On Monday the Trump administration’s American Technology Council (ATC) met in order to discuss goals. The purpose of the council is to allow federal agency leaders to seek out the advice of leaders in the tech industry on a range of issues.
While the Trump administration differs from previous administrations in many ways, its focus on updating outmoded technologies and speeding up the government’s transition to digital is something that’s been shared by past administrations. The ATC itself, however, is new, as is the goal of updating technology in order to eliminate programs and services.
Chris Liddell, formerly of Microsoft and GM, heads up the ATC. Present for the meeting were representatives from Alphabet, Microsoft, Mastercard, IBM, Intel, Qualcomm, VMware, Oracle, and Adobe. Notably absent were Facebook and Tesla — according to Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg had a conflict and could not attend. However, Elon Musk has pulled Tesla from the council in the wake of President Trump’s decision to leave the Paris Accord — a decision that has been almost universally condemned in the tech community.
More Tech-Savvy Government
The other tech leaders have remained on the council because they agree it’s important to create a more tech-savvy government. The White House says it will prioritize digitizing government services, improving cyber security, and transforming the way government buys technology. The White House is also interested in using new technologies like big data and machine learning to tackle issues like illegal immigration and federal resource fraud. How willing tech leaders will be to help the administration achieve these goals remains to be seen.
Technology not only has the potential to make the government more efficient and lower costs, but it also possess many challenges from an infrastructure and regulation standpoint. For example, an invention that transmits power wirelessly could allow electric cars to charge while on the road. Would building new highways incorporating this tech be a good investment? Autonomous cars and flying cars are become more widely available, but the government has not yet set up rules and regulations for their use. Not to mention the current lack of policy around automation and artificial intelligence — both of which are rapidly becoming integrated into society.
Technology is quickly advancing, and every government would be wise to consider how best to utilize and regulate it. The ideas generated by the ATC have the potential to shape policies that could impact national debt, cyber security, and the development of new inventions. Let’s hope the minds that have revolutionized our tech can also improve our government.
The tech sector is notoriously male-dominated. This is ever apparent in Silicon Valley in the U.S., a country where women make up 59 percent of the workforce, but only hold 30 percent of jobs in the tech industry. This disconnect is keeping the industry back, but it doesn’t exist everywhere. In Lebanon, things are changing for the better.
The Lebanese tech sector is also still very much dominated by men. However, programs like SE Factory, a bootcamp of sorts that prepares young people to enter the field, are starting to make changes. Asia Joumaa, a web developer at Pixel38 who graduated as a top student from the program, said, “I’ve always wanted to work as a web developer, and then I got into SE Factory, which helped me get there. There’s a lot of young women who want to get into tech here in Lebanon.” She and many others are showing how, as long as the support and educational resources exist, more and more women will be able to access these careers.
One example of how the Lebanese tech sector is changing lies within the Beirut Digital District (BDD), which is a major tech center located in the capital city. The BDD supports a massive percentage of tech work that is done within the country, approximately 70 companies (SE Factory among them). And, within this bustling tech hub, 55 percent of the work is done by women. And, while this isn’t the end of gender disparity in the Lebanese tech sector (executives are still represented by an 80-20 ratio of men to women), it is a sign that things are moving in the right direction.
One of the many Lebanese women who has worked with the unique challenges of life in Lebanon (which offers an incredible education system, but experiences consistent issues with politics, power outages, and slow internet) to create something incredible is Nadine Haram. She is the co-founder of Proximie, an augmented reality platform for virtual surgical training. This program could be a life-saving addition in war zones and other areas of conflict, along with remote locations. She graduated from an accelerator program at BDD, the U.K. Lebanon Tech Hub, and exemplifies what can happen with the correct support.
Closing the gender gap in the tech sector is not trivial by any means. Balancing this inequality is vital to the future of the field itself, future technologies, and the global economy. Women make up slightly more than half of the total U.S. population. And, while they consume tech and engage with social media and apps just as much as (if not more than) men, women make up only 17% of Google’s, 15% of Facebook’s, and 10% of Twitter’s engineers. So, while women might be very involved with tech, they do not have a significant input on what is created and how. This is a massive setback for the future of developing technologies. How can innovation flourish when over half of the population’s input is left out of the conversation?
Additionally, as more and more women enter the tech sector, the economy will benefit and the gender pay gap will begin to close. Higher earnings, that are often accompanied by jobs in the tech sector, will help us all to reach these goals. So…how do we do it? Simply, though there are many steps along the way, through support. By making the tech sector a space that accepts and considers the ideas of people of all genders. By creating programs like the SE Factory that focus on young people and help them develop their skills and interests. By continuing to advance our educational systems to ensure that all students are granted equal and quality experiences so that one day, every student who has an interest in tech will have the capacity to make their dreams a reality.
Just a few generations ago, the idea that we could hop in our car for a road trip without a paper atlas and, instead, navigate with computers in our car—let alone computers in our handheld phones—was idea that was little more than science fiction.
However, in recent years, technology has evolved so quickly, and in so many ways we couldn’t have imagined, that we’re now well along the path to a remarkably futuristic world. Flying cars and vacuum tube trains were something only The Jetsons could have made up. But it’s no longer a matter of if, but when we will have these advanced technologies. And the “when” may be much sooner than you think.
In fact, when it comes to some of that previously scifi-only technology, the future is already here.
One of the major ways in which technology is already altering the course of history is through the ways we get around. Transportation—both at the micro and macro level—is already undergoing major adaptations due to technology. Indeed, once upon a time, our transportation was limited by the realities of what we could achieve technologically. Now, it’s practically the reverse: The only thing limiting us is what we can dream up.
On the roadways, electric vehicles and hybrid cars have become increasingly common. Tesla, Google, and even traditional automakers like Volkswagen have EVs in the pipeline. While they aren’t yet an affordable option for every driver, that’s likely to change as the technology becomes easier (and cheaper) to produce. The next task will be scaling up EV technology for trucks, trains, and buses; a task which will likely require a major overhaul of the United States’ infrastructure — especially if the rails and roadways have self-charging technology.
The infrastructure in the U.S. is probably long overdue for an upgrade, but those who are coming up with ideas aren’t limiting themselves simply to what cities need; they’re thinking well beyond. Cars that can seal up potholes or roads that can “heal” and de-ice themselves, train tracks that can charge cars as they cruise along and even send excess energy back to the grid, and bridges that are capable of adjusting their weight-bearing to extend the lives of their cables…these are just a few of the things in the works.
Beyond-your-wildest-dreams concepts like the Hyperloop have already gone from plan to prototype, and they won’t just change how we get from point A to point B, but change our perception of what it means to travel. In the same way that air travel cut time off trips that used to take months by sea, the hyper-fast travel permitted by something like the Hyperloop will change our perceived geographically limitations for work, living, and play.
The idea of distributed energy could also be used for individual, electric vehicles: fleets can be hooked up to a power grid to charge and, in turn, the grid can tap into the excess energy as-needed. As those grids would be powered by wind or solar, the energy-generating potential would be efficient and renewable.
Pair these efficient, renewably-energized vehicles with self-driving technology, and you’re looking at the next frontier of transportation technology: EVs that can drive themselves.
While autonomous vehicle technology is already being developed, we don’t yet know exactly how it will play out in large scale implementation. It would require people to, essentially, relearn to drive (or, as it is, learn to not drive), and the “rules of the road” would need to shift accordingly.
Making Dreams Into Reality
Although the aforementioned technologies are already well on their way to completion, we need to ensure that society it able to keep pace. For example, would multi-lane highways be safer or more precarious in the absence of human drivers? Who’s to blame when an AI driven car gets in an accident? Should human drivers be banned from the streets? While many studies have supposed that autonomous vehicles will be safer because they take human fallibility out of the equation, until the tech is in practice we can’t be sure.
Similar legislative and ethical questions surround the other technologies detailed. As Tony Robinson, who co-founded the company behind The Future of Transportation World Conference, notes, from flying cars to smart streets, the tech of tomorrow is going to necessitate some new rules. For example, he asserts that we will need to “completely rethink the legislation relating to air traffic control, as flying cars will need very high levels of investment in geo-mapping, flight dimensional city mapping, and interfacing with the aviation segment to enable a lot of advanced systems to operate underneath the existing canopy of what we know as air traffic control and air traffic management.”
Fortunately, there are plenty of minds gathering around the world to ruminate on these questions and come up with solutions—ideally, before problems even arise. To this end, The Future of Transportation World Conference, which will be held in Cologne, Germany July 5 and 6 of this year, aims to:
Bring together world transportation leaders from automotive manufacturers and their suppliers, transportation authorities and city planners, rail and public transportation technology firms and operators, technology and software giants, drone and personal air transportation solution companies, freight and logistics companies, mass-transit solution providers, business consultants, inventors of new and disruptive global mobility solutions, all with the common goal of devising better solutions for the increasingly demanding challenge of providing safe, efficient, sustainable transportation for the world in 2030 and beyond.
If you’ve played any of the recent Batman video games, you’re probably already familiar with his ability to scan through walls using one of the many gadgets he has at his disposal. In real life, German scientists from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) may have developed a technology that could give you a similar Batman-esque skill. What makes it even cooler? Basically all it takes is a Wi-Fi signal.
It’s surprisingly simple, exploiting Wi-Fi’s ability to pass through walls. Using two antennas, they record a Wi-Fi field around a particular room. The antennas capture the intensity and the phase of the Wi-Fi field both from its source spot and the places it bounces off from. The result is a holographic image of the room that, while it’s not yet vivid, proves that the concept works in practice rather than just theory.
The ability to see through walls might be a little unsettling at first, as it could open up potential privacy exploitation issues. “Of course, this raises privacy questions. After all, to a certain degree even encrypted signals transmit an image of their surroundings to the outside world,” Reinhard said in a press release from TUM, “However, it is rather unlikely that this process will be used for the view into foreign bedrooms in the near future. For that, you would need to go around the building with a large antenna, which would hardly go unnoticed. There are simpler ways available.”
The tech could also have many beneficial — if not life-saving — applications. Apart from the potential to be used by spy agencies for legitimate operations requiring the scanning of buildings, it could also be an asset to rescue operations after a disaster such as an earthquake or an avalanche. The antennas could be placed in a truck and then driven around the rubble or debris are to survey and look for survivors.
“These antennas don’t need to be big. They can be very small, like the ones in a smartphone,” Holl said, meaning they could be easily wielded even in the smallest, most remote, spaces.
Further research, such as on the transparency of specific materials, is needed to refine the technology. But it’s exciting to think that superhero technology could come to life in such a way, especially with potentially life-saving applications.
A Californian technology company, Zest Labs, is trying to create a technology that will help reduce food waste. The new device is a sensor that can be crated with produce and help track the aging of the food to better help workers decide what’s worth putting on the shelves and what isn’t.
Researchers at the University of Minnesota have discovered a new material that could change technology as we know it. This nano-scale, thin-film material is transparent and extremely conductive. Many common electronics, like smartphones and solar cells, use transparent conductors. However, these conductors often use the chemical indium, which continues to be more and more expensive.
To create a cost-effective alternative, scientists grew a thin film using barium, oxygen, and a unique chemical precursor of tin. These materials are far cheaper than indium and increase the material’s ability to react chemically.
“We were quite surprised at how well this unconventional approach worked the very first time we used the tin chemical precursor,” said Abhinav Prakash, first author of the study, in an interview for a University of Minnesota press release. “It was a big risk, but it was quite a big breakthrough for us.”
This material isn’t simply the product of inventive scientists. It could be the future of most modern technologies. As solar power becomes an increasingly major source of energy, solar cells will need continued updating. This new material might be a great way to take solar power to the next level — cutting costs and increasing efficiency.
Currently, a huge percentage of our personal devices, like laptops, smartphones, etc., use technology that could be replaced by this material. And, because of its high conductivity, the material could one day allow us to build smaller, faster, more powerful devices.
As technology rapidly advances and the need for more efficient and less expensive solar cells increases, this material could allow alternative energy sources to become even more competitive than fossil fuels and drastically improve our electronic devices.
Virtual reality has the potential of letting people practice things that might be too dangerous in real life. VAL is a new project from French company XXII that lets you safely mix noxious chemicals in a virtual reality setting with actual objects.
Virtual reality is rocking the medical technology industry. It’s quite possible VR and augmented reality will be present in almost every aspect of medical training in the near future. 3DSystems’ has created a new virtual operating room training experience that tests students with precise controllers.
Self Reflected is a series of art pieces that depict human consciousness. They were created by Dr. Greg Dunn and Dr. Brian Edwards and are meant to allow the mind a revealing look at its own inner workings. After an astonishing amount of research the artists were able to invent a technique called microetching that allowed them to create neuron animations in metallic surfaces via reflected light. The resulting effect is as beautiful as it is uncanny.
Baidu recently made an astonishing breakthrough in machine learning. They’ve achieved zero shot learning by programming a bot to teach another bot how to read. But in a surprise twist, they ended up with an AI that is able to understand language at amazingly complex levels.
Algorithms are powerful tools. With these mathematical instructions for solving problems or completing tasks, you can receive potential dates from match-making services, movie recommendations from Netflix, and the ads most likely to entice you from online advertisers.
While algorithms can save us time and make decision-making more convenient, our use of them comes at a cost, especially when human lives are at stake. For example, when algorithms are used to decide who is hired or which person is given a loan, human beings are reduced to data points, and human judgement is stripped from what should be case-by-case decisions. Facebook’s struggle with fake news demonstrates that algorithms don’t always have the discernment a human would.
Worse yet, algorithms can reinforce racist or classist stereotypes and create problems for disadvantaged populations that are already worse off than the general population. Take the Harvard study that found that when people Googled a name linked with black people, the search engine was more likely to show the search ads selling access to criminal records. Justin Reich, executive director at the MIT Teaching Systems Lab, suggested that algorithms will inevitably benefit the people who design them — namely, educated white and Asian men.
“Most people in positions of privilege will find these new tools convenient, safe, and useful,” Reich said in a survey for a Pew Research study. “The harms of new technology will be most experienced by those already disadvantaged in society, where advertising algorithms offer bail bondsman ads that assume readers are criminals, loan applications that penalize people for proxies so correlated with race that they effectively penalize people based on race, and similar issues.”
Algorithms have the potential to widen the gap between those with power and those without it. Those who understand how these algorithms work — and how to most effectively use them — will stand to benefit from them. However, those who have less education and fewer resources will be left further and further behind, said Ryan Hayes, owner of Fit to Tweet.
“Twenty years ago we talked about the ‘digital divide’ being people who had access to a computer at home vs. those that didn’t,” Hayes said for the Pew study. “Ten years from now, though, the life of someone whose capabilities and perception of the world is augmented by sensors and processed with powerful AI and connected to vast amounts of data is going to be vastly different from that of those who don’t have access to those tools or knowledge of how to utilize them. And that divide will be self-perpetuating, where those with fewer capabilities will be more vulnerable in many ways to those with more.”
While the potential consequences of algorithms are becoming more widely recognized, the use of this tool remains widespread. Many leaders, including former president Obama, are calling for greater oversight and transparency of algorithms that impact the daily lives of citizens. In order for the risks of algorithms to be minimized, they must be made understandable for both users and expert assessors, suggested Ben Shneiderman, professor of computer science at the University of Maryland.
“When well-designed, algorithms amplify human abilities, but they must be comprehensible, predictable, and controllable,” Shneiderman commented in the Pew survey. “This means they must be designed to be transparent so that users can understand the impacts of their use and they must be subject to continuing evaluation so that critics can assess bias and errors.”
If we can harness the power of algorithms without allowing them to perpetuate injustices or dehumanize users, we could all benefit from these technological wonders, said Jonathan Grudin, principal researcher at Microsoft.
“The algorithms are not in control; people create and adjust them. However, positive effects for one person can be negative for another, and tracing causes and effects can be difficult, so we will have to continually work to understand and adjust the balance,” Grudin said in the Pew survey. “I’m optimistic that a general trend toward positive outcomes will prevail, given the tremendous potential upside to technology use.”
More and more classic games are receiving renditions in the augmented reality field. CyberSnake, from independent developer Lucas Rizzotto, is the latest Microsoft HoloLens take on the arcade classic Snake.
This man is trying to create a world without money. The Venus Project views poverty, war, hunger and debt, not only as avoidable, but as totally unacceptable. Here is their alternative vision of what our future could be like.
Virtual reality continues to suffer from a lack of immersive gaming experiences, especially in the RPG genre. Million Arthur is an upcoming JRPG for the HTC Vive from Square Enix, the makers of Final Fantasy, that appears to have one of the most promising gameplay experiences for VR yet. The JRPG is coming to Japan in spring, but there’s no word yet on a potential western release.
Silicon valley seems to have a new obsession with a proposed biotech called ‘the neural lace’. Both Elon Musk and Bryan Johnson have launched companies that aim to inject electrodes into the brain, which ultimately could give people the ability to upload and download thoughts.
Bicycles are awesome, but bulky, heavy, and tough to store and transport in tight spaces. The Halfbike decided to cut those problems in half. It’s light and highly portable, not to mention agile and easily-ridden from a standing position.
As automation continually becomes a larger threat to human jobs, Canada is taking action. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, recently made public statements about the country’s plans for dealing with these rising trends. Instead of ignoring the issue, or pretending like it’s something we won’t have to deal with for a long time, Canada has formed a comprehensive strategy.
We know that the job market is changing, and instead of resisting in vain, we’re focused on funding research and innovation, like in AI and quantum computing, that’ll help lead the change here in Canada. And while we do that, we’re preparing Canadians to find good jobs through investments in education and training.
This plan is important to take note of, because job loss due to automation has already begun to take effect. And, while the White House has released similar intentions to focus on research and education, programs will need to be incorporated and explored much sooner than most people assume.
In fact, just within the next 15 years, we are expected to lose up to 30% of jobs to automation in the U.S. alone. And, while many may scoff with ambivalence in assuming that the jobs lost will be only low-paying jobs in customer service, IT, or in factories, they are absolutely wrong. Just this past year, artificially intelligent (AI) lawyers became less of a novelty and more of a reality. There are virtually (pun intended) no jobs that exist that would not be threatened by growing automation.
The Future of The Middle Class
What many fear is that, as automation replaces more and more jobs, the middle class will disappear. Even Stephen Hawking thinks that this is a real and dangerous possibility. This future is possible if we do not plan effectively for the progression of automation. Without a quality strategy in place, jobs will only exist for the ultra-privileged. Manufacturing jobs are already feeling the burn of automation-caused job loss, and this trend will continue through many other job fields.
And so, as Trudeau has asserted about Canada, investing in education and research will “create jobs and grow the middle class.” This plan will support additional job training, education, and even post-secondary education for all citizens. In fact, to support unemployed citizens, Trudeau writes that Canada’s 2017 budget aims “to provide $132.4 million over four years, beginning next year, and $37.9 million per year thereafter, to allow unemployed Canadians to pursue self-funded training while receiving Employment Insurance benefits.”
The Canadian government additionally plans “to invest in 13,000 work-integrated learning placements for students to help young Canadians transition from school to work.” It seems as though Canada has every intention to fully support its citizens from the beginning of their careers up through all levels of employment. And, while there will still be difficulties as automation makes more and more jobs obsolete, supporting education will undoubtedly improve the situation. Education leads to innovation, which leads to job creation. It’s simple, but undeniably effective.
While Tindr and other apps might be the height of how technology is shaping human relationships, an engineer in China has taken it to the next level: Zheng Jiajia has “married” a robot he created.
Zheng, an artificial intelligence expert, spent two months “dating” Yingying, who he built late last year. He made their relationship “official” in a simple ceremony with his mother and friends in attendance. Or at least — as official as the government would allow. Local authorities do not actually recognize the union, through the ceremony did follow Chinese tradition.
Zheng’s decision to wed the robot was spurred by mounting pressure for the 31-year-old to marry. Due to China’s one-child policy,sex-selective abortions are common (and preferential to male offspring). China, therefore, has one worst gender gaps in the world. There are 113.5 men for every 100 women in the country, according to the World Economic Forum. That fact, combined with views on matrimony among China’s middle class, is making it difficult for men to find wives.
As for Zheng and Yingying, the first hurdle in their relationship may be not dissimilar from human relationships: communication. Yingying is capable of reading some Chinese characters and images and can even speak a few words. Zheng is already working on an update which would hopefully allow her to walk (as of now she must be carried everywhere), do household chores, and converse at a higher level.
The Future of Relationships
Reactions around the world to this unprecedented union have, of course, been mixed — but its a very clear demonstration of how relationships and intimacy are evolving in the context of advancing technology.
Technology is pushing human sexuality into uncharted terrain. It’s transforming how we express love and intimacy, and holds tremendous potential for deeper emotional and physical connections. While everyone stands to benefit, this is perhaps especially true for those who face sexual challenges due to distance, loneliness, discrimination, or disability.
For many people faced with physical, emotional, and geographic challenges that impact their relationships, turning to technology for emotional and sexual fulfillment may be their only option. And there are a number of options in that vein, many of which involve the use of remote sex tech, such as long-distance kissing devices, VR haptic body suits, or connected pillows for couples who are in two different geographic locations. Other avenues include adult virtual worlds where users create avatars and join in virtual gatherings. Similar to Zheng’s idea, there are also those creating robotic prototypes equipped with the illusion of sentience and human augmentation which provide companionship for human users.
If anything, these emerging technologies are able to provide context for the integral role that relationships play in human interaction. How these innovations will one day shape human connection and intimacy, however, is very much still evolving.
These days, given everything that a smartphone can do, it’s hard to think of it as a luxury.
It is estimated that 88 percent of adult Americans use the internet, with the United Nations Human Rights Council declaring the internet a basic human right. People in low-income households primary access the internet via their phones because broadband connections or a computers are too expensive. From their phones, people with lower incomes have access to job sites, childcare options, and can easily coordinate with co-workers. Even homeless people use smartphones to find available beds in shelters.
Smartphones also allow people to access information and tools that can help them manage their health. In the case of a 2014 FCC and University of Mississippi study that gave people suffering from chronic diabetes access to mobile internet device that helped keep track of their blood sugar. The device helped 85 people in the program to reduce hospital visits and control their disease better. This translated to $339,184 in savings from ER visits. Another study used mobile phones to allow patients to monitor their cancer treatments, allowing them better management of a disease despite having limited health care options.
Given that owning a smartphone can actually be a tool that is practical, if not life-saving, and is essential to the modern lifestyle, it’s understandable how Utah representative Jason Chaffetz drew the ire of the public after he tried to defend the House of Representative’s new health care bill by saying that:
“Rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and want to go spend hundreds of dollars on that, maybe they should invest in their own health care,” Chaffetz said.
More Than Luxury
The average cost spent for healthcare in America per person has risen to $9,990 in 2015.
In contrast, access to the internet via a smartphone can be obtained for as little at $35 per month. That’s $420 annually. Another option would be to purchase an unlocked smartphone for less than $100 and connect to the internet for free via WiFi hotspots. So the money you would spend on a gadget and a subscription plan to the internet in most cases would not be enough to cover a monthly insurance premium, as Chaffetz implies. If anything, giving up an affordable and accessible way to go online can leave you at a significant disadvantage.
When you weigh the costs of smartphones against the access they provide to medical tools and resources, it is easy to see that their expense is justified. Instead of boxing in smartphones as unnecessary luxuries, it’s high time that we start recognizing them for their potential.
According to reports, aircraft manufacturing company Airbus is prepping to reveal a futuristic new car design. While they recently debuted a concept for a flying car, with this new design they take a slightly different approach to travel.
Airbus’ new vehicle will be capable of being airlifted by a drone in cases of heavy traffic. The drone, which measures 5 meters (16 feet) wide according to Automotive News‘ sources, would provide air-lifting services for these specially designed vehicles. Italdesign, a design and engineering company, worked with Airbus on the cars, which are expected to be officially revealed at the Geneva Auto Show that begins on March 9.
Many innovators are currently trying to find solutions to widespread traffic issues, but this design would be a first of its kind. Elon Musk is convinced that drilling tunnels underneath Los Angeles could be the answer to that city’s traffic problems, while others, including Airbus, continue to explore the possibility of flying cars.
While this idea seems strange and even potentially dangerous, it will certainly be interesting to see what Airbus’ design is capable of. Who knows? It could be the next big thing in transportation.
Over the past century, science has advanced considerably. It’s broadened in terms of scale and scope, as it now covers the farthest reaches of the known universe. Science has also utilized its own achievements to advance its own capabilities: consider how research has been augmented and assisted by technology, for instance.
Throughout this scientific expansion, one aspect of the process has remained the same — the method. Our concept of what science is, and does, comes from how it the approaches the realities it studies. No matter the topic of study, the scientific method begins with positing a hypothesis (a reasonable guess based on what we know or observe). This has long been the foundation of the scientific method. These hypotheses, once supported by repeated testing, become theories. A theory is widely held to be true, and remains so until disproven. We use theories to explain scientific laws. Laws are universal, always true, and cannot be proven to be wrong.
Do We Always Need Evidence?
One vital component to the scientific method has always been evidence. Evidence supports a theory, and theories explain laws. Without evidence, it would be difficult to prove anything is scientifically conclusive — at least, that’s what we’ve always believed.
“The standard view, of course, is that science relies on evidence,” says Philip Ball, former editor of Nature, who hosted a panel organized by the Institute of Art and Ideas. As science increasingly become more complex, there seems to be some areas where evidence seems lacking. In other areas, some scientists have started to wonder if evidence is even required at all.
The panel tries to address the question: what does evidence mean in science? Are we moving towards an era of science where the importance of evidence has been diminished? Are these cutting edge fields in science — particularly in physics which often deals with complex ideas like string theory and multiverses — “in danger of drifting into fantasy?” as Ball puts it.
More than 25 years ago, NASA launched the world’s first space telescope so we could more closely study surrounding galaxies. The Hubble Telescope has so far made over 1.3 million observations, many of which have provided invaluable information to astronomers and other researchers. However, within the 2020s, the Hubble is expected to phase out. So in 2018, NASA will send up a replacement. But how does the Hubble’s successor stack up? Can it live up to the legacy of human kinds’ first eyes in space?
The James Webb Telescope was named after the NASA chief who lead the agency during the 1960s, retiring just before the Apollo mission put a man on the moon. Webb was instrumental in expanding our knowledge of our galaxy, and NASA hopes that the telescope bearing his name will help them to gain insight into the formation of galaxies beyond our own.
By design, the Webb is “bigger and better” than the Hubble: it has seven times the collecting power and can function at temperatures as low as absolute zero — which is about as cold as it can get. But one thing the Webb can’t do that the Hubble can is view ultraviolet rays. The astronomers who study them utilize the Hubble’s data collection because, of course, the Earth’s atmosphere filters out UV rays.
What The Webb Can (& Can’t) Do
The Webb, while it will be able to see much that the Hubble cannot, is not a UV ray spotter. Over the next couple of years, astronomers studying those rays will need to get as much data from the Hubble as they can. NASA doesn’t have any specific plans to replace Hubble’s UV capabilities, but there are several other observatories that may be of use to astronomers who study UV rays that would be launched, at the earliest, in the 2030s. The Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIST), which would be something like a wide-screen version of the Hubble, and the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) could help fill some gaps left by the Hubble — but only if funding for their missions is approved.
Between the Webb launch in 2018 and the retiring of the Hubble, there will be a spectacular — if not short — period of time where astronomers will be able to utilize both telescopes at the same time. The major goals of the Webb Telescope are to help astronomers locate the galaxies that formed our universe, observe the formation of planetary systems and stars from start to finish, and search for potential life in other parts of our Solar System as well as in any others we may encounter.
The Hubble will always have a revered place in history for its contributions to science, and for giving us some of our first glimpses of outer space. Through the Hubble, we saw corners of our universe that we never even knew existed. It’s thrilling to think that with the help of the Webb telescope’s sharp eye, things that we have only imagined could finally be revealed.
Technology is enabling communication between politicians and the people, as well as supporting conversations between people who might have never been connected otherwise. Comment sections are the new water cooler, and we can learn more about our friend’s political views from their Facebook feeds than we can from years of casual lunches and nights out. Unfortunately, all this communication has left the door wide open for misinformation to seep into the public consciousness, clouding what was already complicated and leaving many unsure of where to look for the truth…or what the truth even looks like.
The following are just five of the many ways technology is transforming politics in the Trump era.
5. (Mis)Information Is Everywhere
The media is no longer a select few with journalism degrees and press access, and the average citizen is no longer limited to the local paper and the nightly news for their information. You could spend 24 hours, 7 days a week researching every angle of a topic online and still not be able to gather all of the information. There is now more content online than a human being could individually consume in a lifetime.
And that’s not necessarily a good development.
Anyone with the cash, or simply the know-how to pull together a legitimate-looking website or blog, can pose as a reliable source of political information. Sifting through the bias and misinformation to find (and somehow identify) the truth can be exhausting — just look to the Pizzagate scandal for an example of how the dissemination of misinformation about a rival political candidate can prompt an overzealous supporter to literally take up arms. Further complicating matters is the new administration’s “running war with the media” and willingness to overtly support claims that are factually inaccurate.
Last year, Engadget called President Obama “the White House’s First Social Media Ninja” for his presence on nearly every noteworthy social network. However, President Trump may be the first president to actually favor social media over all other platforms of communication.
He was able to stage the unlikeliest of political upsets largely on the back of his social media accounts. He’s even gone so far as to directly give credit to his accounts for helping him win contested races, saying they were able to do more than the money spent by his opponents. His regular stream of 140 character tweets has provided him with an immediate and direct line of communication to his millions of supporters any time of day or night, and those who expected Trump to assume more traditional means of communication after his election were sorely mistaken.
Given his aforementioned distaste for the media, it should come as no surprise that, in lieu of filtering his messages through the traditional press routes, announcements, proposals, and schedule, important political details have been coming rapid fire directly from the thumbs of the new commander in chief. According to a WPRI TV interview with White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, that’s not going to change anytime soon: “He has this direct pipeline to the American people, where he can talk back and forth…[He can] put his thoughts out and hear what they’re thinking in a way that no one’s ever been able to do before.”
Busy week planned with a heavy focus on jobs and national security. Top executives coming in at 9:00 A.M. to talk manufacturing in America.
Not only has technology given the new president a way to immediately connect with his constituents, it’s also given citizens a direct line of communication back — they just need to click the handy reply button right at the bottom of every message. And while it isn’t likely for the average citizen to get a response from President Trump outside of designated Q&A sessions, other politicians and celebrities have also taken advantage of this easy way to respond to his messages, furthering political discussion and perhaps picking up (or losing) a few followers in the process.
Beyond Twitter, The White House is also trying to change the way it provides feedback, moving away from the more traditional telephone message and towards the internet. The White House’s public switchboard is no longer active, replaced by a message that urges citizens to reach out via comment on the White House website or on its Facebook page. Conversely, the “We the People” online petition page started by President Obama’s team to give citizens an easy, tech-enabled way to query the administration hasn’t been properly displaying signature counts since the Trump inauguration — whether that’s an honest technical glitch or the new administration’s way of avoiding questions is for you to decide.
When Senator Bernie Sanders was a political activist during the civil rights movement of the 1960s, he and his fellow organizers relied on word-of-mouth to spread their message and a 15-day sit-in to illustrate their dissent. Today, messages spread at the speed of wifi, and hashtags are the building blocks of political movements — just look to #BlackLivesMatter for proof of that. “The thing about [Martin Luther] King or Ella Baker is that they could not just wake up and sit at the breakfast table and talk to a million people,” activist DeRay Mckesson told Wired. “The tools that we have to organize and to resist are fundamentally different than anything that’s existed before in black struggle.”
People have found plenty to protest about since President Trump’s election, and they have been quick to use all of the tech-enabled tools at their disposal to do so. Approximately 2.6 million women and those who support their causes took to the streets of Washington, D.C. and in sister cities after a grandmother in Hawaii wrote a Facebook post expressing her unease on election night. When frustrated scientists felt a need to talk about President Trump’s anti-science policies, they started a conversation on Reddit, organized, built a website, and then announced their own March on Washington via Twitter. It wasn’t long after word spread of Trump’s reported White House dress code that the hashtag #DressLikeAWoman began trending, with women from across the globe coming together virtually to show that there is no one way for a woman to dress.
People no longer need to wait for an issue to bubble over before taking action — the minute something doesn’t sit right, they can take to the internet and start working together with other like-minded citizens to make change happen.
1. Politicians Are Unnecessary
If all the drama surrounding the election and the transition to a new administration has left you with a headache, take solace in the fact that you may not need to suffer through it for much longer.
Thanks to technology, politicians are no longer essential to the formation of an organized society. Initiatives like Democracy.Earth, Asgardia, and Artisanopolis are envisioning new forms of society in which the people govern themselves. These societies could have economies that are powered by Bitcoin, governing documents that are drafted through peer-to-peer networks, and decisions that are recorded via blockchains. They needn’t apply declarations written centuries ago to today’s unique landscape — they can start from the ground up.
When our government was first established, it made sense to have few elected officials represent larger groups, but does that same structure really make sense in a time when people can almost instantly communicate their opinions from anywhere with an internet connection?
Now that we have the technology to pool the experiences and opinions of the many, shouldn’t we take advantage of it? According to former White House Deputy CTO Beth Simone Noveck, “There is scarcely a public decision, which could not benefit from an infusion of greater expertise – both credentialed and experiential – from outside government.”
However, this sort of change is highly unlikely to happen overnight, and it’s even less likely to be supported by those currently in charge. It’ll be up to the people to decide for ourselves what role we want the government of the future to have in our everyday lives. Thankfully, we have no shortage of ways to discuss the topic.
Bill Nye, everyone’s favorite science guy, recently appeared on the youtube series Big Think to answer a very difficult question from a young engineering student: “What technology can we expect to have 50 years from now?” Thinking back 50 years from 2017, it would have been impossible to imagine in 1967 that we would soon have computers, cameras, calculators, and phones all in our pockets and that jetpacks and flying cars would be a reality. So this was a difficult question to answer.
Bill spoke at length about the crossroads we find ourselves approaching, and that what might have been easy to predict before is now much more challenging. However, he hopes that in 50 years, at least 80% of our energy will be made using renewable resources. He also thinks that almost all cars will be both autonomous self-driving vehicles and powered by electricity. And while he discussed the grim possibilities of our future, he recognized that the progressive influence of younger generations can give us hope.
Though rising automation makes some fear job loss, many believe that if a universal basic income is implemented alongside these growing developments in automation, companies and citizens alike would benefit.
According to Bill Nye, “either, in the next decade or fifteen years, the US becomes the world leader in renewable technologies or the US just continues to divide the rich and the poor and global climate change gets stronger and stronger and the ocean gets bigger and bigger as it gets warmer and the quality of life for a lot of people goes down. We’ll see.”
Bill’s a cheerful guy, as you can see; either way, he emphasized, “I want you to change the world!”
Everyone is familiar with the concept of hacking. It is why we all strive to protect our computers and smartphones from nefarious outside sources trying to break in to steal information, implant malware, etc. Hackers pose a threat to everyone from teenage smartphone users to the computer databases of government organizations. Hacking is a threat that we are all familiar with, and something that many know how to protect against. But, as the line between science and science fiction blurs, even hacking is getting a futuristic upgrade. Recently, at the Enigma Security Conference, University of Washington researcher and lecturer Tamara Bonaci revealed technology that could be used to essentially “hack” into people’s brains.
She created this technology around a game called Flappy Whale. While people played the game, the technology was able to covertly extract neural responses to subliminal imagery in the game like logos, restaurants, cars, etc. Now, hacking into people’s underlying feelings and thoughts about seeing a fast food restaurant doesn’t seem like it could cause much harm, but this technology has the potential to gather much more intimate information about a person like their religion, fears, prejudices, health, etc. This technology could evolve from an interesting way to understand human response to a military device. The possibilities range from an incredibly useful research tool to a potentially frightening interrogation device.
Bonaci’s research focuses on cyber security and privacy, especially in conjunction with biomedical devices. The information that is used in her experiment to determine neural responses is gathered from a person’s electro-physical signals. After the Enigma conference, Bonaci told Ars Technica, “Electrical signals produced by our body might contain sensitive information about us that we might not be willing to share with the world. On top of that, we may be giving that information away without even being aware of it.”
In The Future
While this technology isn’t yet capable of complete mind reading, Bonaci is sure that if combined with virtual reality (VR) headset technology, fitness apps that use physical devices, modified BCI equipment, or other combinations of software and hardware, this technology could ultimately allow researchers to retrieve a much wider variety of sensitive elecric signals from humans.
As biomedical technology and methods for bringing us closer to our electronics continue to develop and improve, Bonaci’s experiment will become increasingly more relevant. And while there is no current need to panic about having our minds read without our consent or knowledge, there is a very real future possibility of ethical concerns surrounding this technology. We will one day have to think of the electrical signals that we produce biologically as data that could be stolen, manipulated, or used against us.
These days, we are so used to having our smartphones, tablets, and laptops within arms’ length that we tend to forget just how much our lives have changed because of technology.
Software, in particular, ensures that everything we need is right at our fingertips. For instance, thanks to software, we no longer have to bring maps with us, we don’t have to wait for the newspaper to be delivered at our doorstep, all of our previously physical and bulky tools are now in our phones. You probably don’t even have an alarm clock anymore because there’s an app for it.
Software has altered our lives so much—and in such a short amount of time—that it’s likely that we have yet to process the changes.
But as they say, to see is to believe—so the team from BestReviews visualized this phenomenon in a video titled “Evolution of a City.”
The video is a follow-up to“Evolution of the Desk,” released in 2014, and it illustrates how our physical world is being condensed into computer code, which enables us to carry everything we need in our pockets.
“We believe the videos help consumers think about the changes to the product landscape and the role that innovation plays. We also believe that software is taking a major role in the modern world and believe it’s important for consumers to understand that and see it visualized,” says Ben Faw, co-founder of BestReviews says to Singularity Hub.
The words gelatinous and smartphone might not seem like they belong in the same sentence together. In fact, they barely belong in the same dictionary together. But the Alo smartphone, an unfinished, unreleased technology, is described as a gelatinous, ergonomically shaped to fit the hand well, voice-activated and controlled smartphone. Designed by Jerome Olivet and Phillippe Starck, this design promises to be the future of smartphone technology.
This phone is unlike any current model, and its most notable feature (that we know of yet) is that it will be able to project holograms. Yes, you read that right. Any messages, photographs, or even movies would be able to be viewed as 3-D holograms. And while an entirely voice-controlled smartphone might seem a little bit strange and difficult to use, it is supposedly designed to be remarkably user-friendly.
According to Olivet, the product design specialist, “The phone’s camera acts as an ‘eye’. Among other things, it allows the reader to read the texts he detects or to identify the faces. It also allows you to project a 3D hologram to view a movie or message.”
A user could also communicate with the device through vibrations and, oddly enough, heat. Inside of the phone would be a center made up of an aluminum alloy that would vibrate and give feedback to the user through temperature. According to Olivet, “Its translucent skin emits vibrations or communicates by producing heat depending on its activity,” and “Its skin repairs automatically as soon as it is damaged.”
Olivet was also quoted as saying that the device “is a true artificial intelligence.” And as AI technology continues to rise in popularity and functionality, more products might look like this incredible gelatinous device.
Trekkies across the world once again have to endure some bad news regarding the Star Trek universe’s highly anticipated return to television. The Hollywood Reporter has received confirmation directly from CBS that the show is delayed indefinitely.
“This is an ambitious project; we will be flexible on a launch date if it’s best for the show. We’ve said from the beginning it’s more important to do this right than to do it fast. There is also added flexibility presenting on CBS All Access, which isn’t beholden to seasonal premieres or launch windows,” said a rep in a release to the Reporter. Hopefully, them worrying about getting it right more than getting it done can be a source of solace for fans.
More Than Just Pop Culture
Star Trek and its many stories have made an important impact on the world. And that impact is not just reserved for the arts; many scientific innovations have their roots in the series. Even the Star Trek vision of the future is something that we strive to achieve. One of the series’ most notable taglines is an inspiring call to action: “To boldly go where no man has gone before.”
There has been a ton of technology displayed on the Enterprise long before it was available in the real world. For just a taste of the embarrassment of riches that Star Trek may have had a hand in making real, take a look at this stem cell spraying gun used to help heal skin after severe burns similar to something a hypospray could accomplish, or the currently-in-development medical scanners being billed as actual tricorders.
The technological capabilities of the spacecraft on the series are also finding their way into our reality. Virtual and augmented reality are burgeoning technologies and even in their infancy are allowing some pretty incredible experiences. Also, even photon torpedoes and warp drives are in the earliest stages of development.
So while we may have to wait longer for new episodes, we can have some solace in the profound impact this beloved universe has had on the world, and the future it has helped to make possible.
Modern society has been quite the double-edged sword. While it has created the conditions that have made living longer, healthier lives difficult, it has also seen the growth of technological advances that are making it possible to extend our lives. Advances in medical research, specifically in the fields of genetics and biotechnology, have led to better healthcare and treatment.
One Nobel Prize winner claims to have found the key to stop aging all together, while a new anti-aging technique just made it to clinical trials. Further, there is more support in the scientific community for categorizing aging as a disease, presenting opportunities to treat symptoms to extend life.
Certainly, this longevity will affect the way society works. In fact, in some parts of the world, it already has. For a while now, Japan has been experiencing a new trend in their workforce. There are fewer people who belong to the working age bracket, and even fewer expected in the years to come – the younger generations are no longer having children at the rate of previous generations.
“The ratio of people aged 65 or older is the highest ever recorded,” said a ministry official. “This is because many baby boomers have entered this age category over the past five years.”
There are more and more people who belong to the elderly populations. Japanese institutions — and the elderly themselves — think that it’s time to do something about this imbalance, and they’ll start by redefining aging.
According to the 2015 census, 26.7 percent of Japanese people are 65 years or older. It’s a figure that’s expected to rise to 33 percent by 2035 and 40 percent by 2060. A group of medical doctors and university professors called the Japanese Gerontological Society think this increased longevity shows that it’s time to reconsider what it means to be considered a senior citizen.
Normally, people retire by 65 years old. The group is suggesting, according to a report by NHK World, that this threshold be moved to 75 years old. It would seem that the elderly themselves agree with it, especially since many of them continue to work past 65. In fact, the Japan Times reports that a survey of people age 60 or older showed that 70 percent of the respondents want to continue working even after turning 65.
With more than 11 percent of Japan’s working population made up of seniors, which is roughly 7.3 million, redefining aging seems to be a step in the right direction for Japan. Of course, it’s not going to be that easy, or even safe for the elderly. “The question is whether the changes will be matched by systematic reforms to enable those elderly people who are willing to continue working to do so,” according to an editorial in Japan Times. Needless to say, provisions for retirement at 75 have to be made clear, and even allowing for exemptions in cases when the elderly may no longer be fit to work.