Last March I broke down five reasons why we’re living in incredibly strange times. Between the advent of 3D printers that can build houses, and the development lab grown meat that could be hitting our grocery store shelves very soon, one could say that the world today is unlike anything anyone has experienced before. The truth of the matter though, is that there are so many more reasons why our lives today are fundamentally different from the lives our ancestors.
Granted, every generation has unique challenges and innovations that often change the nature of our existence in a big way. But with how fast technology is advancing these days, it’s easy to argue that what modern humans are experiencing is very unique. It’s seems as if not a week goes by without the news reporting on some new discovery, invention, or social change that could have earth-shattering implications for our future.
So if my last article didn’t convince that we’re living in one hell of a strange world, allow me to illuminate five more stories that could change your mind.
The Rise of Megacities
In the year 500 BC, there were only 100 million people on our planet, and the largest city at that time only contained 150,000 people. However, within a few decades there may be a city in China that far surpasses those numbers.
By building hundreds of miles of high speed railways and sinking hundreds of billions of dollars into infrastructure projects, the Chinese government hopes to connect twelve cities near Beijing, which would form one massive city that they plan to call “Jing-Jin-Ji.” When it’s completed, it will house an astonishing 130 million people. It will cover an area the size of New England, but will have a population density that is nearly nine times higher.
Artificially Intelligent Sex Dolls
Though the future may bring wonderful technologies with the potential to radically improve our lives, some of the technologies that are on the horizon will probably make your skin crawl. Among them is the artificially intelligent sex robot that is currently being developed by a sex doll company in California.
The creator of the $15,000 “Harmony” doll told The Guardian that “She can hold a conversation, tell jokes and quote Shakespeare. She’ll remember your birthday…what you like to eat, and the names of your brothers and sisters. She can hold a conversation about music, movies and books. And of course, Harmony will have sex with you whenever you want.” Obviously, something like this would have a huge impact on the nature of human relationships, and present ethical questions that no one has ever had to ask before.
Touchscreens Will Be Everywhere
Remember that scene from Minority Report, when Tom Cruise picks up a cereal box that has a screen embedded on it? Well, that’s about to become a reality. Researchers at Trinity College in Ireland have developed a material that is only a few nanometers thick, and will open the door for the development of ultra-thin and disposable touchscreens that could be placed on almost anything.
According to the researchers, “In the future, printed devices will be incorporated into even the most mundane objects such as labels, posters and packaging.” They also suggest that their technology will allow touchscreens to be superimposed on human skin.
Nothing You See Will Be Real
Photoshop software has given pretty much everyone the ability to manipulate images in countless ways. Now anyone can touch up an image, combine multiple images for comedic or dramatic effect, or turn a picture into something that will deceive millions of people. However, that ability is about to be taken to a frightening new level.
There are now computer programs that allow you to synthesize anyone’s voice. All you need to do is feed the program an audio file that contains one minute of someone’s voice, and then you can generate a new audio file with totally different words. And it will sound just like that person. There’s another program that allows you to alter videos of people by manipulating their facial features, including the shape of their mouths. In other words, you can now take a video that features anyone, and edit that video to make it seem like they’re saying something that is totally different. You will never be able to completely trust anything you see or hear on an electronic device ever again.
Last month, scientists working for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia revealed that they had developed a “biobag,” or an artificial womb that is capable of supporting a prematurely born lamb for four weeks. They expect human trials to begin within three years, and the scientists hope that their invention could save countless prematurely born babies.
However, the device also brings us closer to the day when perhaps, a mother isn’t needed at all. For now this technology can only support a baby that is roughly 23 weeks old, but it’s obvious that this invention represents the first stages of something far stranger. In the near future, it may be possible to raise a human fetus, from an egg to a infant, without the help of a real womb.