In this issue:
- CES: The Future is Now-ish
- MIT Scientists Discover Memory Gene
- January 2012 Prediction List Roundup
- Disease Hunters Follow the Night Lights
- Better Nanotubes for Better Electronics
- Inventors Wanted
- What’s in THE FUTURIST magazine
CES: The Future Is Now-ish
The annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) storms Las Vegas this week. THE FUTURIST magazine and other members of the media received a special preview access to the more than 20,000 new products expected to launch at the event this year.
Previous CES shows saw the launch of the VCR and DVD players. According to Shawn Dubravac of the Consumer Electronics Association, more than 90% of U.S. households own a product that debuted at the world’s biggest tech show. Dubravac called 2012 the year of the interface and stressed that some of the inventions and prototypes on display won’t be commercially viable “for years.” Read more of THE FUTURIST magazine’s on-site coverage at wfs.org.
Also download a copy of Dubravac's presentation here.
MIT Scientists Discover Memory Gene
Our memories give birth to our expectations of the future; but what gives birth to memory? A group of MIT scientists led by Yingxi Lin claim to have discovered a master gene for memory encoding. The Npas4 gene is responsible for activating the genes that make memories stronger and more permanent (both synapse strength and connections between neurons). “This is a gene that can connect from experience to the eventual changing of the circuit,” says Lin.
The team found that Npas4 is heavily present in the CA3 region of the hippocampus in mice when they wandered to a part of a maze where they received a mild electric shock. The gene helped them remember to avoid that area. When the researchers removed the gene from that area of the hippocampus, the mice forgot which part of the maze was dangerous.
The ability to produce Npas4 in sufficient volume may have an effect on the study of learning and education in the future.
January 2012 Prediction List Roundup
The beginning of 2012 saw the usual burst of predictions from media, industry, tech watchers, and futurists.
Declan McCullagh of the popular blog CNET forecast that “If 2011 was the Year of the hackers, 2012 may be the Year the Hackers Upset the Political Establishment.” Read more.
Daryl Lang of the Web site Breaking Copy published a self-deprecatingly titled list of “Ten Foolishly Specific Predictions for 2012,” among them: “An angry online mob forces the CEO of a Fortune 500 company to resign.” Read more.
John Brandon of Inc. magazine predicted that, by 2025, augmented reality and instantaneous language translation will be common.“ Read more.
Lance Ulanoff of Mashable announced “6 Crazy Tech Predictions for 2012,” among them: “Scientists will partner with Hollywood studios to unveil a new technology known as ‘Fresh Ends.’ Using CGI, Hollywood script writers, voice and context recognition and logic algorithms, Fresh Ends technology will generate new endings for some of the world’s most popular films. These slightly rewritten movies will be re-released to theaters—just like the 3D rereleases—and are expected to add 15- to 20% additional box office returns to each film. For now, Fresh Ends only works with movies shot digitally.“ Read more.
IBM published five predictions based on current IBM projects; they included telepathetic control of computers, the end of the digital divide, multifactor biometrics, and predictive analytics ending the days of junk mail. Read more.
Finally, social networking guru Brian Solis joined with Awareness Networks and other futurists in the release of the 2012 Social Marketing and New Media Report, packed with predictions about the future of social networks. The bottom line: “Engage or Die.” Read more (PDF).
Disease Hunters Follow the Night Lights
Public-health officials may have a new tool for fighting epidemics in developing countries, thanks to satellite images of nighttime light patterns in cities.
Researchers led by Nita Bharti of Princeton University have correlated the onset of communicable diseases such as measles with the population growth that occurs seasonally as people move from rural areas into cities. Comparing NASA night-light data with health records from Niger between 2000 and 2004, the researchers found that measles cases were more prevalent in cities’ brightest spots.
Monitoring changes in nighttime lighting will help identify hotspots for epidemics and enable public-health workers to inoculate the most vulnerable populations, the researchers believe. The night-light pattern tracking could also be used to monitor population movements during wars and natural disasters.
Source: Princeton University. The research was published in the December 9, 2011, edition of the journal Science.
Better Nanotubes for Better Electronics
A range of electronic products and solar cell technologies could become more affordable, thanks to a new manufacturing technique that expedites the production of carbon nanotubes.
These molecule-sized tube structures, which are now added to many structural materials, come in two varieties: semiconducting nanotubes, the active material in transistors and solar cells, and conducting nanotubes, used in batteries.
The current carbon nanotube manufacturing process creates conducting and semiconducting nanotubes in the same batch. They have to be separated, and this has presented a longtime “production bottleneck,” according to Stanford University chemical-engineering associate professor Zhenan Bao.
Bao has co-developed, with colleagues at the University of California–Davis and the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology, the use of a polymer that latches onto semiconducting nanotubes but not the conducting ones.
The final polymer-fused semiconducting nanotubes are themselves useful for making lower-cost solar cells; “bendable display screens,” now increasingly featured in portable electronic devices; “stretchable electronics,” which feature in some components for advanced robots; and “circuits printed on plastics,” applications of which include transistors for flexible/foldable displays, transistors for flexible sensors and electronic skin, and circuits for printed price tags or RFIDs.
“Our simple process allows us to build useful devices very easily,” says Bao.
Source: Stanford University
Do you have an invention or start-up that will change the world? The World Future Society has issued a call for inventions and innovations from breakthrough start-ups, who will compete in the second annual Futurists:BetaLaunch expo in Toronto next July.
Futurists:BetaLaunch (F:BL) serves as a technology expo where engineers, designers, and others can present their inventions to the 1,000 futurists expected to gather for the Society’s annual conference. Also in attendance will be venture capitalists such as Moon Express founder Naveen Jain, Netopia founder Reese Jones, and Lightspeed Venture Partners.
All inventors selected to present their inventions at F:BL will receive a complimentary registration to the WorldFuture 2012 conference ($750 value). The deadline for entry is March 15, 2012.
What’s in THE FUTURIST magazine? (Members Only)
A selection of articles, special reports, and other future-focused material on our Web site that you might have missed. Members may sign in to read and comment. Not a member? Join now at http://www.wfs.org/renew.
By Jeffrey Scott Coker
Genetic engineering is actually as natural as any process on Earth, and mastering it would enable us to do what microbes do trillions of times every day, but purposefully and with better results. Read more.
Environmental threats and energy source opportunities; in vivo organ and tissue printing and buildings that self-adapt to weather fluctuations. These forecasts and more appear in THE FUTURIST’s annual roundup of thought-provoking ideas. Read more.
What’s in THE FUTURIST magazine? (Public)
Drawing from a variety of sources throughout the past year, the editors of THE FUTURIST take a look at some of the best predictions for the world’s future. Read more.
By Peter J. Denning
Futurists and innovators can teach each other lessons to help their ideas succeed.
Neuroscientists may predict what you will do before you do it. Read more.
- iGrammar: Mobile Language Lessons
- Robotic Aides for Children with Autism
- Glass as Waste Cleaner
- Building Stronger Skyscrapers, Faster
- Remote-Controlled Telescopes for Citizen Astronomers
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The investment doesn't amount to a lot of dollars, a mere $1 billion, a drop in the bucket compared to the hundreds of billions and trillions that are the numbers associated with the fossil fuel industry, but New York State is on a path to increase solar capacity by 68%. This amounts to 214 Megawatts of new installations.
Energy storage prices are dropping fast. If you follow me, you’ve seen me write about this before. Energy storage prices have in fact been dropping exponentially for at least 25 years. Here’s a new piece of analysis – a model that uses a 20% learning curve per doubling to that project Li-ion batteries dropping to 5 cents per kwh round-tripped through them by ~2030.
The beleaguered nuclear power industry may soon have a good story to tell post-Fukushima. Lightbridge, a nuclear engineering company based in Virginia, is about to test a literal "twist" for fuel rods that can increase power yield by 10% in existing nuclear power plants with only minor modifications. And if the plants replace existing turbines with larger ones it would mean as much as a 17% increase in power output and incurring only an incremental investment without a major build.
The carbon capture and storage project at the Boundary Dam in Saskatchewan is about to go live as reported in the press today. The project goal has been to eliminate 90% of the CO2 generated by the coal-fired power plant. Additions have cost $1.4 billion CDN, $115 million over budget, and represent what is believed to be the world's first commercial-scale CCS project to go live.
I occasionally do talks on future TV and I generally ignore current companies and their recent developments because people can read about them anywhere. If it is already out there, it isn’t the future.
Surely gardens are a place to get back to nature, to escape from technology? Well, when journalists ask to see really advanced technology, I take them to the garden. Humans still have a long way to go to catch up with what nature does all the time.
Cool is a concept that people understand instinctively and globally. It is not Carl Rohde who decides on his own what it the cool stuff on any subject; his eyes and ears are his students and associates. Rohde teaches on (almost) all continents. Part of his assignment is take photographs, describe what it is, and why it is cool. Select the best cool hunt of the week, and upload it to the cool hunting platform. The cool hunters rate each other's works. The items that have most potential will show up. The network of associates does pretty much the same thing, but there everyone has his own specialty.
In a recent issue of Globe and Mail, Canada's purported national newspaper, Janet McFarland wrote a piece on ethical investment describing the Montreal Carbon Pledge and the commitment being made by global funds to report the carbon pollution within their portfolios. Portfolio screening focused on environmental issues is a relatively new practice for fund managers. Carbon represents just one in a number of the risks being assessed. Water, land use, pollution, and waste are also measured against portfolios and policy decision making.