By Dick Pelletier
An ulterior motive drives much of the optimism and positive take
that appears in ‘FutureTalk’ articles which describe how the future
There is an audacious thought roaming through my brain that the
“magical future” I describe so often actually includes me. With a
little luck, I believe that I can stay alive and reap all the
benefits this wonder time has to offer.
Though more than 50 million will die in 2008, I am convinced
that I will not be among them. In researching articles each week, I
discover facts that support the optimistic slant that each topic
seems to take.
Chronologically my body has reached seventy-seven years;
biologically it behaves as a mid-sixty-year-old, and emotionally it
sometimes acts like a ‘30 something. By continuing to believe
optimistically about the future, it’s easy for me to imagine myself
‘being there’. (cont.)
By Dick Pelletier
Imagine a future where there is no clear distinction between
real and simulated events. Welcome to the world of virtual reality.
In contrast to today’s crude videoconferencing methods, tomorrow’s
revolutionary “telepresence” systems expected by 2015 or before,
will look and sound like you are actually together in real reality.
You’ll establish eye contact, look around each other, and otherwise
have the sense of being together.
Tomorrow’s Internet will power this new system. Cameras will
transmit live two-way pictures over a terabyte-speed network
similar to today’s Internet2. With
sensors embedded in clothing to track movement, parties at both
ends can project themselves into a virtual reality 3-D simulation
of the event – everyone interacts with everyone with
“This new system marks the beginning of a revolution expected to
take us by storm in the next decade,” says Dr. Pierre Boulanger,
University of Alberta VR researcher. People separated by distance
can be together in this virtual world, to enjoy a living room chat,
share meals at the dinner table, or cozy up even more intimately.
Everyone feels hand shakes, hugs and kisses as if they were
In addition, say goodbye to confusing controls for home
entertainment systems and computers. Lifelike 3D avatars (virtual
assistants) which speak perfect “human” will become our primary
interface with all our technologies.
These amazing screen images will do just about everything for
us. They will answer questions; negotiate Internet transactions;
make it easy for us to operate computers and home entertainment
systems; and maintain household temperature, lighting and security.
These cute creatures, resembling favorite celebrities or loved
ones, will appear on our TV, cell phone screen, and car radio
display. Later, advances in holography will enable avatars to jump
off the screen and follow us around the house. (cont.)
By Dick Pelletier
Throw away the computer mouse, keyboard, and TV remote. A new
speaking machine, expected in the next decade, is about to become
your newest “electronic” friend. This new voice-interactive machine
will browse the Internet searching for information it thinks will
interest you, and will help unravel the maize of TV channels. The
machine will converse in a pleasant voice as it listens carefully
to your instructions, then offers suggestions on what Internet data
or TV programs it thinks you might enjoy.
This new voice-interactive machine will appear as an avatar – an
on-screen image resembling your favorite movie character, religious
icon, or loved one. On command, it will appear on the TV screen,
computer monitor, car radio or cell phone, addressing you by name,
and asking what you would like.
Most people think interactive systems like these are a long way
off, but two trends are quickening the pace. Improved
speech-recognition systems will soon enable people to converse with
computers in normal-spoken language, and entrepreneurs are rushing
to the Internet creating new business applications with software
“agents” that take advantage of speech recognition.
Microsoft’s Bill Gates claims that by 2012, voice-enabled
“smart” systems will allow us to converse naturally and
comfortably, directly with our display, reducing need for mouse and
keyboard. Avatars will help us shop, work, learn, and conduct
business and social relationships on the Internet. At home, they
will provide security, change lighting and temperature as needed,
and deliver news, sports, games, and entertainment anywhere in the
By Dick Pelletier
Arthur C. Clarke once said: “Any sufficiently advanced
technology is virtually indistinguishable from magic.” Enter
mankind’s newest plunge into the future – nanotechnology.
One day soon, a small Star Trek-like replicator called a
“nanofactory” will sit on your kitchen counter and let you order up
any product you want – plasma TV, clothes, an appliance, or whatever your
dreams desire – at little or no cost.
This wild technology sounds like science fiction, but its not.
According to AI entrepreneur Ray Kurzweil and nanotech author Eric
Drexler, this nanofactory will arrive by the 3rd decade of this
century – 2020-2030.
Here’s how nanotech replicators would work: microscopic-size
machines collect raw atoms from supplied chemicals, or from
something as inexpensive as seawater, and enable those atoms to
grow or “morph” into the final product: a sweater, refrigerator,
health medicine, or even a duplicate nanofactory.
Key technologies of the past half-century – transistors,
semiconductors, and genetic engineering – all focused on reducing
size, materials and costs, while increasing power and efficiency.
We now stand poised to continue this trend into a revolution that
offers the potential to rebuild the entire physical world – our
bodies and brains included – one atom at a time.
The National Institutes of Health states that someday implanted
nanotech materials will actually become part of the body – able to
search out and destroy cancer cells before they develop into a
tumor, or precisely direct drugs to heal damaged tissues – and when
no longer needed, dissolve and be absorbed or excreted. (cont.)
Opinion by Dick Pelletier
Some of you have heard me talk about prospects for extreme life
extension – “To live in a healthy body continuously until I choose
to die; to not be killed by disease or aging.”
I believe that science and technology will make extreme life
extension possible for most of us alive today. The prime requisite
is to maintain good health, keep a positive attitude towards the
future, and root for science and technology breakthroughs in the
We will soon experience overwhelming advances in disease
prevention and age reversal through gene therapies and nanotech
breakthroughs. Over the coming years, we will slowly grow into a
body fashioned from “designer genes” that can never age or get
Overpopulation: Prospects for this beautiful future are
not without controversy. Some argue that humans living longer will
cause overpopulation problems, such as expanding poverty and
damaging the environment. However, they fail to realize that
technology – spurred on by commerce (filling needs) – will provide
solutions through improved agriculture, easier access to food and
better use of space resources.
Poor health: Some assume that people will continue to
exhibit signs of aging and be decrepit into their hundreds citing
people who are kept alive for years in terrible health, sometimes
beyond the point at which they wish to live. Merely extending life
without improving health is a bad idea. This is why today’s medical
world focuses, not just on preventing death, but on alleviating the
affects of aging by curing diseases. Discoveries will soon develop
for the reversal of aging, so that elderly people might one day
choose to revert to the mind and body of a healthy 20-something.
By Dick Pelletier
If there was a pill that could immediately improve your memory,
enabling you to recall any selected event in your past with sharp
detail, would you take it? How about a pill that would erase an
unwanted memory, like a traumatic childhood event that still
bothers you in adult life?
And even more radical, would you like to download knowledge
directly into your brain enabling you to immediately speak and
understand a new language, or instantly learn any new subject
matter, without suffering through the lengthy process of learning
Memory-management drugs that address the first two questions are
being developed now and should be available in about five years,
according to Memory Pharmaceuticals, www.memorypharma.com, a
leading New Jersey drug research firm.
Most of these memory remedies focus on boosting recall, but some
address the 13 million Americans who suffer from post-traumatic
stress disorder with drugs that will dim, or even erase, traumatic
memories. Such products promise to revolutionize psychotherapy.
Instead of trying to overcome a past trauma, patients will soon be
able to simply erase all memories of the event as if it had never
happened – problem solved.
A more radical and futuristic technology, downloading knowledge
directly into our brain, could be available in the near future,
according to Peter Passaro, graduate student at Georgia Tech, in
his article posted at www.betterhumans.com. Passaro suggests that
mind-machine interfaces will be available by 2020, and he mentions
how this might be accomplished. (cont.)
By Dick Pelletier
A lump of rock more than 40 meters in diameter speeding through
space at 28,000 mph, once considered the most dangerous object in
the universe, is about to become the site for humanity’s next
“giant leap for mankind.”
NASA engineers have selected asteroid
2000SG344 – which in 2000 was given a significant chance of
slamming into Earth with the explosive power of 750 Hiroshimas – as
the perfect space object to study. The operation would take place
before the 2030 Mars journey, a speculative trip bandied about ever
since the first President Bush mentioned in 1989 that America
should send men to the red planet.
The asteroid mission represents a crucial step for America’s
space program. A report to be published next month in the journal
Acta Astronautica describes plans to use the soon-to-be-developed
Orion space ship for a three-to-six month round-trip to the
asteroid, with two explorers spending up to two weeks on the rock’s
As well as providing experience for longer Mars trips, samples
taken from the rock could help scientists convert sub-surface ice
into drinking water and breathable oxygen, understand more about
the birth of the solar system, and how best to defend Earth against
dangerous asteroid collisions. (cont.)
By Dick Pelletier
Movies like Time Machine,
Back to the
Future, Terminator, and
“One Moment in Time”: bring out the little child inside us. We love
to fantasize about going back in time to see what might have been,
or to alter some predicament in our life. Scientists get excited
over this fantasy too – some even believe we can turn this
fictional genre into reality.
Einstein stated that people traveling at near light speeds would
age more slowly than those remaining stationary. Inhabitants of a
fast-moving spaceship would experience forward time travel. And if
traveling faster than light, they would go backwards in time.
Atomic clocks flown in space proved Einstein correct, and many
top physicists now express views that time travel could someday
Cal-Tech’s Kip Thorne was the
first to publish a scientific paper with the words “time machine”
in the title. Thorne worried that reporters might ballyhoo the
article causing colleagues to ignore it – but instead, his work
brought other scientists out in the open.
World famous physicist Stephen Hawking, Cosmologist Igor
Novikov, and others began publicly debating the pros and cons of
Thorne focused on the actual time machine. He suggests that if
we create a wormhole, accelerate one end to nearly the speed of
light and bring it back, we would have a time machine. We could
enter the machine and travel to both past and future.
But a recent Better Humans article suggests
our frail bodies could not stand up to wormhole pressures.
Solution: upload our mind and travel as information; then
reassemble on arrival using nanotechnology.
By Dick Pelletier
We often think nostalgically of our past as the “good old days,” but projected scientific and technological breakthroughs suggest the greatest and most exciting times are actually yet to come. Today, breakthroughs rush at us with amazing speeds and the golden ages of biotech, 2010-2020, and nanotech, 2020-2035, promise huge advances in health, entertainment and wealth.
Revolutionary biologist Leroy Hood predicts that in the next decade, we will understand individual genetic predispositions for most sicknesses, and develop powerful tools for preventing them. “We’ll move from a mode of medicine that’s largely reactive to one that’s predictive and preventive,” he says.
Experts believe that by 2025, nanobots swarming through our bodies will stave off most sicknesses and zap viruses before we even start to sniffle. By 2030, all diseases, including aging, will be manageable. And as we gain greater health and energy, we will become more actively involved with entertainment technologies.
Microsoft’s Bill Gates says TVs and computers are finally converging into a single media. By 2015, nearly every movie, TV drama and sit-com ever produced will be available from the Internet to your home, and voice-activation will make selecting programs as simple as talking to your screen.
Games will become more entertaining too with expected speeds of over 10,000 GHz. But no matter how far technology advances, certain aspects of gaming will remain constant. Marksmanship, speed thrills, and strategies will improve, but plots and characters of today’s role players, along with elements that charm the heart will remain pretty much the same as today.
Unlike today’s games that stimulate only sight, hearing, and touch, 2015 games will add taste and smell, creating more realism. As TVs continue to advance, flat screens will morph into holographic displays with characters seeming to hop into the room.
By Dick Pelletier
At the First Conference on Advanced Nanotechnology held in Washington DC, researchers discussed the possibilities expected of this new wonder science, including glittering visions of abundance and long, healthy life spans.
Within 20 years, a small Star Trek-like replicator called a “nanofactory” could sit on your kitchen counter and let you order up any product you want – food, clothing, appliances, or whatever your dreams desire – at little or no cost.
Nanofactories work by collecting atoms from something as inexpensive as dirt or seawater, and using software downloaded from the Internet, directs those atoms to “grow” into the final product. A nanofactory can even “grow” another nanofactory.
This wild technology sounds like science fiction, but its not. Foresight Institute sociologist Bryan Bruns said nanotech will provide solutions for some 2.7 billion people now living on less than $2 per day, and eliminate poverty worldwide.
Bruns envisions a “2025 Whole Earth Catalog” which would offer economic water filtration systems that purify 100,000 gallons of water a day; inexpensive solar roofing panels that come in rolls like Saran Wrap; powerful inexpensive computers that fit inside eyeglass frames; and suitcase-size nanoclinics with a full range of diagnostics and treatments.
“Turn trash into treasure”, could become the slogan of the 2020s. Nanorefineries will break down unwanted consumer items, sewage sludge, and other waste materials, and re-build them into food, clothing, or household items.
Institute for Molecular Manufacturing’s Robert Freitas added, “not only will nanotech provide us with a lot of cool stuff and eliminate global poverty; it will also help us live a really long time”. Freitas predicted by 2015, nanoproducts will diagnose illnesses and destroy cancer cells – and by mid-2020s, tiny cell-repair mechanisms will roam through our bodies keeping us strong, youthful, and forever healthy.
By Dick Pelletier
You enter the supermarket, grab an electronic shopping cart that
recognizes you from your touch, and begin tossing items into
pre-opened bags. The monitor on your “smart cart” not only displays
each item, its price, and total amount spent; but also subtracts
items returned to the shelf. Hold an item in your hand briefly and
its description appears on the monitor.
When finished shopping, simply tap a “chipped” finger indicating
which credit or debit card to use, or tap thumb for cash pay, which
directs you to an automated cash machine – then out the door. On
exit, select a security option to deactivate or encrypt all product
chips, preventing evildoers from tracking you or your
Though this futuristic scenario may still be a few years away,
Chicago and Dallas area stores are experimenting with “Shop ‘n
Scan”, a wireless scanner shoppers use to ring up groceries as they
take them off the shelf. Eventually, Albertson’s wants to integrate
this with other services that could one day become the precursor to
a scenario like the one described above.
Milwaukee futurist David Zach envisions a bright future for
RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification). “Chipped”
tickets to local Miller Park sporting
events, for example, allows management to recognize customers. Move
to a more expensive seat during the game, and the system debits
your account for the higher priced seat. (cont.)
By Dick Pelletier
The immense popularity of Star Trek suggests that “to boldly go
where no man has gone before” could become humanity’s mandate for
Satellite Industry Association President Richard Dalbello sees
the space industry as the jewel of our economy. It drives
innovation, creates jobs, and positions us to begin mankind’s
greatest dream – to explore other worlds.
But many believe our progress is too slow. Past explorations
produced huge benefits much faster. 25 years after the Lewis &
Clark exploration, wagons rolled west to Oregon and clipper ships
landed pioneers in California. 25 years after the Wright Brothers,
citizens could fly around the country. By contrast, landing on the
moon – our “giant step for mankind” – has only produced 40 to 50+
years of earth orbits and a few unmanned flights.
Space enthusiasts say this slow progress shows we are
misdirected. They would like to see faster development of moon and
Mars settlements and strong incentives created for private
businesses to design and build space colonies and other facilities
Space flights are expensive today, but once travel to and from
orbit become cheap; profit-driven entrepreneurs will head for the
high frontier to build hotels, permanent housing, and entertainment
and sports facilities.
Exploring space will also push genetic research. Better Humans
author Simon Smith claims environments such as Mars extreme cold
temperatures and toxic atmosphere will require biological changes.
Sending humans into space without genetic modification would be