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3 Technologies That Will (Maybe) Play Crucial Roles In Humanity's Future

Updated on September 10, 2015
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Guilherme Radaeli is a brazillian lawyer, writer and blogger born in state of São Paulo, Brazil.

The application of new technologies will bring us to completely new horizons
The application of new technologies will bring us to completely new horizons | Source

Yea, I know, nearly every modern generation claims that it is living in a crucial time for humanity full of change and wonder, but science has been showing us that we are living in a time of truly immense importance to our existence as a sentient species.

Think about it: for millions of years, humanity's existence was filled with struggles, for survival, for social change, for dominance, and also for science. However, never before has science and technology have such dire significance for humanity.

In the last 300 years, the rate of technological development around the world has risen so tremendously that it makes all history before these times seem like dark ages full of ignorance. As much as it may be hard to believe, we are living in quite prosperous times in comparison to, say, 500 years ago.

No longer does a common cold prove to be very dangerous to a human being, the plague has been practically eradicated, a good chunk of humanity has access to electricity, plumbing and now the internet, the greatest and most accessible source of information in the history of humanity's existence, and that only grows larger and richer with every day.

But now, new developments have come that may change humanity's history and the nature of its very existence forever. These are the times of great change, and its herald is technology.

Read on to learn about three technological developments that, once implemented, will forever change human existence.

The EM Drive

Unless you have been living under a rock, you probably know about the EM Drive, a revolutionary engine that can (seemingly) generate impressive amounts thrust by bouncing microwaves inside a special, conical casing. If it works as intended, the EM Drive could, theoretically, take us from Earth to Mars in just about 70 days, while consuming no fuel other than electricity.

The EM Drive or RF Resonant Cavity Thruster, was originally invented in the 2000s by Brittish Scientist and aerospace researcher Roger Shawyer. Since then, however, him and his invention have been peppered with criticism and ridicule, due to the apparent fact that his EM Drive would violate one crucial principle of physics: the law of conservation of momentum.

The principle of conservation of momentum dictates that, in the context of an airship engine, for something to be moved forward, it needs to release some sort of propellant to, well, propel itself forward. It needs to push itself forward in some way to move in a direction.

A diagram showing how the EM Drive (theoretically) functions. No, it has nothing to do with icecream
A diagram showing how the EM Drive (theoretically) functions. No, it has nothing to do with icecream | Source

So, It Doesn't Work?

Well, here's the fun part.

It does work.

Or, at least, it has shown multiple times, through multiple tests done by different people, that it works.

Here's the thing: a few years later after the invention of Shawyer's drive, Chinese researches tried their hand at it (Shawyer's EM Drive isn't specially expensive or complex to construct) and, apparently, it worked for them. They published their finds, which have been translated to English.

Not long after, an American researcher apparently tested Shawyer's drive and again, said it worked, and even convinced NASA's branch Eagleworks to try and test it. It wouldn't be long untill Eagleworks admitted that, after long trying to find out flaws on the EM Drive, they only ended up finding out that it apparently works.

EM Drive concept used in Tajmar's tests
EM Drive concept used in Tajmar's tests | Source

Eagleworks also tested the device in a vacuum, because they suspected the device was generating heat which could generate thrust due to air particles confusing the sensors (which was the usual theory used by skeptics to claim the thrust results came from measurement errors), and again attested that it also worked.

The controversy only grew more when a drive that Eagleworks designed specifically to not work, to use as a control in during the tests, ended up... Somehow also working. After that, the discussions on the subjected became quieter, for a bit, untill professor and chair for Space Systems at Dresden University of Technology in Germany, a man known for debunking supposedly revolutionary thrust systems, did his own series of independent test and guess what? He also ended up concluding that it does actualy generate thrust within the same parameters as presented by Roger Shawyer, although he couldn't explain exactly how it was generating thrust.

Even if it ends up not working, one could use it as a cool hat
Even if it ends up not working, one could use it as a cool hat | Source

So, What Now?

Tajmar's results have, of course (and in about 24 hours of its official publication), been met with criticism by skeptics claiming that the tests are fraught with systematic measuring errors that could have led to thrust results presented.

And so, the controversy continues, and will only get larger until Roger Shawyer himself publishes his results in a peer-reviewed journal, something which he claims he will be doing in just a few months from now.

This is all we know of the EM Drive for now. Keep in mind that this hub's intention is merely informative, and we have no way to claim whether the EM Drive really works or not. However, we may be close to find out, and if it does work, then it'll have revolutionary consequences for humanity, for a number of reasons:

  • The EM Drive Roger Shawyer proposes is not super expensive. In fact, someone with the right skills and tools could build one from spare microwave parts and other materials;
  • Propellantless thrust would extend the reach of our spacecraft by an enormous margin, allowing us to send manned missions to nearly any place in the solar system;
  • The EM Drive would also have strong consequences in the vehicles industry. Imagine larger, safer aircraft using the EM Drive to move across the world in a much cheaper and safer way than today's Jet Engines;

Again, it may just be a flop waiting to show its true colors, but who knows, maybe you'll be flying to work in your electro-magnetic car in the next decades?

Nanotechnology

A carbon nanotube, one of the current applications of nanotechnology
A carbon nanotube, one of the current applications of nanotechnology | Source

Many people know what nanotechnology entails but have no idea what its full application at atomic levels of tinyness could achieve.

Nanotechnology basically means "the understanding of the fundamental physics, chemistry, biology and technology of nanometre-scale objects".

In less general and more layman's terms, nanotechnology is the word for technology that deal with the manipulation of matter that is between 1 and 100 nanometers in size. For scale perspective purposes, keep in mind that a nanometer is a billionth of a meter, or a millionth of a milimeter.

This size range encompasses large and medium molecules (which are between 1 and 5 nanometers in size) and things like viruses (usualy around 100 nanometers) and DNA (about 10 nanometers.

Imagine yourself dividing a grain of sand in a million parts of equal size, then attempting to build something with those parts. That is what nanotechnology entails.

Nanotechnology was first proprosed by theoretical physicist Richard Feynman.

The principles of physics, as far as I can see, do not speak against the possibility of maneuvering things atom by atom. It would be, in principle, possible … for a physicist to synthesize any chemical substance that the chemist writes down…. How? Put the atoms down where the chemist says, and so you make the substance.

— Richard Feynman

Nanotechnology remained purely a theory for many decades, untill about 1986 when Eric Drexler published his seminal book called Engines of Creation, providing its foundations to modern science. Later, in 2013, Drexler published another important work on the subjected of nanotechnology, called Radical Abundance.

Imagine your mother's dismay as her diamond ring suddenly becomes cheaper than a toothbrush.
Imagine your mother's dismay as her diamond ring suddenly becomes cheaper than a toothbrush. | Source

Why Is It So Great?

Today, nanotechnology already has several different applications, being used to construct better computers, more resilient materials and it has several applications in medicine, as well, specially regarding tissue engineering.

Once we really get past the current limitations of nanotechnology and start manipulating molecules and atoms, though, then we'll reach new revolutionary heights in scientific development. Imagine our cellphones of today having more power than a cutting edge desktop computer, having perfectly compatible replacement organs and limbs, or even having super efficient blood cells capable of supplying your muscles with far more oxygen, greatly increasing your endurance, and having tiny nano robots in your blood stream that hunt down and destroy cancer cells and any virus known to man.

Imagine a material's cost no longer being tied to its scarcity, but to its complexy. With the ability to manipulate atoms and molecules, we could create virtualy any material from scratch. Everyday objects could be cheaply made of diamond, which, despite its incredible qualities, has a rather simple atomic structure.

But When Will It Be Possible?

It technically already is, since many products today already have some nanotech bits on it. Atomic manipulation is still a ways off, however, and nobody is exactly sure when it will come.

However, this is one of the subjects on which the global scientific community doesn't think of if, but of when.

Globally respected futurist Ray Kurzweil has made numerous predictions on human technological advancements since back in the eighties, and quite a bit of them have been on point. His more far off predictions concern nanotechnology, predicting our use of its fullest potential will come by 2040.

Did I mention Ray Kurzweil? Well, this brings us to the next subject of this hub..

Artificial Intelligence

There will be a time in which your computer will be able to criticize your taste in porn
There will be a time in which your computer will be able to criticize your taste in porn | Source

Before talking about Ray Kurzweil, artificial intelligence, the future of humanity and all that cool stuff. Lets just have a quick look on a observable fact in nature:

All species eventually go extinct.

This has been true through Earth's history thus far. Oxford Philosopher Nick Bostrom describes extinction as "an attractor state", which in this context basically means that every species is walking towards its almost inevitable extinction, either due to natural reasons or another species destroying it. This has been true for every species thus far and there's no indication that it may change anytime soon... Or does it?

We have what may be an extremely difficult problem with an unknown time to solve it, on which quite possibly the entire future of humanity depends.

— Nick Bostrom

This is where humanity comes in. Humanity is unique among every known species, not only because of our sentience and intelligence, but also because of our ever increasing skill to extend our capabilities and removing our natural limitations through tools we create and operate.

There is no other species in the world that has been able to fly or going into the depths of the sea without having a body capable of doing it. No other species capable of communicating instantly on a global range. No other species has been able to go out of the planet's atmosphere and going into space.

And yet, we have achieved all of this in under 200 years.

Our latest and most important achievements all happened in the last 70 or so years.

This is an observable tendency that scientists and philosophers call Moore's Law.

Gordon Moore, creator of Moore's Law, co-founder and chairman of Intel, bald man extraordinaire.
Gordon Moore, creator of Moore's Law, co-founder and chairman of Intel, bald man extraordinaire. | Source

Moore's Law and the Singularity

Moore's Law, in a (very) general context, basically dictates that human scientific and technological development is getting faster and faster as time passes. As more complex and efficient technology is created, it is then used to research and eventually created even more complex and efficient technology.

There are many critics of Moore's Law, since human technological development has technically slowed down a bit by 2012, and this has been the subject of much controversy. While its critics affirm that Moore's Law will eventually reach saturation and human development will go through periodical slowdowns, its most important adherents state that occasional slowdowns are natural, and will happen as humanity faces more and more challenging problems... But we'll eventually hit a threshold, a line that, when crossed, will cause an explosion in human technological development as an extreme validation of Moore's Law.

This is crown jewel of Moore's Law. The technological singularity.

The technological singularity is an hypothetical scenario first supposedly envisioned by Jewish Hungarian mathematician John von Neumann in 1958. While hypothetical, it is taken quite seriously by scientific heavyweights, specially those in the computer industry and those involved with artificial intelligence development. Currently, the most globally relevant adherent of the singularity is Ray Kurzweil, who has written quite an interesting and serious (because it deals with both good and bad consequences involved in such a thing) book about it called The Singularity Is Near.

To discuss the possibility and the nature of a technological singularity, the Machine Intelligence Research Institute hosts an annual conference called "The Singularity Summit", in which such matters are discussed, and it includes both adherents and skeptics on these matters.

You see, the technological singularity is attributed and inherently linked to a core event: the development of an Artificial Super Intelligence (or ASI).

Raymond Kurzweil, author, inventor, computer scientist, futurist, Google's Director of Engineering and (almost) bald man extraordinaire.
Raymond Kurzweil, author, inventor, computer scientist, futurist, Google's Director of Engineering and (almost) bald man extraordinaire. | Source

An artificial intelligence capable of self improvement and modification would result in a sort of runway effect, because it would find ever more efficient ways to improve itself and become more intelligent, causing an exponential increase in intelligence. Using that kind of power for mankind's development is what the singularity entails.

Through this, we could practically achieve anything. With an Artificial Super Intelligence on our side, we could use nanotechnology (and basically every other technology ever conceived) to its full potential and escape extinction forever, becoming effectively immortal.

The implications brought by the creation of an ASI are so vast that we cannot fully comprehend the consequences.

This is, of course, both good and bad. In fact, its a lot more than that. It can be infinitely awesome or horribly terrible for us, since such a critical event, according to experts on the matter, will boil down to two critical results.

Either we will uplifted into immortality by the ASI, or we will be made extinct by it.

Keep in mind that, for most scientists and experts, this isn't a matter of if it will happen, its a matter of when it will happen.

Now I want you to keep in mind that even the most pessimistic predictions say that humanity will create an ASI in the next 100 years.

The more median and neutral opinions say we'll probably achieve it by 2050, if not sooner.

What it happen after, we don't know for sure. All we know is that it is comming.

And when it does, will you be ready for it?

To finally end this hub, I'd like to point out that, due to our limited scope as individuals, we often underestimate what humanity is capable of, but the fact is that, in the grander scheme of the world, we are quite impressive, in both good and bad ways.

Human Beings Are Scary

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© 2015 Guilherme Radaeli

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