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Science and technology in 2018

Published : Saturday, 30 December, 2017 at 12:00 AM  Count : 455

Science and technology in 2018

Science and technology in 2018

When we predict future, we look at the past. Peter Drucker, a Management Consultant once puts it "Trying to predict the future is like trying to drive down a country road at night with no lights while looking out the back window."
Our present also give us some indication about the future. France Philosopher Voltaire mentioned that "the present is pregnant with the future". So, considering past and present scientific and technological achievement, I can safely predict some development in these areas that we might see in 2018.  
In 2015 precision medicine initiative was launched in USA. The aim was to develop treatments that accounted for a patient's genetic profile, environment and lifestyle. The idea is that the precision approaches will make medicine less reactive and more proactive. We shall see more progress in this area in 2018. With the improvements in augmented reality and robotics, we will see more complex surgery could soon be carried out remotely.
In genetics, a new technique, known as CRISPR has been developed. This technology allows genetic material to be added, removed, or altered at particular locations in the genome.  In addition CRISPR technology is currently being developed in such a way that it can instruct drug resisted bacteria to self destruct.
This will contribute to neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's, epilepsy and Alzheimer disease. However, in his Nobel lecture, Kazuo Ishiguro (literature Nobel Prize winner in 2017) raised some concern about this technology.
In his word, "New genetic technologies-such as the gene-editing technique CRISPR�will bring us amazing, life saving benefits, but may also create savage meritocracies that resemble apartheid..."
NASA is implementing a synthetic biology programme for two important reasons: one is when astronauts get to another planet; they will need shelter, oxygen and food. Synthetic biology can be used to make circuits in cells that can generate oxygen.
Another reason is to protect astronaut from deadly rays. NASA is working on bacteria that secrete cytokines, when triggered by radiation exposure. Cytokines are human body's natural response to DNA damage caused by radiation. We shall see further progress on this front using synthetic biological techniques in 2018.
Prospect of using synthetic biology in climate change is promising. Scientists at the J Craig Venter Institute have developed a form of algae that can absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and use it to create diesel fuel or gasoline. We shall see further progress in this field in 2018. However, synthetic organism must be regulated carefully as is the case for genetically modified organism.
In 2018, we will see four main developments in information technology: exponential growth in information technology, increasingly capable machine, increasingly pervasive devices and increasingly connected humans.
In the field of artificial intelligence (AI), we shall see several progresses in areas of computer carer, computer companion and robot nannies.  We shall get humanoid robots around the home. It has been predicted that parents can start employing robots as babysitters and also for caring elderly and its new name would be carebot.
There is a growing interest of sexbot, love and sex with Robots. However, how this will influence our martial life is not yet clear. Robot will monitor infant crying and sleep pattern, helping out elderly and military purposes.  
According to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), there were 4.7 million robots sold for personal and domestic use in 2014. The IFR forecast 42 million units sold for 2016-2019. AI has some unintended consequences as well. So, number of groups around the world are thinking about varied issues and trying to find out practical ways of preventing, ameliorating and regulating them.
In 2018, we shall see more use of robots for mitigating and preventing damage from climate change. As an example robot submarines can go deep down the ocean to reveal any vital clues about climate change.
Robot systems can diagnose damage to coral reefs and repair them. Such robots are known as coralbots. Robot technology can make food production more efficient but less damaging to the environment where it is grown. Robot can also be used more and more in detecting chemical leaks such as oil spills, leakage of methane gas in pipe lines and toxic chemicals escaping from supply pipes.
Progress so far made in quantum computing is promising. In the age of cloud computing, it seems more natural to have the quantum computer at a central location with users accessing it remotely in order to run a calculation.
We shall see further development of some of the emerging technologies in 2018. As for examples: extracting moisture from air using solar power to get drinking water; artificial process mimicking photosynthesis to convert carbon dioxide to fuel and use of real time data to improve farm outputs and reduce waste.
We are currently suffering from information obesity, time starvation and techno spread. This will continue in 2018. Like traffic gridlock we shall encounter life grid lock. Our life continues to be overloaded with information. We may look after what we eat and how we keep fit, but it would be difficult to keep us fit from information obesity.
Laptop, tablet, mobile phone, Facebook, twitter and some new apps will make us info-obese. We shall lose control over what will go into our daily schedule. We might find that other peoples are taking control of our time. Technology will expand around us just like fats around our belly. It would be difficult to recognise, how much we are we and how much we are technology enhanced.
While we are predicting about the future we also need to think about the fact that the social and political force can change the course of our predictive outcome. As an example, the electric car is now considered as the future, but the idea is not a new.
It was built first by a chemist named Robert Davidson in 1837. In 19th century we had fleet of electric taxis, known at that time as 'humming birds', because of the sound of the engine. At that time horse drawn cab took more space on a road and created traffic congestion.
But driver of the horse driven cab mounted a vigorous campaign against electric car and at the end electric cab company gone out of business. Then Henry Ford began to sell gasoline powered cars, which was half price of electric car and gradually took over streets in different cities and town.
Victor Hugo once said, "An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come." An Idea come because of the need and demand from a society, but idea can be disappeared because of economic and political force. However, we have an interest about the future because we shall spend the rest of our life there. Scientist Henri Poincare, in his book "The Foundation of Science" wrote, "It is far better to foresee even without certainty than not to foresee at all." This is the reason we predict.

Dr Kanan Purkayastha is an Environmental Advisor, University
Teacher and Writer based in UK











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