The future is happening now, and it’s happening at an incredible rate. We have tiny computers in our pockets capable of doing things that couldn’t even be imagined 50 years ago. Medicine has improved to where people are living longer than they ever have and we are capable of curing illnesses thought to be malignant for centuries. Who knows what is coming down the pipeline that we can’t even fathom at this point? One Redditor asked scientists to weigh in and share some of the latest advances that seem far-fetched, but could be entirely possible sooner than we think.
HEAL LIKE A PIG
In my field, there has been a lot of work towards rebuilding organs. Essentially, take a diseased organ of any kind, decellularize it (remove all the individual cells), and leaving only the extracellular matrix ‘scaffold’. Repopulate with healthy stem cells, and let that scaffold direct the cells and rebuild that end-stage kidney into a healthy kidney, and get off dialysis. Or rebuild a heart riddled with heart disease. Maybe regrow an entire limb lost by a soldier or someone in a horrific accident. Quite a ways and a few Nobel prizes from that, but a group in our field has already done this with a pig pancreas, and while it didn’t last very long ultimately, it was an important first step.
Cultured meat: being able to grow meat from cells in a controlled environment so we won’t need animals anymore. Scientists have managed to produce a burger in the lab, but it’s currently too expensive for mass production (although this might become normal in 10-20 years). This has the potential to free up our depleting resources (i.e. land, water) currently dedicated to meat production, and growing meat in such a setting could also resolve many foodborne illnesses. However, so far the technology would only be able to create minced meat and not slabs of meat, as that would require vascularization of the cells.
THIS SEEMS LIKE A BAD IDEA
We can fit a terabytes of data in the palm of our hand right now. Nano-robots, which can build anything given the raw materials and blueprints, including other nano-robots, is not so far fetched. Medical technology may soon be able to incubate a human from conception to birth. We are getting much better at finding near Earth sized planets in our galaxy. Now imagine sending human DNA, self-replicating nano-robots, and the entirety of human knowledge on a smallish ship to an Earth-like planet. Once there, the nano-robots are programmed to rebuild civilization. If we find thousands of Earth-like planets and send ships to each of them, then we can almost guarantee success if the plan is solid.
If you ever thought Cloud City in Star Wars was awesome, it turns out we might be able to do something similar someday… on Venus. Sure, the surface sucks, but if you go about 50 km up Venus’s atmosphere is the most Earth-like there is in the Solar System. What’s more, unlike the crushing pressure and hot temperatures on the surface, you have the same atmospheric pressure as on Earth, temps varying from 0-50 C, and pretty similar gravity to here. So yeah, floating cities in some form on Venus is actually not the dumbest thing- it’s more appealing than Mars in some ways- so while I don’t see it happening in my lifetime, it may well be a more serious plan in the future.
Being able to record and replay your dreams. Scientists in Japan have been working on a machine that would allow this, which I think would be pretty awesome since I would love to replay some of my dreams.
HAVE WE LEARNED NOTHING FROM SKYNET?
We will one day learn how to mimic a human brain on a computer, and download a human consciousness onto it. It can then be given sensory inputs and physically exist as a machine. All of the fundamental building blocks are there already. Scientists have created simulated brains with about 1-2M neurons. The human brain has about 100B. So we are a long ways off, but we will get there.
ISN’T THIS JUST AMAZON PRIME?
Teleportation of some sort will be feasible. Perhaps not for living things, but certainly for inanimate things like furniture, Al Gore, glassware, etc.
SWEAT THE POUNDS AWAY
Fat loss with a pill or prescription. We all have “brown fat” tissues in varying degrees. Mostly we have it as babies but it deactivates as we get older. Brown fat metabolizes stored body fat (yellow fat) directly into body heat without having to be converted into sugars and consumed in muscle exertion. Chances are the skinny guy or girl you know who never wears a coat when it is cold outside and can eat like a pig without gaining weight has a mutation where their brown fat is turned on all the time. Scientists are decoding the metabolic pathways that can turn on brown fat. Eventually they will produce a drug that can turn on your brown fat.
Universal Healthcare in the US. Oh wait you said “possible.”