels of garbage, especially in developing economies. However, any article that attempts to forecast current trends many decades into the future deserves scrutiny. The author will often fail to consider new trends and technologies that will affect or solve the problems they describe. Recycling technologies, 3D printing and dematerialization will lead to an eventual decline in waste, but not before we have destroyed many more vast swathes of our planet with toxic landfill. In a few decades we may have intelligent microrobots that will be able to recycle landfill waste and restore the environment, but in the meantime we need to rethink our habits.
This article from the New York Times describes the success of solar power in Europe, which is largely due to help from forward thinking governments, who are now seeing their efforts pay off. Sadly, North America is far behind, but as prices fall, solar will continue to slowly grow here too, until a tipping point is reached in the next few years and solar becomes cheaper than most other sources. Then solar panels will be more common than smart phones.