“I would like to die on Mars. Just not on impact.”–Elon Musk
Surprisingly, there is no new Elon Musk news this week. In an even bigger surprise, Mars was in the news, but without Elon Musk–at least not by name.
The United Arab Emirates unveiled a 100-year goal to colonize Mars with 600,000 people. The public announcement of the Mars 2017 Projectcame at a World Government meeting held in Dubai and was made in a speech by sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, in which he emphasized his nations long-term commitment to space exploration.
In plans that are much nearer in time and space, the Russian space agency Energia announced plans to send tourists to the moon by 2022. They say they will sell nine places on its Soyuz space capsule, as soon as this spring, for flights as soon as 2022. The craft that will loop around the moon before heading to the International Space Station. This represents an aggressive upgrade from its previous plan, originally projected to be launched in the early 2030’s. No indication of price or selection process for tourists was given. Start saving your Aeroflot frequent flyer miles now.
SpaceX (okay, that is an Elon Musk story, at least indirectly) announced a new target date of 2020 for landing a robotic probe on Mars. This represents a setback from the original target of 2018.
Market Research Future released a study projecting that the global bioprinting market, estimated to have been worth $570 million in 2015, will grow at a compound annual rate of 25-27% through 2022. At present, they estimate that North America holds a 40% share of this market.
The private sector is not the only place where workers are being replaced by AI and machines. The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the U.S. military is in the process of developing and deploying automation to streamline its support operations and even reduce personnel on the front lines. Some of the concepts include driverless combat vehicles and robotic frogmen.
Structural engineers may soon be able to determine if London Bridge is falling down–without actually visiting it.
World Architecture News reported that a joint project of Microsoft and the University of Cambridge aims to enable structural engineers to inspect bridges using the Hololens virtual reality headset, rather than traveling in person to the sites. This would be accomplished by creating a combining composite of photos taken locally by non-experts, allowing expert engineers to zoom in and out and take a virtual walk-around of a structure. The idea is to save the time and cost of travel.
Future news travels here, if a week behind (eat your heart out, John Oliver). And we won’t report on hexagonal pizzas. I promise.
Without further ado, then, here is this past week’s future-related news.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark office issued a ruling in favor of the Broad Institute, a joint venture of Harvard and M.I.T., in its patent dispute with the University of California, Berkeley over the rights to CRISPR/Cas 9 gene editing. The ruling upheld patents granted to Broad in 2014, and effectively stated that they were different enough from those applied for by Berkeley to stand. Shares of Editas Medicine which has an exclusive CRISPR license from Broad were up 20% after the ruling. Both sides indicated expectations that the I.P. battle has probably just begun.
Since CRISPR/Cas9 and other new and powerful gene editing techniques have the potential to exact great change in the human genome–and with it the entire future of human experience, it would probably be a good idea to engage a public discussion on how and when to proceed, and with what applications. That’s just what a group of U.S. scientists suggest. In a far reaching report issued jointly by The National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine, they suggest heritable human germ cell tests be limited primarily to the treatment of intractable genetic diseases, at least until more public discussion can be generated.
Dr. George Church of Harvard University, who was mentioned in the first Seeking Delphi podcast on radical longevity extension, predicted that age reversal in humans will be achieved in 10 years. This vs. the 50% probability within 25 years forecast by David Wood in The Abolition of Aging. I hope I’m around long enough to see at least one of them be right. If you missed the podcast, the YouTube version is embedded at the bottom of this post.
Elon Musk–(yes, he’s reached the point of being his own category–just a few of the relevant stories below)
Bill Gates doesn’t warrant his own category these days, but he did say something bold. He suggested that if robots take your job, they should be taxed. While acknowledging that such a measure could hinder innovation to some degree, he also realizes that massive job losses need to be offset. One way he suggests is to use the tax proceeds to to fund training for jobs that humans will still do. Hmmm. Like robot maintenance?
If you see something during the coming week that ought to be here next time, please let me know. The next Seeking Delphi Podcast, scheduled for midweek release, will feature futurist and financial manager Jim Lee talking about Technology Investing for the Future.
David Wood on The Abolition of Aging, in the premiere episode of the Seeking Delphi, podcast.