If you’re living in modern society in 2020, then you’re probably familiar with the tech that is trending at the moment.
The onset of the Covid-19 outbreak has brought apps like Houseparty and Zoom to our homes and 5G technology has featured more in mobile phone adverts – but what of the tech that is just around the corner?
From unhackable internet to ultra-personalised medicine, we have plenty of reasons to be optimistic when it comes to breakthrough inventions, so let’s have a look in more detail.
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Perhaps the most exciting advance is in the field of medicine. US scientists recently developed a unique drug for a little girl with an exceptionally rare medical condition, believed to be a world first. Known as a ‘gene medicine’, the treatment focuses on a person’s DNA by editing or erasing bad genetic messages.
The hope is that it can at least make life easier for sufferers, if curing the illness is impossible, and no disease is off limits. Whereas doctors were once forced to admit defeat in some cases, this technology offers a light at the end of the tunnel for many terminally ill patients.
However, a potential issue arises. If a person needs a specific drug tailored just to them, who, apart from the super-rich, can afford to pay the millions of dollars for its research, development and manufacturing? Charities and crowdfunding projects hold the key in the more serious cases, but it could prove an obstacle to wider use.
Our understanding of quantum computing has been improving for some time: the VP of IBM was even able to explain it using a deck of cards at a recent speech. While this might still be more complicated card play than your average blackjack strategy, it does show how the knowledge can be implemented in new technologies.
Google recently claimed that their Sycamore quantum processor was the first ever to achieve ‘quantum supremacy’ – that is to outperform a conventional computer, like the ones we use every day. The team set the supercomputer a task that would take a normal device 10,000 years to complete – it completed it in 20 seconds.
As we struggle to get our heads around how a man-made creation can do that, scientists are already planning the exciting possibilities that this could entail. New forms of energy, super-effective medicine and an unprecedented level of artificial intelligence could be on the scene sooner rather than later.
Quantum science can also help to keep us safe online. The Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands expects to connect four Dutch cities via a quantum internet by the end of 2020.
Such an achievement would be extraordinary: a quantum network would ensure complete security via a concept known as entanglement – so it would be impossible for an outside user to hack into private communication.
It’ll be a while before we see this available for public use, though. Quantum connections over greater distances will need repeaters that widen the network, and this could take up to a decade to achieve.
Still, the fact that this technology is now a reality gives us all hope of a safer internet in the future.
We’ve all seen the decline of physical money over the last few years. Contactless cards are now just as common as cash, and there are a multitude of digital methods to pay for goods online. The trend is going to continue as digital currencies start to become a dominant player in the financial world.
The consequences? For all the positives about its convenience and speed-of-use, there are fears that financial privacy will suffer in an unregulated digital arena. There’s also a digital currency war on the horizon; after Facebook announced their Libra currency in 2019, China quickly ramped up the developments of it’s own ‘digital yuan’ in response.
Of course, cryptocurrencies will continue to benefit, although it will become harder to back the next Bitcoin, with the market now full of big players such as Zcash and Ripple who are eager to become the new superstars.
Plastic surgery has been a controversial topic for decades, but it could become a thing of the past if a new breed of anti-aging drugs get their way,
The drugs, known as senolytics, target certain cells that create inflammation and create a toxic environment, a process that is known to speed up the ageing process. Some could even become available in the form of a cream that actually does keep skin looking young.
More importantly, the drugs could also be used to slow the advance of serious illnesses, much like the medicine mentioned earlier. Slowing down the ageing of crucial cells may also keep the likes of Alzeimher’s and heart disease at arm’s length, potentially improving the lives of millions of people.
The first batch of drugs were tested on osteoarthritis patients in San Francisco recently, with positive results, and scientists hope to have further results soon, so watch this space.
For all the talk of the huge benefits that such technology brings, it’s worth remembering that the above technologies will only be good for the human race if they are used responsibly.
Issues such as elitist healthcare could mean that new life-saving medicine might only be available to the ultra-wealthy, and a completely private internet is open to abuse.
The focus is on world governments to make use of such breakthroughs for the good of mankind as a whole, and not for the privileged few.