In the last 10-15,000 years of written history mankind has come a long way, changing from predator to mostly producer; in that time all areas of human civilisation have witnessed a huge growth in technology. Specifically, if we look back over the last 100 – 150 years, the advances made in the electronic, medical, silicon, mechanical and chemical sciences are hugely praiseworthy: from the discovery of electricity to the invention of the telephone, through to aeroplanes, computers, satellites and the internet; as a result average life expectancy, income, and gross production per capita have all significantly increased.
However, despite all these advances, as humans we still need to resolve many puzzles around us; we don’t yet know what caused this universe to form, how the human nervous system works, how to permanently cure cancer or AIDS, eradicate poverty, religious wars or corruption or halt environmental change and what happens if the human population explodes beyond the means of this Earth?
The best thing is that we, human kind, have not become complacent and are very much aware of the challenges faced by our civilisation and that there are many projects taking place around the world to resolve these issues. I have summarised below some of the science and technology projects that might address these challenges and improve our lifestyle.
1.Large Hadron Collider (LHC) may figure out how the world is put together
Particle physicists have the coolest job: smashing subatomic particles together at incredibly high speeds to untangle the secrets of the universe. Scientists use the LHC to reconstruct the conditions immediately following the Big Bang. In July 2012 the LHC drew international attention when scientists conveyed their discovery of the Higgs boson, the particle thought to explicate how other particles get their weight. “Our goal is always to understand how the world is put together,” said Roger Dixon, head of the accelerator division at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) in Batavia, Illinois.
2. Brain re-mapping reveals rationale behind our sentiments and abnormalities in our neuron system
US President Barack Obama has revealed a new initiative to map the brain. The $100m investment will be used to cultivate new technologies to examine how the billions of individual cells in the human brain interrelate. Scientists will also focus on how the brain registers, stores and processes information and investigate how brain function is linked to behaviour. The project will use supercomputer-based models and simulations to rebuild a virtual human brain to develop new cures for neurological conditions.
3. Human space exploration can give us a glimpse of the bigger picture
Human space exploration helps to address essential questions about the place of mankind in the universe and the history of our solar system. Through addressing the challenges related to human space exploration, scientists can figure out:
• How did the solar system form and where did the Earth’s water and other organic materials, such as carbon, originate?
• NASA is researching galactic cosmic radiation that might potentially be the most threatening element to humans exploring deep space with the aim of cultivating easing strategies that may also lead to medical advances on Earth.
• The International Space Station assists as a national laboratory for human health, biological and materials research, as a technology test-bed and as a stepping stone for going further into the solar system.
• By understanding more about asteroids we may learn more about past Earth impacts and possibly find ways to decrease the threat of future effects.
4. Stem cell research can fix physical anomalies in the human body
Scientists and researchers are interested in stem cells for several reasons; although stem cells do not serve any one function, many have the capacity to serve any function after they are instructed to specialize. Stem cells are powerful enough to regenerate damaged tissue under the right conditions and can help in:
1. Organ and tissue regeneration
2. Cardiovascular disease treatment
3. Brain disease treatment
4. Cell deficiency therapy
5. Blood disease treatments
5. Genetically modified foods might resolve food scarcity issues
Genetically modified foods are foods formed from genetically modified organisms (GMOs), specifically, genetically modified crops. GMOs have had specific changes woven into their DNA by genetic engineering methods.
With an ever-increasing global population, massive third world hunger and with an estimate that a child dies every two seconds worldwide from starvation, there is great potential in the use of genetically modified technology to the advantage not just of farmers but also for societies worldwide.
6. Big data analysis can make information much more transparent and curb corruption
Big data analysis can now process trillions of bytes of data in minutes; there are five broad ways in which using big data analysis can create value:
1. Big data can be used to monitor the progress of developments in the next generation of products and services. For instance, manufacturers are using data acquired from sensors implanted in products to create new after-sales service offerings such as proactive maintenance.
2. A big data can offer significant value by making information transparent and operational at much higher rate.
3. As businesses create and store more transactional data in digital form, they can collect more precise and detailed performance information on everything from product inventories to staff turnaround, and therefore exposes variability and increase productivity.
4. A big data permits ever-narrower segmentation of customers and therefore much more exactly customised offering.
5. Refined analytics can noticeably improve decision-making.
7. Renewable energy may slow environmental change
Renewable energy is energy that comes from resources which are continually restocked such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves and geothermal heat. About 16% of global final energy intake comes from renewable resources with 10% of all energy from traditional biomass, mainly used for heating, and 3.4% from hydroelectricity.
New renewables (small hydro, modern biomass, wind, solar, geothermal, and biofuels) account for another 3% and are growing rapidly. The share of renewables in electricity generation is around 19%, with 16% coming from hydroelectricity and 3% from new renewables.
8. Wearable tech, 3D printers, cloud computing and self-driving automobiles increase productivity
Other technology advances resulting from continuous computing and bio-technology growth are:
1. Cloud computing making information hosting, processing and rendering very accessible and cheap.
2. Wearable techs like Google Glass and Apple’s highly anticipated iWatch are embedding tech into the human body to enable more efficient collection and communication of information, thereby increasing productivity.
3. 3D printers/faxes that promise to manufacture custom made products on the fly.
4. Self-driving automobiles, like Google Car and Boing plane, reduce human error when we commute from one place to another.
5. DNA analysis helps to do genome analysis and can detect early signs of deadly diseases such as cancer.
Overall, we are still in the very early stages of discovering why we (i.e. human) exist, how we evolved, how our bodies work and subsequently facing issues like dementia, poverty, unemployment, religious wars, resource scarcity and those causing more agony and pain. But if we join all the points together, from the LDC project to renewable energy to brain mapping to cloud computing, we are progressing in the right direction by exploring the possibilities of what causes our existence; in doing so we are creating employment and using the latest technology to communicate new findings at a very high speed.