Good lordy, look at the time! As we count down the last days of 2017, we look back on the underdog tech stories that flew under the radar this last year. Some of these just deserve a second look, others we suspect will make a bigger impact in the future than anyone thought at the time.
It’s where we get to put on our wizard hat, gaze into our crystal ball, and slip in a prophecy or two about technology so we can come back later and point out we said it first. We get redeemable brownie points for that, right?
As your humble author keeps pointing out, bioscience is still on track to revolutionize the 21st century to the same degree that computer science did the 20th. For just one example, Gizmodo’s list of tech predictions that came true in 2017 gives us a triple chill. All on one page, we have artificial wombs so we can incubate those Jurassic Park dinosaurs when we get around to it, some “rogue biohackers” who are injecting CRISPR-edited DNA and scoffing at the law, and the FDA making rulings on gene editing. It’s raising the question of just who owns our genes anyway? Just listen to this biohacker rant at a recent Festival of Genomics:
After that Tyler-Durdenesque introduction, the Philip K. Dick novel just writes itself: Biohackers, a punk band of underground genetic outlaws who mutate themselves in defiance of the dystopian government hunting them down! For a $140, you – yes you! – can order your very own CRISPR gene editing home kit and fiddle with your DNA to your heart’s content. Give yourself superpowers! Be the first to discover a Methuselah gene that will extend your lifespan to a millennium! Oh, the XMen comic origins stories just write themselves here. This is one of those jumping-off points that could land human history just about anywhere.
Old hat, you say? Yes, but given how recent concern over fake news is tainting our love affair with Facebook, perhaps it’s time we stepped back and reexamined how we get our news. Remember the “Web 2.0“ goodness that was POPURLs? The developer of the now-defunct newsreader-in-a-page has announced the spiritual successor to that project. That’s Hvper, and it’s the most important bookmark you can collect going into 2018. The author jokes “read news like it’s 2006,” but what if, just this once, we invented the perfect way to do something and no further improvement is possible?
In one link, we have the closest you can get to a god’s eye view of every news source that matters in the English language and a few trivial sources thrown in for balance. You can customize the feeds, but its best left alone. This is the one place where it’s good to just take it all in fast, even those sources you don’t normally follow. It’s a place to step out of your “reality tunnel,” as the late Robert Anton Wilson so sagely put it, and find out the whole story with up-to-the-minute sources. If you’re at all interested in news, it will become the first page you check every morning.
Another long-running story made new again, Augmented Reality got a big boost last year with Pokemon Go. While that fad has died off, not much has come along to take its place yet. But that doesn’t mean it’s completely off the radar. IKEA (hey, did we see you at the IKEA Hackathon?) has produced an app that lets you preview furniture in your home before you buy. And then there’s the mysterious Magic Leap company which has been the subject of buzz lately, and finally has announced the Magic Leap mixed reality headset.
OK, that skeptical C|Net coverage makes it sound like vaporware, but nevertheless its coming to a time when augmented reality glasses will have to become consumer-feasible one year or another. When they do, expect to make plenty of panic stops while driving to avoid running over people staggering into the road while lost in their own fantasy world.
Virtual Private Networks (VPN)
Sigh… So let’s talk about the United States, and the latest ZOMG crashing disaster panic doomsday story of unhappiness and bad boogie vibes. The US, which has been determined to be a Debbie Downer this year, is having a massive seizure over “Net Neutrality.” New law about it passed a couple years ago, now repealed by FCC chairman Ajit Pai, currently the Most Hated Man On The Internet. It’s not a done deal yet, there’s lawsuits and counter-lawsuits and new laws, it will never be done with, it’s going to drag out for one hundred million years. OK, now that everybody is concerned about web freedom, can we talk about this?
VPNs, Virtual Private Networks, are due for a big revival. We need to make them cheaper, faster, more convenient, and basically an automatic option on every device that connects. There, your government can’t spy on you, your ISP can’t censor you, the NSA can’t chase you around with black helicopters, and all the bad demons on the web go away. Then we can all join a peer-to-peer community Internet. And for governments that push for banning VPNs instead, that will force the issue up front in one single case. Which will be over with once and for all.
Hey, remember 3D Printing? That technology that came out a few years ago which everybody was super-excited about? What happened to it? Well, the price tag is prohibitive to most home users, it’s really just a fancy name for “home plastics modeling,” and most people don’t seem to have a crushing need to print out objects. Just think, if you were a hardcore 3D printing geek, you could be having a blast like this guy:
They’re at least coming down from under the $1000 range. What use do home owners have for this? Tabletop gamers could clean up on custom figurines, for one thing. That sounds like a frivolous use, but ask your nearest D&D playgroup, miniatures get expensive. Home inventors and tinkerers can zap off custom parts for projects, but that goes without saying. Hey, you can print off a 3D printed car if you want. And then sell them to your friends. What does it take for this market to take off?
And In Conclusion…
For our last official post of 2017, what’s a good note to end the year on? Hmmmm, well, there’s a new Star Wars movie out. Which also means there’s a new “Bed Lip Reading” video out for the Star Wars universe. However, we’re going to go with last year’s entry in the series, because it’s a rockin’ Yoda-fest that will be stuck in your head until New Year’s Eve.
Well, isn’t that just ducky? See you all in 2018!