February 22, 2024

Brighton Journal

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Scientific and technological developments that could change the world forever The future has arrived: fears, hopes and conundrums

Scientific and technological developments that could change the world forever  The future has arrived: fears, hopes and conundrums

Decades ago, fiction was used to imagine the future. The movies, books and series were ahead of their time and were heartbreakingly amazing. Thus, scenes featuring flying cars and supersonic planes, homes with interconnected electrical devices, and journeys to the moon and other worlds have been described. Human immortality became possible, as did the “resurrection” of iconic creatures such as dinosaurs from the laboratory. Not to mention artificial intelligence with human appearance that eventually disobeyed their creators. Dystopian or utopian universes, depending on the viewer's point of view, triggered neural circuits of enlightened minds that created wonders and people enjoyed palatable cultural consumption.

In this era, baptized by some intellectuals as “knowledge societies,” science takes on a value, is set up as an engine of economic growth for nations, and becomes the basis for designing technologies with astonishing power. The fiction dreamed up by Isaac Asimov, George Luis Borges, Mary Shelley, Steven Spielberg and others is becoming flesh, delivered today by advances that could revolutionize life in a short time on Earth.

Jetsons, robots and space travel

A few hours ago, NASA and Lockheed Martin presented their supersonic aircraft. Called the “X-59”, it was capable of traveling at speeds greater than the speed of sound and would, in a short time, revolutionize the history of aviation and commercial aviation. Although supersonic vehicles have been around for decades (Concorde, operated by France and Great Britain, stopped flying in 2003), the transport now promoted by the North American space agency solves the problem of noise pollution produced in the last century. 30 meters long and 10 meters wide, It can reach a speed of 1500 kilometers per hour. A flight like New York-London is now estimated to take 2 hours instead of 7 hours. For many, it is a technology capable of reducing the difficult time separating origin and destination.

In 1996, Deep Blue, an IBM computer that won a series of chess games against then-champion Garry Kasparov, seemed to usher in a new era, as it proved that machines, if trained well, can surpass human intelligence. Three decades later, artificial intelligence and machine learning are showing their full potential and sending shivers down the spine. Chat bots like Chat GPT can solve research tasks that would take any trained mortal years; Androids working as nurses in hospitals in America; Talking apps to advise patients in different parts of the world on how to take care of their mental health; who paint, play musical instruments, and write poetry that any artist would envy; Also, they aimed to revolutionize the healthcare industry by surgically diagnosing diseases with precision before any specialist could even suspect any anomaly.

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The famous writer and science communicator says that these times seem to be the age of robots and it is not in vain Isaac Asimov In 1942 he shared his three laws of robotics: A robot shall not harm a human being; A robot must carry out commands given by humans; A robot must preserve its own existence (as long as it does not conflict with the First or Second Law). A kind of insurance for humanity against machines that eventually want to rebel. Although there is still time for the wars between humans and robots, robots (trained precisely by powerful humans) are already moving their chips and threatening to reshape the Achilles heel of the capitalist system: the future of work and the future of jobs.

From the Cold War to the present, it has been one of the most emotive topics in humanity Space travel. Reinforced with Apollo XI and the following launches to the Moon, understanding the universe became a top-grossing theme. Star Wars, Star Trek And many more movies and series were created along with the dreams of millions of fans around the world.. Currently, space travel is a project that the powers that be take very seriously. With help from private groups and contributions from various countries, NASA is leading the Artemis effort. A manned trip by astronauts to the Moon, a natural satellite they plan to turn into a service station, is planned for 2025. Yes, the gas station will reach Mars in the 2030s. Enthusiasm is confirmed by the presence of China, Russia and India in the competition, as well as other countries devoting large sums of money to compete in space.

Frankenstein and mammoths rising from the dead

If there is a virtue Frankenstein, a story by Mary Shelley Published in 1818, it was the awakening of a scientific career of many curious minds who ventured beyond the barrier of available knowledge and, in parallel, even over insurmountable ethical barriers. In November 2018, the world became aware of He Jianqi because, via YouTube, the nickname “Chinese Frankenstein” detailed the details of a revolutionary experiment. Gene scissors (Crispr Cas-9) were able to modify the genes of human embryos to prevent twin girls from being born with HIV. While this news seemed revolutionary, it soon became clear that the team from China's Southern University of Science and Technology had broken several rules.

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After being convicted, a year later he was found guilty by a Shenzhen court and served three years in prison. Beyond the act being condemned by the scientific community and then by the Chinese justice system, some questions arise. If the scientists who developed genetic scissors (Emmanuel Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna) are recognized with the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2020, why did this Chinese researcher put them into practice? Be it a hero or a villain, the truth is that history will put him in his place. Meanwhile, one thing seems certain: molecular biotechnology is advancing rapidly, and one way or another, the diseases that plague humanity today may not even exist tomorrow.

What happens after death represents a puzzle that civilizations have tried to solve since the dawn of time. Indeed, religions serve as symbolic remedies that soften the anguish of the separated in the face of perhaps even greater questions. Scientific knowledge, for its part, is presented as another way of seeking to inform what happens after death. The innovation of this era is to not only understand the phenomenon but also try to prevent it.

It may not be Harry Potter's Philosopher's Stone (which grants its holder immortality), but cryogenization is a practice worth paying attention to. It's a process of preserving bodies in tanks of liquid nitrogen: after removing people's internal fluids and injecting them with chemicals, the corpses are stored at 196 degrees below zero. Although no one has ever revived a cryopreserved patient to date, nearly two thousand are waiting for their chance in those vats.

Similarly, there are initiatives to “resurrect” already extinct species such as the woolly mammoth, which inhabited the earth 6-12 thousand years ago (depending on the scientific evidence taken). An idea that seems to unite the desires already expressed in films like winter And Jurassic Park. De-extinction is the reverse process of extinction: using genetic engineering technologies, the aim is to revive the characteristics of already extinct species with the aim of re-establishing ecosystems. Under this model, the Harvard University team uses Asian elephants (mammoths' closest relatives, with which they share 99.6 percent of the genome) and can produce the first offspring of the genetically modified species with mammoth traits within five years. .

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Other developments can be added to this list, showing how the future imagined in fiction has become reality. For example, the Internet of Things, which enables all kinds of smart devices to be interconnected and operate remotely. A phenomenon as natural as the digital economy, with virtual wallets at the helm and in the Bitcoin world, capitalist societies will make paper money obsolete from the start. to Capsule food Capable of replacing four meals a day Autonomous cars; The Virtual and Augmented Reality; The Combat drones served in wars; Every kind Nanotechnologies Invisible with implications in the world of health and electronics; And one too Invisibility cloak Presented recently.

Borges, Wikipedia and Epidemic

Literature teaches that no idea, no matter how crazy it may seem, should not be rejected. It was his Jorge Luis Borges Albert Camus, who anticipated through his prose the advent of an infinite library like Wikipedia and the Internet, did the same in his book. Plague (1947) with covid epidemics.

Perhaps a lesser known, British writer John Wyndham published his dystopian novel A day of strain In 1951, and it started exactly like this: “When a day you know as Wednesday starts looking like Sunday, something is terribly wrong somewhere.” A phrase that sums up, like nothing else, the chaos that has reigned in the world since the outbreak of Sars-Covi-2 and the distraction that followed the confinement imposed in most countries. In films or series expecting epidemics, there are things to throw to the ceiling, but One of the most watched in 2020 Infectious diseaseOriginally published in 2011. For his writing, screenwriter Scott Burns was inspired by the 2009 swine flu, when he wondered how a new virus – MEV-1 – could trigger an epidemic of global proportions.

As the philosopher Esteban Ierardo summarizes in his book Screen Society: Black Mirror and Technological Dependence (2018), technology reveals its double face: it can be experienced as a threat, invasion of privacy, loss of freedom, constant display and dehumanization, or the complete opposite.

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