By Dick Pelletier
A new higher-speed Internet2, now under development in labs
around the world, will one day offer holographic images
indiscernible from reality, providing an array of applications that
we can only dream of today.
With digital video resolution four times finer than today’s
HDTV, and haptic technologies that
provide a realistic sense of touch, researchers can create
holograph images of people filmed thousands of miles away enabling
lifelike virtual interaction indiscernible from reality. The system
uses cameras that capture live images of people from two or more
places, merges the data, and feeds it back to all locations.
We could organize a meeting with friends or relatives from
cities scattered around the world without anyone actually
traveling. People will kiss, hug and reminisce as if they were in
the same room. And our senses will convince us that they are there.
We could even meet with a simulation of a favorite celebrity.
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.)
Time Travel could become reality sooner than you
By Dick Pelletier
At a UCLA workshop attended by yours
truly and an assortment of future-thinkers, the late physicist Dr.
Robert Forward told the group that further understanding of general
relativity and quantum mechanics would one day enable humans to travel backwards and forwards
through time. “Given the money and the mandate,” Forward said, “a
time machine will be built.”
This workshop convened in 1983, and today, 24 years later,
scientists are bringing this bold concept closer to reality.
Professor Amos Ori at Technion-Israel Institute of Technology
recently created a theoretical model of a time machine based on
Einstein’s theory of relativity, which would allow people to travel
back in time.
Ori’s theory, published in the prestigious science journal
Physical Review, describes how a future time machine could be built
by forming “closed time-like curves” in a donut-shaped area of
space-time. A person traveling around this donut loop would go
further back in time with each lap.
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
A glance at what life may be like ten millennia from now, by
Of course, nobody can predict exactly how the future will unfold
in 10,000 years, but by tracking technology advances expected in
the coming centuries, we see changes that will transform humanity
into super-intelligent beings focused on developing space,
exploring universes, and traveling through time.
Imagine if you could peek in on the dinosaurs’ first-hand, enjoy
an exotic vacation thousands of light years from Earth, or jump
into a parallel universe where another you is living a far more
exciting life than yours – and you could stay there if you
For years, scientists around the world have bandied about the
revolutionary idea that future humans could zip across the universe
using wormholes as high-speed portals enabling faster-than-light
travel to explore space, enter other universes, and witness the
past and future.
Wormholes enable travel between its two openings. One end of the
wormhole stays home while the other is carted away at sub-light
velocities to the destination, connecting the two locations through
a tunnel in warped space-time. A person enters the wormhole, and
depending on the connection, exits to a remote destination in
space, another time in the past or future, or into a parallel
Consensus among most scientists has been that wormholes are so
destructive; people would be torn to subatomic bits if they tried
such a thing. However, a new paper by University of Utah physicist
Lior Burko now raises the possibility that wormholes may not
annihilate all matter, and the potential for hyperspace travel
could one day be realized. (cont.)
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
Many forward-thinkers see a bright future ahead as we begin our
21st century trek. The following timeline takes a positive look at
how the future could unfold:
2010-2019 – The biotech revolution picks up steam;
cloning tissues and organs are routine healthcare procedures now
and are covered by most insurance companies. Cancer, diabetes; most
heart diseases now treatable; patient records include complete
personal genomes available at around $100. Humanoid robots form 10%
of world population. “Big-Brother” surveillance prevents
2020-2029 – Medical ‘nanobots’ maintain health 24/7, all
diseases now treatable. Star Trek-like replicators provide food,
clothing, and other essentials at little cost. Driverless
‘air-cars’ whisk us about. The space elevator slashed launch fees
enabling cheap vacations at orbiting hotels. A third-world nation
revealed capacity to wield nano-weapons, which prompted the U.S.,
EU, and China to join forces and create a world-wide defense
against the threat.
2030-2049 – Visionaries saw it coming: “machines would
one day out-think humans”. This revolution encouraged the merger of
minds and bodies with non-biological creations built with
‘immortal’ parts and powered by supercomputer intelligence. Living
in these new ‘indestructible’ bodies that can shape-shift into
different forms on command and never suffer an unwanted death has
given everyone an exhilarating sense of comfort, security, and
By Dick Pelletier
When was the last time you saw fast-food restaurant employees
actually key prices into the register? Today, clerks behind the
counter press buttons with pictures of cups, burgers, or bags of
fries. They never need to read or remember cost of items.
Futurist William Crossman, author of Vivo [Voice-In/Voice-Out]:
The Coming Age of Talking Computers, believes that tomorrow’s
mobile and virtual reality devices, using visual displays like
those in fast-food restaurants, will render reading, writing, and
text obsolete in the not-to-distant future.
Crossman explains why this transformation will take place.
“Before Homo sapiens ever existed, ancient proto-humans accessed
information by speaking, listening, smelling, tasting, and
touching. They relied on memory to store information they heard.
Speaking and listening was civilization’s preferred method of
communication for millions of years.
Then about 10,000 years ago an explosion of information emerged
with the onset of the agricultural revolution and memory overload
quickly followed. Human memories were no longer efficient and
reliable enough to store and share the huge volume of new ideas. To
overcome this problem, our forbearers developed a remarkable
technology that has lasted for thousands of years – written
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
From assembling cells one-by-one into artificial tissues to
creating micro-robots that swim through arteries and digestive
systems, the magic of nanotech has finally arrived. A major theme
of today’s nano-science focuses on strengthening human biology. In
fact, of the eight technology advances listed below, seven involve
systems that improve health:
1. Nanochips arrange cells to create artificial tissues. Harvard
professor Robert Westervelt’s nanochips can move cells around to
form new artificial tissues, which could be used to test efficacy
of various drugs. This system could be in use by 2010.
2. Nanowires simulate artificial synapses. Harvard researcher
Charles Lieber and his team linked silicon nanowires with axons and
dendrites of live mammalian neurons, creating artificial synapses
between the two. This technology paves the way for powerful neural
prosthetics, and opens the door for hybrid nanoelectronic and
biological information processing. Animal trials are already
3. Neural data cable connects brains with computers. University
of Pennsylvania researcher Doug Smith created a cable made from
stretched nerve cells that can connect machines to the human
nervous system, which could enable thought control over appliances
by as early as 2012.
4. Nanoparticles destroy tumors. Burnham Institute’s Dr. Erkki
Ruoslahti, in a joint effort with UC Santa Barbara, fashioned
nanoparticles that seek out and kill cancer cells by cutting off
their oxygen and nutrient supply. These nano-wonders can also
deliver drugs to a specific area without affecting healthy cells.
Human trials expected soon.
5. Micro-robots swim like bacterium through arteries. James
Friend, Senior Lecturer at Australia’s Monash University and his
team believe that by 2009 they can produce micro-robots that can
swim through human arteries and digestive systems. These ‘bots will
transmit images and deliver microscopic payloads to parts of the
body that are beyond the reach of existing technologies.