The far frontier of science is no longer a distant dream. It is there today and here tomorrow. Science fiction is rapidly becoming science fact. We’re not just transforming our world, we’re up-ending age-old beliefs, puncturing paradigms we have long taken for granted. “Follow your weird,” said author Bruce Sterling. Well, as these 10 technologies demonstrate, “mission accomplished.”
Future technology has always been about pushing limits. And there are no greater limits than the ones imposed by our own biology. Aging is the undeniable signal that the clock called life is winding down. But bionics opens the door for a new era of rebirth, where platitudes about second childhoods can now be reinforced by serious mechanistic heft. This means that the true impact of bionics will be mental as much as physical. We think we’re building new bodies, but we’re going to end up with new minds as well.
2. Mind Uploading
Imagine being able to upload our consciousness onto a computer, to store our selves in silicon. This is the frontier known as mind uploading, and it is a truly wild frontier. Pretty soon, and for the first time in history, a living being will be able to experience the life of a dead one. Will we all eventually have our lives recorded for posterity? Will it get even stranger? Descartes told us: “I think therefore I am.” But what happens when someone else thinks you? Seriously, who are you now?
3. Augmented Sight
Consider this scenario: Day one: You meet a blind man. Day Three: He can see well enough to drive a car around a crowded parking lot. The world’s first artificial vision implant capable of this feat already exists. Devices capable of augmented sight—eagle eyes, eyes that see colors outside of our visual spectrum, or eyes that have microscopic abilities—are not far behind.
4. Flying Cars
Aerospace engineer Dezso Molnar has built a machine that can fly high enough to clear tall mountains and drive fast enough to give Formula One racers a run for their money. And it’s here today. A few years from now, you’ll be able to assemble one from a kit. It is both the stuff of very old dreams and the very first flying vehicle that’s actually available to the masses.
5. Space Diving
Space diving, similar to skydiving, is jumping out of an aircraft in outer space and falling to Earth before eventually parachuting to a safe landing.
If you scratch under the surface of sport, you’ll quickly encounter the burgeoning science of play. Over the past few decades, a topic once dismissed as unimportant is now considered a fundamental biological process that helps us learn fundamental social and survival skills, stimulate creativity and innovation, and test the limits of our own potential. But space diving is the next frontier—it’s proof that our need to play, interwoven with our urge to push limits, has finally left the planet.
6. The World’s First Genetically-Engineered Insect
The curing of disease and the creation of life are feats among our oldest dreams. They are ideas that comprise our myths and legends, ideas that have been with us for so long that they are woven into the fundamental fabric of our being. But aspirational no more. The very first man-made mosquitoes are about to venture into the wild to combat some of the most devastating diseases on earth, marking the very first time a creature birthed entirely in imagination will take up residence in reality.
7. Asteroid Mining
The very first trillionaire on Earth may be the person who figured out how to mine the sky, a process known as asteroid mining. Well, the economic engine that unlocks the solar system has finally arrived. The Larry Page backed company “Planetary Resources” has a satellite scheduled to launch from the International Space Station in July of this year.
8. The Troubled Science of Life Extension
Steroids have been the subject of one of the greatest misinformation campaigns in history. Just about everything the general public thinks about steroids was wrong. Steroids have been the focus of a stealth war of propaganda and politics, and one that has cost millions of lives. They’re not bad drugs, they appear to be a cure for some of our most intractable diseases and an actual first step toward legitimate anti-aging medicine. They are the wonder drug of tomorrow, and they are here today.
9. Stem Cells: The Final Frontier
The promise of stem cells is considerable. But stem cells also elucidate an important point—how incredibly difficult innovation really is. This fight is far from over. Meanwhile, a middle-of-the-road estimate of how many Americans will die from diseases that stem cell research might soon cure is 130 million.
The changes we’re talking about in this article aren’t unfolding in millions of years; they’re unfolding in a handful of decades. Moreover, these changes are far more radical than anything that came before. And none of these trends appear to be slowing down. In fact, just the opposite. Which means, as many are starting to suspect, the era of Homo sapiens is coming to a close. We have massively accelerated evolution and the results are soon to fracture our species. In short, we are no longer human beings, we are now human becomings.
This piece was adapted from Tomorrowland: Our Journey from Science Fiction to Science Fact by Steven Kotler.