Original post: http://bearlamp.com.au/cutting-edge-technology/

When the microscope was invented, in a very short period of time we discovered the cell and the concept of microbiology.  That one invention allowed us to open up entire fields of biology and medicine.  Suddenly we could see the microbes!  We could see the activity that had been going on under our noses for so long.

when we started to improve our ability to refined pure materials we could finally make furnace bricks with specific composition.  Specific compositions could then be used to make bricks that were able to reach higher temperatures without breaking.  Higher temperatures meant better refining of materials.  Better refining meant higher quality bricks, and so on until we now have some very pure technological processes around making materials.  But it's something we didn't have before the prior technology on the skill tree.  

Before we had refrigeration and food packaging, it was difficult to get your fresh food to survive to your home.  Now with production lines it's very simple.  For all his decadence Caesar probably would have had trouble ordering a cheeseburger for $2 and having it ready in under 5 minutes.  We've come a long way since Caesar.  We've built a lot of things that help us stand on the shoulders of those who came before us.

Technology enables further progress.  That seems obvious.  But did that seem obvious before looking down the microscope?  Could we have predicted what bricks we could have made with purely refined materials?  Could Caesar have envisioned every citizen in his kingdom watching TV for relatively little cost to those people?  It would have been hard to forsee these things back then.

With the idea that technology is enabling future growth in mind - I bring the question, "What technology is currently under-utilised?"  Would you be able to spot it when it happens?  Touch screen revolutionised phone technology.  Bitcoin - we are still watching but it's here to stay.  

"What technology is currently under-utilised?"

For example "AI has the power to change everything. (it's almost too big to talk about)".  But that's a big thing.  It's like saying "the internet has the power to change everything" great but could you have predicted google, facebook and uber from a couple of connected computers?  I am hoping for some more specific ideas about which specific technology will change life in what way.

Here are some ideas in ROT13 (chrome addon d3coder):

  • Pbzchgre hfr jvyy punatr jura jr ohvyq gur arkg guvat gb ercynpr "xrlobneqf"
  • Genafcbeg grpuabybtl jvyy punatr vs onggrel be "raretl fgbentr" grpuabybtl vzcebirf.
  • Nhgbzngvba jvyy punatr cebqhpgvba naq qryvirel bs tbbqf naq freivprf. Naq riraghnyyl oevat nobhg cbfg-fpnepvgl rpbabzvpf
  • Vs IE penpxf orggre pbybhe naq fbhaq grpuabybtl (guvax, abg whfg PZLX ohg nyy gur bgure pbybhef abg ba gur YRQ fcrpgehz), jr zvtug whfg frr IE rkcybqr.
  • Znpuvar yrneavat naq fgngvfgvpf unir gur cbjre gb punatr zrqvpvar
  • PEVFCE naq trar rqvgvat jvyy punatr sbbq cebqhpgvba
  • Dhnaghz pbzchgvat jvyy punatr trar rqvgvat ol pnyphyngvat guvatf yvxr cebgrva sbyqvat va fvtavsvpnagyl yrff gvzr.
  • Dhnaghz pbzchgvat (juvyr vg'f fgvyy abg pbafhzre tenqr) jvyy nyfb punatr frphevgl.
  • V jbhyq unir fnvq 3Q cevagvat jbhyq punatr ybpxfzvguvat ohg abj V nz abg fb fher.
    3Q cevagvat unf birenyy qbar n cbbe wbo bs punatvat nalguvat.
  • vs gur pbafgehpgvba vaqhfgel pna nhgbzngr gung jvyy punatr gur jnl jr ohvyq ubhfvat.

As much as these don't all follow the rule of being consumer-grade developments that might revolutionise the world, I'd like to encourage others to aim for consumer viable ideas.  

This matters because this is how you see opportunity.  This is how you find value.  If you can take one thing on my list or your own list and make it happen sooner, you can probably pocket a pretty penny in the process.  So what's on your list?  Do you have two minutes to think about what's coming soon?

Cross posted to lesswrong: http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/pil/cuttingedge technology/

New Comment
7 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since:

One thing that might be big (although it would require lots of investment) is longer range wireless power transfer. The articles I've seen suggest that you can just leave a mobile phone in a room, it can be located and multiple antenna can set up constructive interference so that power is beamed to it from a long distance without frying everything else.

The big change this might allow is very light electric cars as they could be beamed electricity continuously from antennae set up along the roads and not need such big batteries for the same range.

If Elon Musk succeeds at building the BFR as he plans we will have in a decade the possibility to bring stuff for $10/kg to low earth orbit and maybe $50/kg to the moon.

That means a vacation on a space station might be priced for <$10,000.

Through changing the rotational speed of a space station it's possible to set the g force where you need it for chemical reactions. This means that there's a lot of science to be done to understand how changing g forces affect reaction. It also provides the potential that there are commercially viable reactions that we want to do up there in space stations.

This raises the question about what advantages the moon provides to us. Recent news suggests that our moon has places that are really cold: http://www.nbcnews.com/id/32902658/ns/technologyand science-space/t/coldest-place-solar-system-moon/

Cooling things down on earth is expensive. Most of the cost of cryonics is about cooling down the frozen bodies. It might be cost effective to transport anything we want to freeze for cryonics to the moon where there's no upkeep needed.

A huge part of the cost of MRI scanners lies in cooling them down. As a result there might be some experiments that can be done more cheaply on the moon given the much lower temperatures.

Moon/Asteroid mining might also be possible with the economics of the BFR.

The price drop of gene sequencing is amazing. Illumina annouced earlier this year the $100 genome. In addition to sequencing human DNA that means that you can sequence bacteria cheaply.

We will sequence which bacteria are in our guts, in our mouth and on our skin. We will sequence which bacteria's are in the food we eat and we will sequence the bacteria in the places where we live. We will do the science to know what bacteria populations are good for us.

We will want to intervene and change bacteria populations. There's a good chance we will do some genetic engineering on the bacteria around us. People who's DNA doesn't have the genes for lactase will have the choice to have lactase producing bacteria in their guts. Dental caries might become a thing of the past.

Knowing the s bacteria that you don't want in your body means that phage therapy becomes a lot more effective. There's the potential that it's no problem when our antibiotics stop working because targeted phage therapy is much better at actually killing the bacteria with less side-effects.

Tetlock found out that he can measure expert skill by letting people make predictions and calibrate them.

This principle can be used in many different fields to change incentives.

If you have a prison parol board you can let the people who sit on the board make predictions about recivism rates of the people they evaluate.

A law practice might get a lot better when you get all the lawyers in the practice to make prediction on the outcomes of various cases and integrate that into their workflow.

In medicine it allows for prediction-based medicine.

The fact that you can measure skill this way in a broad range of intellectual activities means that standard credentialing with university degrees will get less important.

Note on 3D printing: Yeah, that one might take a while. It's actually been around for decades, but still hasnt become cheap enough to make a big impact. I think it'll be one of those techs that takes 50+ years to go big.

Source: I used to work in the 3D printer industry.


I actually see the quality being the bigger problem than the price. You just can't get some materials properties that you can get out of other manufacturing methods unless you can layer on atoms to get perfect microstructures. Which is exorbitantly difficult.

Source: was a materials science student

I think there are three variables:

1) Price of the materials

2) Capability of the material

3) Complexity of designing new items

When a non-nerd friend of mine wanted to learn about the human bones of the skull while being in professional training she got them 3D printed. That's an application that's allowed through 3D printing being cheap enough and relevant 3D models of the bones being available. This use-case is not about creating the kind of objects we normally used beforehand but about creating new stuff.

With Microsoft shipping Paint 3D in Windows by default and Apple providing a 3D scanner with the iPhone X design of new objects gets easier and a broader amount of people will have access to it.

When VR gets better and people start to interact more with VR objects they likely want to print some of them.

With Voodoo Manufacturing print-on-demand is getting cheaper and giving that shipping costs will go down even more with self-driving vehicles this means that a single customer can go for $20 worth of 3D printed goods without having to buy his own 3D printer.

In a completely different field you businesses that produce a low number of parts like rocket companies who use more expensive 3D printers.