The world is changing fast. Technology is advancing at a pace unimaginable 50 years ago.
Cars are becoming driverless: Uber this week announced they will deploy 100 self-driving Volvos in Pittsburgh this month.
Deliveries are becoming person-less: This week we learned about a firm called Workhorse beating Amazon to the punch for drone package deliveries.
Our idea of “reality” itself is evolving and and changing: alternate versions like virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality are finally getting traction after decades of trial and error. See more below.
This week, five reads on five fascinating technologies that will radically change our lives from Wired, BBC, Washington Post, TechCrunch and Nautilus.
Read widely. Read wisely.
1. THE WORLD’S MOST SECRETIVE STARTUP
The gist: This article is an exclusive sneak peek into Magic Leap, the secretive South Florida technology company that has raised $1.4 billion to create what many are hailing as a world-altering “mixed reality” experience that combines virtual reality with the real world. Kevin Kelly says, “These artificial-reality winners will become the largest companies in history, dwarfing the largest companies today by any measure.” Kelly, the savant founding editor of Wired magazine is someone worth paying attention to when he says something like that.
This is FASCINATING.
“The Untold Story of Magic Leap, the World’s Most Secretive Startup”
by Kevin Kelly in Wired
(46 minute read)
If you don’t have time to read the article, check out this quick video.
Not as impressive in 2D but you get the idea that this is pretty cool.
2. GIVING SIGHT TO THE BLIND
The gist: A blind woman received a 3x3mm retinal implant that has given her sight. She can now read a clock and see her children for the first time in 8 years. The technology is early stage and imperfect — but wow, this is almost miracle stuff here.
“Retina Implant AG’s tiny chip contains 1,600 electrodes — equivalent to less than one percent of one megapixel — which capture light as it enters the eye and activate the nerve cells of the inner retina. These then send electrical signals to the brain through the optic nerve. A small computer is placed underneath the skin behind the ear, with an exterior magnetic coil sitting outside the skin to power the computer.” from Alison Berman
Bionic eye changing woman’s life after losing sight
in BBC (3 minute video)
3. A COMPUTER CHIP BRAIN IMPLANT
The gist: A new startup, Kernel, is developing an implantable computer chip that helps people with concussions, alzheimer’s and stroke-related neuro damage. That’s right: a computer chip functioning in your noggin. Long-term they hope the implant could also boost memory and general intelligence. Freaky. And cool. Alzheimer’s affects 1 in 9 adults over age 65 so if this works, it would be huge.
“Putting a computer in your brain is no longer science fiction”
by Elizabeth Dwoskin in The Washington Post
(8 minute read)
4. HUMAN GENE EDITING EXPERIMENT APPROVED
The gist: CRISPR is a new, unbelievably advanced system for editing DNA that have many in the science community saying this is the technology that will make gene editing a reality. But there are a lot of ethical issues to consider.
Now scientists at Penn have received approval from a federal bioethics panel to conduct the U.S.’s first human study using the technology. Their goal is to try to create T cells that attack three types of cancer. They still need FDA approval, but this is big.
If you don’t know what CRISPR is, it is one of 5 technologies I think you must learn about to think wisely about the future. I did an edition on CRISPR last year and just posted it on my Medium blog. Got a lot of response for that one so check it out.
“A federal safety board just OK’d the first CRISPR trial to genetically alter humans”
by Sarah Burr in TechCrunch
(2 minute read)
5. HOW WOODPECKERS WILL SAVE FOOTBALL
The gist: Long-term brain damage is is proving to be a disastrous consequence of America’s favorite sport. What if the lowly woodpecker could hold the secret to preventing brain injury?
“If someone could figure out how woodpeckers do it — they slam their beaks into trees thousands of times per day, generating forces far beyond what most people experience in car wrecks…” then maybe we could design a similar protective capacity for linebackers.
One clue is that the woodpecker’s tongue wraps underneath and around the back of it’s skull. It can use its omoyoid muscle to squeeze the veins and restrict the flow of blood from the head. “This was, Smith thought, the woodpecker’s secret. It likely clinched its jugular vein with its long omohyoid muscle, protecting against brain slosh by filling its brain with blood.”
So how can you swell the brains of football players to protect them on the field? A doctor named David Smith thinks he’s found a way and has a new product that might save the game of football.
How Woodpeckers Will Save Football
by Moises Velaszuez-Manoff in Nautilus
(11 minute read)
I feel like an old man.
One morning this week I was stepping into our shower, but I slipped and fell. Hard. I took it on the chin, literally, falling through the shower curtain and knocking against the corner of our sink. Nothing broke but I had to get a few stitches because, as my doctor said, “It is a gaping wound.” Yuck.
And then I have the shame of telling people who ask that it happened because I slipped in the shower = Old man injury.
I don’t think I got a concussion, but if I did maybe I will eventually be able to insert a chip from Kernel to sort me out.
The future is going to be an amazing place. And the future isn’t that far in the future.Magic Leap, CRISPR, and bionic eyes are here today. Brain swelling to prevent concussions and implantable chips may be here soon.
Things are moving fast and they keep moving faster than we expect. I remember last year reading that driverless cars were 15 years away. But just this week Ford announcedthat within 5 years they will produce a fleet of autonomous cars with no steering wheel, gas pedal or brake pedal. Business Insider thinks the future is boring because cars will no longer be a symbol of freedom.
On the other hand, for old-man accident-prone guys like me, maybe having a boring self-driving car ain’t a bad idea.
The Weekend Reader is a guide exploring culture, technology, and the meaningful life in the modern world. 5 handpicked, personally recommended articles your inbox every weekend.