I’m old. Very very old. I’m so old I know people who won’t get a smartphone, and who aren’t even my grandmother. Mostly, they’re my colleagues! On the flip side, I work with lots of bright-eyed youngsters, who have never taken pen to paper to write a “check” when they wish to pay someone. They are also my colleagues.
I was recently in a NYC meeting with one of my younger colleagues, and we were bandying about lots of fascinating data terminology, since we are both data geeks. By the way, being a data geek knows no age boundaries. I’ll spare you the details.
At one point, we started talking about data and lots of futuristic scenarios … most of which are already here, such as CCTV, the ability of police to track you via your cell metadata, and the fact that LinkNYC kiosks have attained consciousness.
These are all very well and good, but I managed to amaze said colleague when I pointed out that there is a startup in Amsterdam that will print a shoe for your foot. When I say “your foot”, I mean yours. Every bump and dimple of your tootsies are scanned, the data goes to the 3D shoe printer, and then the appropriate footwear is created in a mere two hours. Your choice of color and style (at least in theory). When this technology expands to all clothing, and when it becomes cheap enough that someone you know personally has tried it out, it will change our world.
“Wow”, said young colleague, “I know they can print organs, but shoes? That’s amazing!”
There was a moment of silence as this sunk in. Since when is printing shoes more “Wow” than organs?
“I’m not ready for this,” said young colleague.
The truth is, no one over the age of 5 is ready for this. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Here are some things you’re not ready for, but that are coming anyway.
You’ve seen the mouse with an ear on its back. Did you think that was just for funsies? No indeed. Organ transplants are difficult, dangerous, expensive, and sometimes futile. People die waiting for them all the time, and people die afterwards because your body rejects them. This is because your body is too stupid to realize you’re trying to help it.
All that will change when we can scan and print a new heart, made from your own heart cells so your body is fine with it. We’re probably all fine with that scenario. But how about this one? Your children (or possibly grandchildren) start whinging and whining because they are the only kids on the block without a spare organ. I can hear it now. “MOM! Everyone else has 3 ears, why can’t I? Taylor has four eyes and his Mom is fine with it! She says it comes in handy when she can’t find the robotic flying cockroach! I only want a small ear printed on my forehead PLEEEEEEZEEEEEEE!”
Score: Fine for life-saving operations. Not ready for anything else.
Robotic Flying Cockroaches
Do you love flying cockroaches? Me neither. Wait til you see what special ops can do with these babies! Wire up their tiny little brains, plant a tiny camera on their little beetle-y heads, then waft them where you will. They run for hours. Very useful for humanitarian purposes, such as search and rescue operations after, say, an earthquake. And I’m sure they won’t be used for any other purpose!
Score: Most of me is not ready, but part of me would love to use one to freak out my kids.
Sorry, not a thing yet. I know clones have been in the popular imagination for many a year, but it’s just too expensive and there’s not enough real success yet. Instead, why not go for….
A simple transgenetic splice from a jellyfish can be easily transferred to the genes of your next cat. Result? Scamperina wafts a soft greenish glow as she jumps from litterbox to dining table. Perfect! This is not new, by the way – happened in 2011. That’s why I’m guessing it won’t be long before you’ll find these little babies for sale on Amazon. Don’t forget to check out the pink pineapples, coming soon to Whole Foods, and available to you on InstaCart.
Score: Big deal. I’ve BEEN ready. How about genetically engineering a cat that can use and flush a toilet?
AI project managers
We’re used to robots building washing machines and cars, though not so long ago that was mind-blowing stuff. But what about artificial intelligence planning our buildings? Our medical treatment? Or – gasp! an investment portfolio? Well, it’s all coming. Turns out, those Masters of the Universe from the old-school stock exchange can be replaced by an app.
Score: You’re definitely not ready if you’re a construction manager, a surgeon, or a day trader. Everyone else? Get in line.
In the 1990s, the science magazines all had one thing in common. They were printed on paper. Also, they had weekly articles about this strange new phenomenon called “global warming”. The business magazines, also printed on paper at the time, had no articles about climate change, or if they did it was along the lines of “sounds crazy! Can’t be true.”
Then, in the oh-ohs, the business magazines started having weekly articles about a strange new phenomenon called “global warming”. The science magazines were running weekly articles about “how bad will it get? How can we reduce carbon emissions? Can we adapt in time and mitigate the damage?”
Now we’re here. The business magazines are running, you guessed it, weekly articles about “how bad will it get? How can we reduce carbon emissions? Can we adapt in time and mitigate the damage?” So what are the science magazines writing about? Geo Engineering.
Geoengineering, also called “hacking the planet” involves plans to avert disaster via big, planet-wide projects such as giant space umbrellas, adding MORE pollution to the atmosphere, causing massive blooms of algae in the ocean , or sprinkling sand over miles of ice in Alaska.
Score: Don’t buy real estate in Florida any time this millennium.