Category: predictions

When Will We Have a Cure for All Forms of Cancer?

Will We Ever Cure Cancer?

Cancer is, without a doubt, one of the most dreaded diagnoses a person can receive in their lifetime. While there are many forms of cancer and their respective prognosis depend on a multitude of factors — such as the patient, the cancer’s stage, and available treatments — for the millions of people who will be diagnosed this year, the word “cancer” is still a frightening one to hear.

The American Cancer Society projected that 1,688,780 new cancer cases will be diagnosed in 2017. People of all ages can be among those diagnosed with one of over 100 different types of cancer. But when we talk about cancer — especially when we discuss treatments or cures — it’s important to point out that cancer is not just one disease. Therefore, the likelihood that a single treatment could ever cure all forms of cancer is extremely unlikely.

To frame the search for a cancer cure as being the quest for a single drug or procedure is approaching the task from within the wrong framework. Rather than developing a single cancer cure-all, many doctors are advocating that we focus instead on developing treatments that are disease-specific — and even patient-specific. This strategy is necessary because cancer can arise in different body systems, often several at the same time, and in different people with their own unique physiology.

Will such treatments ever exist? When it came to making predictions about when — if ever — we’ll have a cure for all forms of cancer, Futurism readers were pretty optimistic: 25 percent think we’ll get there by the 2030s, 18 percent by the 2040s, and 16 percent think we’re right on the cusp — predicting a cure as soon as the next decade. About 10 percent of readers predicted that we’ll never cure cancer.

Bård Pedersen, a reader from Norway, commented “I do actually think that it will be possible in the 2020s … But due to paperwork, testing en [sic] other legalities it will not be available as legal treatment until mid 2030s.” While Pedersen was commenting on the situation where he lives in Norway, approval for new drug treatments is an arduous process around the world. In the U.S., regulation is especially tight and can pose challenges for researchers, medical professionals, and patients alike.

How CRISPR Works: The Future of Genetic Engineering and Designer Humans
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While developing many different and even personalized treatments may seem like a lofty task, it’s actually something we have done and are doing. CRISPR has allowed researchers to edit a mouse’s genome such that their immune cells are genetically engineered to kill cancer cells. The clinical trials that have been completed thus far indicate it may be a good treatment option for patients with a form of cancer called multiple myeloma, a form of cancer that affects blood plasma cells.

Another mouse study that the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine published earlier this year used genetic engineering to target cancer fusion cells — something that had never been done before. “It is really exciting because it lays the groundwork for what could become a totally new approach to treating cancer,” said the study’s lead author Jian-Hua Luo, director at Pitt’s School of Medicine’s High Throughput Genome Center, in a press release. These fusion genes — two genes that fuse together and produce cancer-promoting proteins — may play an instrumental role in many types of cancer.

What the Experts Say

While this research is promising, many cancer experts are still cautious about the future of the field. Monica Bertagnolli, chair of the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology, told Scientific American last year that even if new treatments are developed and pass through the required regulatory hurdles, it still doesn’t mean they’ll work for every patient.

“Unfortunately, we see some patients don’t respond to these wonderfully new therapies and some patients that do respond initially eventually develop resistance to those therapies and so the tumor returns,” Bertagnolli said in the interview. “Obviously that’s in the way of curing cancer because we want a treatment that a patient will never develop resistance to.”

Other experts who have devoted their careers to cancer research — like Barrie Bode, biology chair at Northern Illinois University — acknowledge that there are many possibilities in research to be excited about, but haven’t become so caught up in the excitement that they lose sight of the reality. When asked if he thinks there will be a cure for cancer in our lifetimes, Bode said no, but added that “Some types of cancer might be cured — that’s happened already. But new pharmaceutical cures are rare. Over the next century, I’d say the chance is very remote that we will find a single ‘cure for cancer.’”

Bode’s commentary echoes that of many others, but that isn’t to say he’s entirely without faith that we’ll continue to make steady progress both in our understanding of cancer and developing more effective treatments. The search for a cure may not be as vital in the years to come as the commitment to developing treatment that can increase a patient’s quality of life, if not their life expectancy, too. Bode says treatments to come will be “informed by the science and technologies that are available so that cancer can be managed much like other diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes.”

If groundbreaking research and clinical trials are to continue, it will need funding. The Cancer Moonshot initiative, which was put into place under former President Obama and has former Vice President Joe Biden at the helm, was allotted $1.8 billion by Congress in December of 2016, to be used for the next seven years. Many goals of the program are focused on the outcome for cancer patients that is the closest we have to a cure: remission. While cancer that has gone into remission can come back, over the last few decades research has allowed patients with many forms of cancer to live long by extending their periods of remission through treatment.

See all of the Futurism predictions and make your own predictions here.

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When Will the First Male Contraceptive Pill Be Publicly Available?

Competition for Condoms

Setting aside the issue of cost and insurance coverage, these days there are many options for birth control — for women, that is. Since the first birth control for women went on the market in 1960, scientists have come up with a variety of pills, inserts, and implants women can choose from for contraceptive purposes. Men, on the other hand, are much more restricted in their options.

When Will the First Male Contraceptive Pill Be Publicly Available?
Image Credit: bark / Flickr

Many are calling for more options for male birth control, both as a way to both give men more control over their fertility and to lessen the burden on women to deal with the responsibility and side effects of contraceptives by themselves. However, innovation in this area has been slow, and a recent attempt was not very promising. We asked Futurism readers when we can expect a version of “the pill” for men.

Apparently, very soon. Almost 80 percent of respondents believe a birth control pill will be available for men sometime during the 2020s. Reader Alejandro Baquero-Lima wrote he thinks the 2030s might be a little more feasible to ensure any kinks in the pharmacology will be worked out. “The male body is very different to that of the female body,” Baquero-Lima wrote. “Therefore, the contraceptive will have to make sure to react accordingly. But it will be coming.”

What The Experts Have to Say

Baquero-Lima is right in that scientists have found designing contraception for men a challenge. “Men make 1,000 sperm every second,” said John Amory, a male reproductive specialist at the University of Washington (UW), Seattle, in an interview with Seeker. “It’s proven to be a lot more difficult to turn that degree of production off compared to one egg a month.”

But that hurdle hasn’t stopped researchers from pursuing potential contraceptives for men. One promising form of birth control in development, put in place by an injection, is 99 percent effective for more than 10 years after a single shot. Researchers have also recently discovered that two known compounds might act as “molecular condoms.” These projects and others in the drug-development pipeline have made Stephanie Page, professor of metabolism and endocrinology at UW, optimistic that we may see a birth control pill for men in about a decade.

“There are a number of targets that are being actively pursued: sperm motility, sperm-egg fusion, and various aspects of sperm development,” Page said in an interview with Endocrine News. “Thus, the 10-year benchmark that we have talked about for a few years now looks more promising than in the past.”

See all of the Futurism predictions and make your own predictions here.

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When Will Quantum Computers Be Consumer Products?

Technological Revolution

Quantum computers are making an entrance, and it’s a dramatic one. Even in its infancy, the technology is outperforming the conventional competition and is expected to make the field of cryptography as we know it obsolete. Quantum computing has the potential to revolutionize several sectors, including the financial and medical industries.

Meet The Most Powerful Computers in the World
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Quantum computers can processes a greater number of calculations because they rely on quantum bits (“qubits”), which can be ones and zeroes simultaneously, unlike classical “bits” that must be either a one or a zero. The company D-Wave is releasing a version of a quantum computer this year, but it’s not a fully formed embodiment of this technology. So we asked our readers when we should expect to see quantum computers available as consumer products?

Almost 80 percent of respondents believed we will be able to buy our own quantum computer before 2050, and the decade that received the most votes — about 34 percent — was the 2030s. Respondent Solomon Duffin explained why his prediction, the 2040s, was slightly more pessimistic than those of the majority.

In the 2020s, we will have quantum computers that are significantly better than super computers today, but they most likely won’t be in mass use by governments and companies until the 2030s. Eventually toward the end of the 2030s and early 2040s they’ll shrink down to a size and cost viable for consumer use. Before that point even with the exponential growth of technology I don’t think that it would be cost efficient enough for the average consumer to replace regular computing with quantum computing.

Quantum computers are indeed currently out of the price range of the average consumer, and will likely stay that way for a few years at least. The $15 million price tag for the D-Wave 2000Q has a long way to drop before it makes it to a Black Friday sale.

What The Experts Have to Say

But the technology is rapidly advancing, and experts are optimistic that we will soon see a bonafide, functioning quantum computer in all of its glory. In fact, an international team of researchers wrote in a study published in Physical Review, “Recent improvements in the control of quantum systems make it seem feasible to finally build a quantum computer within a decade.”

Andrew Dzurak, Professor in Nanoelectronics at University of New South Wales, said in an interview with CIO that he hopes quantum computers will be able to advance scientific research, for example, by simulating what potential drugs would do in the human body. However, Dzurak said he expects it will take 20 years for quantum computers to be useful enough for that kind of application.

“I think that within ten years, there will be demonstrations of modelling of certain chemicals and drugs that couldn’t be done today but I don’t think there will be a convenient, routine [system] that [people] can use,” Dzurak said in the interview. “To move to that stage will take another decade further beyond that.”

Dzurak also expressed his doubts that quantum computers will be very useful to the average consumer since they can get most of what they want using conventional computers. But D-Wave international president Bo Ewald thinks that’s just because we haven’t imagined what we could do with the technology yet. This is why D-Wave has released a new software tool to help developers make programs for the company’s computers.

“D-Wave is driving the hardware forward,” Ewald said in an interview with Wired. “But we need more smart people thinking about applications, and another set thinking about software tools.”

See all of the Futurism predictions and make your own predictions here.

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When Will We Successfully Reverse Aging?

Turning Back the Biological Clock

Throughout the course of human history we’ve developed marvelous means to protect ourselves from illness and injury: ailments and afflictions that once commonly took lives are now a thing of the past, are easily treatable and preventable through modern medical science — and some scourges have been downright eradicated. The one thing we have no seemed to get a handle on – that will ultimately be fatal for humans even if specific diseases are not — is time. Our centuries-long quest for the fountain of youth has led us from myth to magic and now, into the science lab where researchers are unlocking the mysteries of aging — and perhaps getting closer to not only stopping it, but reversing it. 

4 Scientifically Proven Ways to Help Reverse Aging
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Through DNA, researchers have been able to identify the genes responsible for aging. The genes that are the culprits in human aging can then be manipulated using advanced technologies like CRISPR, with remarkable success. Others are using “young blood” to revitalize the old. Some are harkening back to the legends of our ancestors, who also attempted to devise ways to address the problem of aging: today, researchers are developing anti-aging treatments based on everything from cannabis to a bacteria native to Easter Island.

In recent decades, science and technology has advanced so rapidly that, while human beings may still be inevitably aging in the interim, the prospect of solving the problem of aging is closer in reach than it’s ever been before: back in December of 2016, researchers at the Salk Institute successfully reversed the process of aging in mice and predicted that they would be ready for human trials within ten years. The research at the Salk Institute not only made the mice look younger, it extended their lifespan by an average of 30 percent. This was similar to findings from research by the Buck Institute for Research on Ageing and the University of Washington back in 2015 which found that through deleting particular genes in yeast they could extend the organism’s lifespan by up to 60 percent.

[Still Writing] Prediction: By When Will We Successfully Reverse Aging?

What The Experts Have to Say

The science at work not just in this altered course of human aging, but the natural course is well, is epigenetics. Throughout life, our genes can be altered in a number of ways; often by things we’re exposed to as a result of our environment (pollution, for example) or lifestyle (like cigarette smoke). As our genes change, so do our bodies —and so do we. Whether it means we develop a condition for which we had a genetic predisposition all along, or we are acquire one our bodies are not able to recover from, these epigenetic changes provide clues as to why, and how, these processes take place. They are also, then, where we are most likely to find the answers we need to stop or reverse them altogether.

Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, an expert in gene expression at the Salk Institute, put it rather frankly when he spoke to Scientific American: “Aging is something plastic that we can manipulate.” The question for researchers was how to do that — and the answer, it turned out, was through transforming adult cells back into an earlier state; a much earlier state. Embryonic, in fact. At this stage, cells possess the capacity to differentiate into any type of cell in the body, which has made them the focus of stem cell research.

At Harvard University, Dr. David Sinclair and his team of researchers determined that an anti-aging compound called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) was found more frequently in younger mice than older ones. NAD+ is an important part of how our DNA repairs damage — which can occur for a multitude of reasons, including being a somewhat natural part of the cellular division process. The magical DNA-repair compound, PARP1, responds to levels of NAD+ in the body: the higher the NAD+, the more PARP1. Younger people, like mice, have more and our levels decrease as we age — meaning it becomes harder for our DNA to repair itself. That, in turn, leads to aging, illness, and all the other physical inevitabilities of humanhood.

With that in mind, and following the logic behind it, Sinclair and his team gave older mice more NAD+, and soon the older mice began to look younger — biologically, anyway. Sinclair explained the findings to TIME back in March, saying that after the treatment, “We can’t tell the difference between the tissues from an old mouse that is two years old versus a young mouse that is three to four months old.”

[Still Writing] Prediction: By When Will We Successfully Reverse Aging?

“The Gravity of Life”

Sinclair’s work throughout his career as a molecular biologist has been focused on aging — which he calls “the gravity of life” — and as he told The Washington Post in 2015, he’d like to apply the research he’s lead at Harvard to the development of a drug — an anti-aging pill, in fact. That could conceivably make the possibility of turning back the biological clock closer than ever for those of us alive (and therefore aging) today. Futurism polled readers about when they believed we’d be able to reverse aging, and nearly 40 percent thought we’d be able to achieve it between 2030-2040 — but nearly a quarter of readers thought we may never be able to. Or, at the very least, that it may be impossible to predict: “Anything past the year 2030 is most likely unpredictable,” responded Afan Ahmed, who pointed out “If our current predictions of Artificial Superintelligence are on par, then we should have achieved this by 2029.” But even if it’s impossible to predict, that doesn’t mean its impossible to achieve: “Giving it one full year to enhance and optimize itself, it can supercharge humanity beyond our wildest dreams in 20 years at most. So yes, achieving immortality is quite literally within our grasp.”

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When Will We Discover Some Form of Alien Life?

Decade of Discovery

In the Milky Way alone, there are an estimated 300 billion stars that host about 9 billion habitable, Earth-size planets. Could some form of alien life have taken root on any of these planets? Projects like Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) have scoured the skies for signs to answer this question, and we asked Futurism readers when they thought these efforts would finally be successful.

The poll shows that more than half of responders believe we will discover extraterrestrial life in the first half of the 21st century, and the decade that received the most votes (about 27 percent) is actually the soonest — the 2020s. This was the prediction of Michael Barker, who wrote, “Technology is seriously Sci-fi these days. If an alien so much as farts in space in the next decade, we’ll be able to hear it. In all seriousness. The sensors we have today are very broad in their capability, and are very versatile.”

Alien or Natural: Strangest Sounds & Signals Detected from Space
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While little work has been published detecting bodily sounds from other planets, our ability to look for different signs of life is rapidly advancing. Examples of our improved technology include the James Webb Space Telescope, which is seven times stronger than the Hubble telescope, and the equipment used for the Breakthrough Listen initiative.

The initiative is conducting a 10-year survey for signs of life from the 1 million stars closest to Earth using the most powerful instruments available. The Breakthrough website claims that their spectroscopic equipment “could detect a 100 watt laser (the energy of a normal household bulb) from 25 trillion miles away.”

What The Experts Have to Say

In fact, Breakthrough Listen researchers have already published 11 “events” they believe could have been caused by aliens. Other interstellar signals like fast radio bursts have some scientists, Douglas Vakoch, director of Interstellar Message Composition at the SETI Institute, thinking that we may be on the verge of confirming the existence of aliens.

“[T]he chances are getting better with every passing year,” Vakoch said in an interview with Space.com. He added that “within the next decade, we may well discover we’re not alone in the universe.”

But the extraterrestrial life we discover may not be an advanced civilization, many experts believe. Astronomy researcher Chris Impey said in an interview with Futurism, “I put my money on detecting microbial life in 10 to 15 years, but not at all detecting intelligent life.”

While the increasing sophistication of our technology has many astronomers optimistic about our prospects of discovering alien life, this is of course contingent on whether there is indeed alien life to find. That, and the possibility that we may have wrong ideas about how aliens will communicate are strong reasons for caution, argues Michael Michaud, a member of the International Academy of Astronautics.

“There is no way to predict when contact will take place,” Michaud said to Space.com. “The only generalization I can offer is that expanding ways of searching while continuing to send out our own signals — both intentional and unintentional — may make contact more likely. Until we have solid evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence, we must live with uncertainty.”

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When Will the First Human Leave the Solar System?

A Giant Leap — Literally

One thousand years. That is the minimum length of time it would take us to get to the nearest star — Proxima Centauri — using current methods. But since we discovered that this star houses a potentially habitable planet, scientists have been more enthusiastic about the idea of interstellar travel than ever before.

“It’s tantalizing,” Guillem Anglada-Escude, who led the research team that discovered the planet, said in an interview with NPR. “Now that we know the planet is there, we can be more creative. We can think about solutions — maybe to send interstellar probes or to design specific spacecraft to look for this planet.”

Still, the 4.2 light-years that stretch between us and Proxima Centauri represent a daunting distance for space explorers. It may take us a while to come up with those solutions. So we asked Futurism readers when they thought the first human will leave our solar system.

Not very soon, it seems. The option that received the most votes by far was 2100 or later — this was the choice of about 35 percent of respondents. As respondent Charles Hornbostel explained, “With human exploration of Mars expected no earlier than the 2025-30 time frame, it is reasonable to expect humans will not have reached the orbits of Neptune and Pluto by century’s end, barring any breakthroughs in exotic propulsion technology.”

Hornbostel is right about the many plans countries and companies alike are pursuing to put humans on Mars in the next 10 to 15 years. He is also correct that many researchers are working toward the creation of new technologies to shoot our spacecrafts faster through space — and experts have some predictions where those are concerned.

What The Experts Have to Say

Some space enthusiasts are optimistic about our chances of interstellar voyaging, arguing that — if we put our noses to the grindstone, like, right now — we could reach Proxima Centauri by 2100. Others, like Marcus Young, a researcher at the U.S. Air Force Research Lab, have a more dim view of that possibility. He told attendees at 2008 Joint Propulsion Conference that his team had not found any viable options for interstellar travel.

“There are a lot of ideas that initially you say, ‘Hey, that might work,’” Young said at the conference according to Wired. “But after a little research, you quickly find that it won’t.”

These Theoretical Propulsion Systems Might Make Interstellar Travel a Reality
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But Young also argued that scientists should continue to study the problems posed by interstellar travel, and they have. There are a number of ideas for how we could finally escape our solar system, including fusion rockets, which are being perused by a NASA-funded company. However, radiation from these would probably be too toxic to carry humans.

We could also use solar sails and give them some extra oomph by pointing lasers at them. This is the approach Breakthrough Starshot is taking, but its goals are just to send a small probe to the Centauri system, not a manned ship. And even if you were able to get a spacecraft to go 10 or even 20 percent of the speed of light, you still have the problem of preventing hull damage from space particles.

You would also have to devise ways to slow down once you got to the Centauri system, which SpaceX founder Elon Musk pointed out in an interview with Aeon. Musk believes that interstellar travel is ultimately doable, but an impractical goal at this stage.

“If we’re going to have any chance of sending stuff to other star systems, we need to be laser-focused on becoming a multi-planet civilization. That’s the next step,” Musk said in the interview. And, if he is right, space enthusiasts have a reason to be hopeful, because a Mars colony may be just a few years away.

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Bill Gates Made These 15 Predictions in 1999 — and It’s Scary How Accurate He Was

In 1999, Bill Gates wrote a book titled “Business @ the Speed of Thought.”

In it, Gates made 15 bold predictions that at the time might have sounded outrageous.

Bill Gates Made These 15 Predictions in 1999 — and It’s Scary How Accurate He Was
Image Source: tobin.t/ Flickr

But as Markus Kirjonen, a business student, said on his blog, Gates’ forecasts turned out to be eerily prescient.

Here are the 15 predictions Gates made nearly 20 years ago — and how close they’ve come to being true.

No. 1: Price-Comparison Sites.

Gates’ prediction: “Automated price comparison services will be developed, allowing people to see prices across multiple websites, making it effortless to find the cheapest product for all industries.”

What we see now: You can easily search for a product on Google or Amazon and get different prices. Sites like NexTag and PriceGrabber are built specifically to compare prices.

No. 2: Mobile Devices.

Gates’ prediction: “People will carry around small devices that allow them to constantly stay in touch and do electronic business from wherever they are. They will be able to check the news, see flights they have booked, get information from financial markets, and do just about anything else on these devices.”

What we see now: Smartphones, and now smartwatches, do all of this.

No. 3: Instant Payments and Financing Online, and Better Healthcare Through the Web.

Gates’ prediction: “People will pay their bills, take care of their finances, and communicate with their doctors over the internet.”

What we see now: Tech hasn’t been able to change healthcare the way Uber changed transportation, but sites like ZocDoc aim to make finding a doctor and scheduling easier. Startups like One Medical and Forward are trying to change what the doctor’s office is like by offering monthly memberships for online and data-driven healthcare.

You can also now borrow money online through sites like Lending Club and easily make payments through sites and apps like PayPal and Venmo.

No. 4: Personal Assistants and the Internet of Things.

Gates’ prediction: “‘Personal companions’ will be developed. They will connect and sync all your devices in a smart way, whether they are at home or in the office, and allow them to exchange data. The device will check your email or notifications, and present the information that you need. When you go to the store, you can tell it what recipes you want to prepare, and it will generate a list of ingredients that you need to pick up. It will inform all the devices that you use of your purchases and schedule, allowing them to automatically adjust to what you’re doing.”

What we see now: Google Now, a smart assistant that runs on mobile devices, is starting to head in this direction. Meanwhile, smart devices like Nest collect data on your daily routines and automatically adjust your house’s temperature.

There’s also a wave of voice-controlled devices, like Amazon’s Echo and the Google Home, that you can ask to read your email to you or guide you through recipes as you cook.

No. 5: Online Home-Monitoring.

Gates’ prediction: “Constant video feeds of your house will become common, which inform you when somebody visits while you are not home.”

What we see now: Google bought Dropcam, the maker of a home-surveillance camera, for $555 million in 2014. But that was just the beginning — Ring makes a smart doorbell camera that can let you see who is at your door. There are even cameras like the Petcube that let you control a laser so you can play with your pets while you’re away.

No. 6: Social Media.

Gates’ prediction: “Private websites for your friends and family will be common, allowing you to chat and plan for events.”

What we see now: Two billion people already use Facebook to see what their friends are doing and plan events. There’s also Snapchat, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger alongside an explosion of other smaller social networks that more than cover this prediction.

No. 7: Automated Promotional Offers.

Gates’ prediction: “Software that knows when you’ve booked a trip and uses that information to suggest activities at the local destination. It suggests activities, discounts, offers, and cheaper prices for all the things that you want to take part in.”

What we see now: Travel sites like Expedia and Kayak offer deals based on a user’s past purchase data. Google and Facebook can offer promotional ads based on the user’s location and interests. Airbnb, which lets people stay in homes rather than hotels, started to offer specialized trips at destinations so you can live like a local, too.

No. 8: Live Sports Discussion Sites.

Gates’ prediction: “While watching a sports competition on television, services will allow you to discuss what is going on live, and enter a contest where you vote on who you think will win.”

What we see now: A bunch of social media sites allow this, with Twitter being the clear leader — and even streaming some games. You can also leave comments in real time on sports sites like ESPN.

No. 9: Smart Advertising.

Gates’ prediction: “Devices will have smart advertising. They will know your purchasing trends, and will display advertisements that are tailored toward your preferences.”

What we see now: Just look at the ads you see on Facebook or Google — most online advertising services have this feature, where advertisers can target users based on their click history, interests, and purchasing patterns.

No. 10: Links to Sites During Live TV.

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How Close Are We to Successfully Cloning the First Human?

When Will We Clone a Human?

Human cloning may endure as one of the go-to science fiction tropes, but in reality we may be much closer to achieving it than our fictional heroes might imply. At least in terms of the science required. On of the most prominent hurdles facing us may have less to do with the process and more to do with its potential consequences, and our collective struggle to reconcile the ethics involved. That being said, while science has come a long way in the last century when it comes to cloning a menagerie of animals, cloning humans and other primates has actually proven to be incredibly difficult. While we might not be on the brink of cloning entire human beings, we’re already capable of cloning human cells — the question is, should we be? 

Seeing Double: The History of Animal Cloning
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The astoundingly complex concept of cloning boils down to a fairly simple (in theory, at least) practice: you need two cells from the same animal — one of which is an egg cell from which you’ve removed the DNA. You take the DNA from the other somatic cell and put it inside the devoid-of-DNA egg cell. Whatever that egg cell goes on to produce for offspring will be genetically identical to the parent cell. While human reproduction is the result of the joining of two cells (one from each parent, each with their own DNA) the cellular photocopy technique does occur in nature. Bacteria reproduce through binary fission: each time it divides, its DNA is divided too so that each new bacterium is genetically identical to its predecessor. Except sometimes mutations occur in this process — and in fact, that can be by design and function as a survival mechanism. Such mutations allow bacteria to, for example, become resistant to antibiotics bent on destroying them. On the other hand, some mutations are fatal to an organism or preclude them coming into existence at all. And while it might seem like the picking-and-choosing that’s inherent to cloning could sidestep these potential genetic hiccups, scientists have found that’s not necessarily the case.

Prediction: When will the first human be cloned?Image Credit: Pixabay

What The Experts Say

While Dolly the sheep might be the most famous mammal science has ever cloned, she’s by no means the only one: scientists have cloned mice, cats, and several types of livestock in addition to sheep. The cloning of cows has, in recent years, provided a great deal of knowledge to scientists about why the process doesn’t work: everything from implantation failure to those aforementioned mutations that render offspring unable to survive. Harris Lewin, professor in the UC Davis Department of Evolution and Ecology, and his team published their findings on the impact cloning has on gene expression in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences back in 2016. In the study’s press release Lewin noted that the findings were certainly invaluable to refining cloning techniques in mammals, but that their discoveries “also reinforce the need for a strict ban on human cloning for any purposes.”

The creation of entire mammals via reproductive cloning has proven a difficult process both practically and ethnically, as legal scholar and ethicist Hank Greely of Stanford University explained to Business Insider in 2016:

“I think no one realized how hard cloning would be in some species though relatively easy in others. Cats: easy; dogs: hard; mice: easy; rats: hard; humans and other primates: very hard.”

The cloning of human cells, however, may be a far more immediate application for humans. Researchers call it “therapeutic” cloning, and differentiate it from traditional cloning that has reproductive intent. In 2014, researchers created human stem cells through the same cloning technique that generated Dolly the sheep. Because stem cells can differentiate to become any kind of cell in the body, they could be utilized for a wide variety of purposes when it comes to treating diseases — particularly genetic diseases, or diseases where a patient would require a transplant from an often elusive perfect match donor. This potential application is already well underway: earlier this year a woman in Japan suffering from age-related macular degeneration was treated with induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells created from her own skin cells, which were then implanted into her retinas and stopped her vision from degenerating further.

We asked the Futurism community to predict when they think we’ll be able to successfully clone a full human, and the majority of those who responded agree that it feels like we’re getting close: nearly 30 percent predicted we’ll clone our first human by the 2020s. “We have replaced, and replicated almost every biology on earth,” said reader Alicja Laskowska, “[the] next step is for cures and to do that you need clean DNA, and there’s your start.”

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When Will Virtual Reality Be Able to Connect Directly to Our Minds?

VR on the Mind

The technology for virtual reality (VR) has been growing in leaps and bounds over the past few years. From teaching us chemistry to helping us design cars, the virtual world is becoming more and more dominant in our everyday lives.

However, VR is still hampered by the necessity for users to wear clunky headsets and possibly other gear. While these are becoming more user friendly, we wanted to know when we will be able to bypass all that equipment to simply connect VR to our minds directly. We asked Futurism readers what they thought and got a range of predictions.

The decade with the most votes was the 2030s, taking 36 percent of readers’ votes. One such vote came from Kevin Kealey, who noted our progress in mapping the human brain and predicted this knowledge would soon allow VR techs to place electron inputs and outputs in the right places.

“[T]he whole brain will be mapped and fully understood very soon,” Kealey commented. “We know where emotions come from. We know how to control them. We know most invasive techniques to place things within the body.” While we still have a long way to go before we truly comprehend the complexity of the human brain, we are making progress in mapping it — even using VR to help get the job done.

What The Experts Have to Say

These guesses aren’t too different from some that are coming from experts in the field. For example, Dan Cook, founder of EyeMynd BrainwaveVR, has been working on tech that will allow users to interact in VR using their brainwaves — no headset or controller needed.

Our Virtual Future: The Virtual Reality Headsets of Today and Tomorrow
Click to View Full Infographic

“Ten years from now, this will seem obvious,” Cook said in an interview with the Guardian. “Computers are becoming fast enough that we can detect and interpret all the signals of the brain in real time.” Cook bases his technology off of the principles we observe when people dream. The mind can “see” and “hear” without using eyes or ears, and we should be able to harness that neurological ability, Cook argues.

Others in the field are more skeptical about the state of brain-computer interface (BCI) technology. An international group of researchers determined that methods for interacting with virtual environments through our thoughts “remain in their infancy,” as they wrote in a study published in Computer. “Major research challenges must be tackled for BCIs to mature into an established means of communication for VR applications,” the researchers concluded in the paper.

While we may have to wait a number of years before we can enjoy a virtual world sans headset, companies are continuing to invest in BCI and VR technology. Who knows where the science will be by the time they finally release Magic Leap.

See all of the Futurism predictions and make your own predictions here.

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When Will Humanoid Robots Enter Our Homes and Transform Our Lives

Dreaming of Droids

Humans have long been fascinated with the idea of robots made in our own image. Isaac Asimov imagined a futuristic world in which humanoid robots were commonplace and, famously, programmed with the Three Laws of Robotics to help — and not harm — their human counterparts. The Jetsons had Rosie. The Skywalkers had C-3PO.

The Laws of Robotics [INFOGRAPHIC]
Click to View Full Infographic

But, when will we be able to have an android assistant in our own homes? We asked our readers to make their own predictions on this matter and got some varied responses.

Half of responders predicted that there will be a humanoid robot in every home, citing several different arguments. Solmaz Sadeghi said, in the Futurism survey, that another 15 to 20 years will likely be necessary to develop the technology and make it affordable. A reader who went by “Oblin” wrote that we already have the technology to make smart houses, so humanoid robotic butlers may be an antiquated idea. In any case, Oblin believed robots of some form would be the norm for wealthy households before 2040.

Some readers were less optimistic about the timeline of this technology. Zack Allen said much more time would need to be invested in the technology to make sure it was safe, and even then, there would likely be push-back against it. He wrote in the survey, “So let’s say we perfect the technology where we know they won’t blow up in our face or malfunction and choke us in our sleep, we have an entire generation that has grown up watching movies like iRobot and the Terminator where these machines rise up and kill the humans.”

Allen also expressed concerns that such robots could become self-aware, in which case we would need to consider whether they deserved the same rights as humans. He predicted that household androids would not be the norm until the 2050s. Peter Macchiarulo, wrote that we will never see a humanoid robot in every home, not only because he believes the human body is “incredulously inefficient,” but also because of economic realities.

Robotic Reality

A number of experts see robotic assistants in our future, including Rob Coneybeer, co-founder of the venture capital firm Shasta Ventures. He believes that this kind of technology will likely be developed to make our lives easier.

“Eventually, you are going to see the humanoid-type of robot, like in Isaac Asimov’s book, I, Robot. That’s definitely going to happen,”Coneybeer said in an interview with Fortune. “It’s still 20 or 25 years out, but I think that type of robot will fit into the framework of what we think of as our traditional living environments.”

Coneybeer envisioned such a robot functioning with the Internet of Things we see in development today, and, in fact, such robots are already being made. For example, Kuri is designed to integrate seamlessly with smart houses and is just one of several domestic robots hitting the market. Another anthropomorphized — but not yet humanoid — robot is Aido, which is designed to assist and protect.

Although these examples have a long way to go before they have Rosie’s capabilities, society may be more ready for this kind of technology than many would assume. In fact, in 2015, Juniper Research projected that by 2020, the number of American households with robots would increase from one in 25 to one in 10. And, while it is impossible to be sure what the future of domestic robots will be, many signs suggest that you may have one working in your kitchen sometime in the next few decades — if one is not already making you tea right now.

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Experts Came Together to Predict What the World Will Look Like in 2050

The World in 30 years

While companies like Microsoft and IBM have presented their own visions for the near future, Kaspersky labs, an anti-virus software company, has presented its predictions for the year 2050 in order to mark the company’s 20th anniversary. The predictions were collected from futurists, experts, and everyday people and are displayed on an interactive map of the world.

Kaspersky Lab Earth 2050

The interactive 3D globe has several interactive points in different colors. The gold points are fully interactive, allowing users to explore cities like New York, Chicago, Barcelona, Shanghai, and Dhaka in full 360-degree views that accommodate virtual reality. The white points provide predictions without visuals. Users can access the site for predictions ranging from 2030 all the way to 2050.

Future Fortunes

Kaspersky Lab Earth 2050

Dhaka, Bangladesh seems to have gotten the short end of the stick. According to the Kaspersky predictions, in the year 2050, sea levels will have risen by almost a few dozen centimeters, flooding coastal regions to abandonment. While prospects of global solutions are promising, they may come too little, too late for some parts of the globe. While richer and more experienced countries like Denmark and the Netherlands may equip their coastal regions with the protection they need, countries like Bangladesh may not be capable.

Kaspersky Lab Earth 2050

New York City in the year 2050 just might be the futuristic paradise that we’ve all been waiting for, packed with enhanced humans, augmented reality, green skyscrapersprivate energy, and so much more. Communication and accessibility will be at an all-time high, with fast food, entertainment, and news ready for our consumption at our will.

Kaspersky Lab Earth 2050

When it comes to Shanghai, experts predict that there will be multifunctional skyscrapers looming over the horizon. The buildings will have floors dedicated to manufacturing, offices, shops, entertainment centers, educational centers, and residential areas, allowing people to live full lives without ever needing to leave the building.

You can contribute your own predictions at the Earth 2050 website.

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10 Years Ago, NBC Predicted What Life Would be Like in 2017

It’s always fun to go back in time and take a look at the predictions made in the past about what folks thought our present would look like. Last year the internet went gaga over comparing the vision of Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale’s 2015 as seen in Back to the Future II, with reality.

Works of fiction aren’t the only media to take a stab at amateur prophecy. Ten years ago, a news segment during NBC Nightly News predicted that technology would have a much bigger role in identification. The story envisioned a scenario in which hospitals could simply scan a Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) chip implanted beneath your skin to gain access to your medical history.

The technology existed back in 2007, so the prediction was focused on the implementation of such devices becoming commonplace. And unfortunately for NBC, they seemed to have missed the mark. While a handful of individuals have chosen to have the chips implanted, implementation is by no means widespread.

But not every prediction NBC made was as off the mark. The video also discussed how facial recognition software will play a larger part in our daily lives. They used the example from the film Minority Report where the software was used to tailor marketing specifically to each identified individual. While facial recognition is not yet part of the system, proximity marketing software does exist using real-time location systems (RTLS) to provide location specific marketing through wifi or Bluetooth.

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