Futuristic inventions and emerging technologies that will change the world

What do the inventions of the future look like?

  • Self-sustaining space colonies and unlimited fusion energy would bring humanity to a new point in our evolution.
  • Flying cars and robot butlers could be the next paradigm shift in our tech appetite for change.
  • Death and consensus reality might soon become obsolete.

The future holds unparalleled visions of progress and intrigue for the curious. It is within this phantom time that's yet come to past where we manifest our hopes, dreams and even worst fears. One certainty that seems to us like an inevitability, is the continual forward march of technological progress. Young people of today know only of a time of unprecedented exponential technological growth.

While we've had our fair share of inventive breakthroughs in the past that have changed the world, the dazzling and world shaking inventions of the future will change the world in even stranger and greater ways.

There's no telling what the futuristic inventions of the world hold, but we can start by taking a few wild and speculative guesses.

Personal robot assistants 

Our robot butlers have been a collective dream for nearly the past century. Years before any actual valid science in the realm of robotics or machine learning even existed, the cartoonish and fictionalized representation of the robot butler was stained into cultural memory.

Whether it was the cartoon Jetsons or Asimov's breakthrough science fiction, we've always had a special place in our hearts for these anthropomorphic household serfs. While industrial robots have been on the scene for decades, the world of commercial personal robots has been a disappointing affair of either vaporware or highly specialized products released like the robot vacuum.

Smart devices like Amazon's Alexa and Apple's Siri are steps in the right direction and revolutionary tech in their own right. But the invention and proliferation of an all purpose general AI robot assistant as ubiquitous as the smartphone is where the real future is at.

Fully immersive virtual reality 

Plug in, boot up and never come out.

The invention of a fully immersive virtual reality is eschaton for technological geeks and futurist freaks. A type of technology like "full-dive VR" would be unprecedented. Capable of simulating reality to a perfect fidelity, the chasm between real and unreal would begin to lack meaning for most people. The cultural and philosophical quandaries raised by this type of technology hasn't even begun to be explored yet.

For adherents of this technology would be able to create the most intense simulations that could keep the mind busy for eternity. Why go out for a night on the town in consensus reality when you could be swimming the Saturnine waters in Godlike bliss.

Cryonics 

The age old foe that's haunted life forever. Death and our eventual defeat of it has been immortalized in our first poetic epics and the thwarting of it is now seriously being considered by many of our leading minds.

One of the weird ways we've thought about overcoming death is by literally freezing ourselves. Cryonics is the "science" of freezing a human corpse with the hopes that we could one day revive the person. Most of the scientific establishment considers this pure quackery. But this hasn't deterred some of its fiercest proponents. Not to mention, when it comes to death there's really nothing to lose in trying our hand as a last ditch effort.

President of the largest cryonics organization in the world, Dennis Kowalski, once put it this way: "There's no guarantee you'll be able to be brought back, but there is a guarantee that if you get buried or cremated, you'll never find out."

This so-called quackery could be a game changer for the thousands already frozen if methods become available to revive the dead. Yale scientists just recently were able to restore brain function to pigs after they'd been declared dead for hours.

Exo-skeletons 

Exoskeletons are by no means new technology. Research and development for military purposes have been exploring and creating the technology since the 1960s .

Their potential for changing the lives of millions in the near future is a very likely possibility. Some experts believe that they'll be used more in everyday tasks for industrial companies, where workers require extra strength in jobs that can't be automated yet by robots. Other types of exoskeletons will be able to help senior citizens walk around and have less need for physical assistance or other low-tech walking solutions.

Reporters at The Verge have already checked out a motorized medical exoskeleton by SuitX which has allowed a paralyzed man to walk while wearing the suit.

Flying Cars 

We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters. – Peter Thiel

Where the hell is our flying car? Often the refrain of many critics lambasting the out of touch futurist predictions we've heard for years. But that may change. Maybe… Without getting too far ahead of ourselves, a number of companies such as Uber, have announced their intention to create an air taxi fleet.

This has jump started a new era of innovation and actual work being done to create flying cars. In actuality, these current prototypes often resemble oversized quadcopter drones.

Flying cars, whether they be roaring drones or speculative fiction Blade-runner hover cars have the possibility to really shake up the landscape and infrastructure of our world. The advent of automobiles has turned half the world into a paved parking lot. The possibility of reversing this urban sprawl and car created detritus could be a huge boon to civilization and the future of transit.

Current hackneyed ideas like putting 20th century roller coaster wheels on cars through single lane tunnels… isn't going to cut it.

Holography

Augmented reality and other sorts of overlay vision technologies seem to have outshined the old dream of a three-dimensional hologram. But the technology is still being worked on in certain corners of the tech world.

Future holographs won't require the addition of a special set of eyeglasses, which current VR and AR applications are limited to. The invention of a seamless 3D hologram could potentially allow for the uninterrupted perception of talking to someone thousands of miles away, and make it seem like they were right there in your living room.

Artificial gravity 

One current problem facing any potential long-term space trip is the fact that we can't generate an environment with artificial gravity. The ability to do this would allow us to bypass many of the pitfalls of living in a zero gravity environment for long stretches of time.

Theoretically it would be possible to generate artificial gravity through centrifugal force. We would need large scale rotating spacecraft, like the one seen in 2001: Space Odyssey. Many fictional space opera shows bypass this problem by conceptualizing some gravity generator device.

Space habitats

In the 1970s, NASA funded a group of researchers to come up with a feasible design for space colonies. They had to do it within a budget constraint of $35 billion or less. These ideas are still with us today and still stir up our imaginations. Three concepts that came out of this study are referred to as: the Bernal sphere, Stanford torus, and O'Neill cylinder.

The colonies would reside in the Lagrangian point called L5. This seems like a safe place to put it as it's situated in a healthy balance between the earth, our moon and the sun. Each colony would be self-sufficient and have dedicated agricultural areas.

In the case of the O'Neill cylinder, it would be 5 miles wide and 20 miles long. With three strips of land interspersed with sealed windows, the colony would be able to generate its own gravity.

Space habitats like these would allow us to live beyond Earth and prepare us for more further out journeys into our solar system and beyond.

Fusion power 

The burning of fossil fuels and even new and novel ways of generating power through renewable energy could one day be a thing of the past. To go beyond collecting solar energy and instead generate power through our own fusion reactor would dramatically shift the way we power our civilization.

Since the 1950s, research has gone into the development of fusion. If it were created we'd have an unlimited source of energy. Scientists have figured that just one kilogram of deuterium extracted from water, could per day create enough electricity to power nearly a million homes.

It's going to be a challenge, but some recent advancements have made the promise of unlimited energy look like a future reality.

3D printing might save your life one day. It's transforming medicine and health care.

What can 3D printing do for medicine? The "sky is the limit," says Northwell Health researcher Dr. Todd Goldstein.

Northwell Health
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Medical professionals are currently using 3D printers to create prosthetics and patient-specific organ models that doctors can use to prepare for surgery.
  • Eventually, scientists hope to print patient-specific organs that can be transplanted safely into the human body.
  • Northwell Health, New York State's largest health care provider, is pioneering 3D printing in medicine in three key ways.
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Maps show how CNN lost America to Fox News

Is this proof of a dramatic shift?

Strange Maps
  • Map details dramatic shift from CNN to Fox News over 10-year period
  • Does it show the triumph of "fake news" — or, rather, its defeat?
  • A closer look at the map's legend allows for more complex analyses

Dramatic and misleading

Image: Reddit / SICResearch

The situation today: CNN pushed back to the edges of the country.

Over the course of no more than a decade, America has radically switched favorites when it comes to cable news networks. As this sequence of maps showing TMAs (Television Market Areas) suggests, CNN is out, Fox News is in.

The maps are certainly dramatic, but also a bit misleading. They nevertheless provide some insight into the state of journalism and the public's attitudes toward the press in the US.

Let's zoom in:

  • It's 2008, on the eve of the Obama Era. CNN (blue) dominates the cable news landscape across America. Fox News (red) is an upstart (°1996) with a few regional bastions in the South.
  • By 2010, Fox News has broken out of its southern heartland, colonizing markets in the Midwest and the Northwest — and even northern Maine and southern Alaska.
  • Two years later, Fox News has lost those two outliers, but has filled up in the middle: it now boasts two large, contiguous blocks in the southeast and northwest, almost touching.
  • In 2014, Fox News seems past its prime. The northwestern block has shrunk, the southeastern one has fragmented.
  • Energised by Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, Fox News is back with a vengeance. Not only have Maine and Alaska gone from entirely blue to entirely red, so has most of the rest of the U.S. Fox News has plugged the Nebraska Gap: it's no longer possible to walk from coast to coast across CNN territory.
  • By 2018, the fortunes from a decade earlier have almost reversed. Fox News rules the roost. CNN clings on to the Pacific Coast, New Mexico, Minnesota and parts of the Northeast — plus a smattering of metropolitan areas in the South and Midwest.

"Frightening map"

Image source: Reddit / SICResearch

This sequence of maps, showing America turning from blue to red, elicited strong reactions on the Reddit forum where it was published last week. For some, the takeover by Fox News illustrates the demise of all that's good and fair about news journalism. Among the comments?

  • "The end is near."
  • "The idiocracy grows."
  • "(It's) like a spreading disease."
  • "One of the more frightening maps I've seen."
For others, the maps are less about the rise of Fox News, and more about CNN's self-inflicted downward spiral:
  • "LOL that's what happens when you're fake news!"
  • "CNN went down the toilet on quality."
  • "A Minecraft YouTuber could beat CNN's numbers."
  • "CNN has become more like a high-school production of a news show."

Not a few find fault with both channels, even if not always to the same degree:

  • "That anybody considers either of those networks good news sources is troubling."
  • "Both leave you understanding less rather than more."
  • "This is what happens when you spout bullsh-- for two years straight. People find an alternative — even if it's just different bullsh--."
  • "CNN is sh-- but it's nowhere close to the outright bullsh-- and baseless propaganda Fox News spews."

"Old people learning to Google"

Image: Google Trends

CNN vs. Fox News search terms (200!-2018)

But what do the maps actually show? Created by SICResearch, they do show a huge evolution, but not of both cable news networks' audience size (i.e. Nielsen ratings). The dramatic shift is one in Google search trends. In other words, it shows how often people type in "CNN" or "Fox News" when surfing the web. And that does not necessarily reflect the relative popularity of both networks. As some commenters suggest:

  • "I can't remember the last time that I've searched for a news channel on Google. Is it really that difficult for people to type 'cnn.com'?"
  • "More than anything else, these maps show smart phone proliferation (among older people) more than anything else."
  • "This is a map of how old people and rural areas have learned to use Google in the last decade."
  • "This is basically a map of people who don't understand how the internet works, and it's no surprise that it leans conservative."

A visual image as strong as this map sequence looks designed to elicit a vehement response — and its lack of context offers viewers little new information to challenge their preconceptions. Like the news itself, cartography pretends to be objective, but always has an agenda of its own, even if just by the selection of its topics.

The trick is not to despair of maps (or news) but to get a good sense of the parameters that are in play. And, as is often the case (with both maps and news), what's left out is at least as significant as what's actually shown.

One important point: while Fox News is the sole major purveyor of news and opinion with a conservative/right-wing slant, CNN has more competition in the center/left part of the spectrum, notably from MSNBC.

Another: the average age of cable news viewers — whether they watch CNN or Fox News — is in the mid-60s. As a result of a shift in generational habits, TV viewing is down across the board. Younger people are more comfortable with a "cafeteria" approach to their news menu, selecting alternative and online sources for their information.

It should also be noted, however, that Fox News, according to Harvard's Nieman Lab, dominates Facebook when it comes to engagement among news outlets.

CNN, Fox and MSNBC

Image: Google Trends

CNN vs. Fox (without the 'News'; may include searches for actual foxes). See MSNBC (in yellow) for comparison

For the record, here are the Nielsen ratings for average daily viewer total for the three main cable news networks, for 2018 (compared to 2017):

  • Fox News: 1,425,000 (-5%)
  • MSNBC: 994,000 (+12%)
  • CNN: 706,000 (-9%)

And according to this recent overview, the top 50 of the most popular websites in the U.S. includes cnn.com in 28th place, and foxnews.com in... 27th place.

The top 5, in descending order, consists of google.com, youtube.com, facebook.com, amazon.com and yahoo.com — the latter being the highest-placed website in the News and Media category.
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