New hydrogel that mimics cartilage could make knee repairs easier

The knees are always the first to go.


A new cartilage-like hydrogel material could make the job of repairing knees much easier, say scientists, as it’s 3D printable and can be made as an exact fit for each individual knee.

The new research focuses on the two crucial shock absorbers inside the knee, known as the menisci, and replacing these parts of our bodies needs both the right material properties and the right shape.

 That’s a challenge the scientists from Duke University have taken up, showing that a suitable hydrogel meniscus can be produced by a 3D printer costing US$300 in just a day.

If that feat can be replicated on a larger scale, we’re looking at simple and inexpensive knee repairs for what are usually complex and problematic injuries.

“We’ve made it very easy now for anyone to print something that is pretty close in its mechanical properties to cartilage, in a relatively simple and inexpensive process,” says one of the researchers, Benjamin Wiley.

Each of our knees has two ear-shaped menisci, sitting between the thigh and shin bones, and cushioning every step we take. If these supports get damaged, walking becomes painful and the risk of arthritis increases.

When we reach adulthood, these menisci can’t really heal themselves, and broken ones often have to be replaced by surgeons. The trouble is, today’s implants aren’t as strong or elastic as the real thing, or do nothing to aid healing around the knee.

What’s more, the meniscus is made up of two complementary layers – a stiff middle and a soft outer layer – which complicates attempts to develop something that can be 3D printed from just a single material.

 To get around this, scientists combined both a strong hydrogel and a stretchable hydrogel together to try and get a material as close to cartilage as possible. They also added a nanoparticle clay to make the substance runny under stress but quick to harden.

“The two networks are woven into each other,” explains another of the team, Feichen Yang. “And that makes the whole material extremely strong.”

Scientists are warming up to the idea of using hydrogels like these as cartilage replacements, because they share certain properties: take a close look at either, and you’ll see a web of long string-like molecules with water molecules wedged in between.

Plus, as we know from other research, the beauty of 3D printing in medical health is that replacement body parts can be made to order, just the right size and shape for a patient, and that’s particularly important here.

“Shape is a huge deal for the meniscus,” says Wiley. “This thing is under a lot of pressure, and if it doesn’t fit you perfectly it could potentially slide out, or be debilitating or painful.”

PrintingCube 0

3D printing process. 

Through computer tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, doctors can work out how implants need to be designed and then feed that information into a 3D printer, as long as we have artificial materials that can do as good a job as natural ones.

The researchers admit it’s early days for this “young field” of research, but the menisci demo shows the potential of hydrogels to simplify knee repairs.

We now know it’s possible to develop hydrogels with similar properties to cartilage that can also be manipulated with a budget 3D printer. With future study, printable materials even closer to human tissue could be developed.

“I hope that demonstrating the ease with which this can be done will help get a lot of other people interested in making more realistic printable hydrogels,” says Wiley.

10 Human Body Modifications You Can Expect in the next Decade

Article Image

Christina Aguilera as a bionic woman

Elon Musk has called it: you’re already a cyborg. Your smartphone enhances your mind, your spectacles enhance your vision, and your pacemaker (if you have one) regulates your heartbeat. Our environment is increasingly wired, sensor-filled, and digitally connected—and so are we! This trend will only continue.

All over the world biohackers, scientists, entrepreneurs and corporations are eagerly pursuing new and marketable applications for advanced technologies. Many of them are being actively designed to help humans fulfill our age-old transcendent longings—to be stronger, smarter, better-looking and more resilient, and to cultivate new abilities that seem like superpowers by the standards of the past.

Here are 10 emerging devices and technologies that could soon enhance you in body and mind.

  1. RFID Chips

RFID chip on human hand

Microchips are not new, but the practice of routinely implanting them in humans is. Already, biohackers are enthusiastically getting chipped, many of them undergoing the DIY surgery in tattoo parlors. With small radio frequency identification (RFID) chips implanted in their hands or wrists these citizen cyborgs can already eliminate many tedious rituals from their daily lives, like carrying a wallet or keys.

The chip can be used to make tap-and-go payments and can be programmed to open a home or office door electronically. No more carrying keys down to the beach when going for a swim, and no more jogging with them jangling in your pocket. One Australian biohacker, Meow-Ludo Meow Meow also thinks that chip implants could replace public transport cards.

But that’s just the basics. Chipping could soon be used on a national scale for identification and security. Hacking and identity theft will certainly be a concern, but on the plus side there’ll be no more anxiety about losing your passport when you travel! Transhumanist candidate for Governor of California Zoltan Istvan has a chip in his wrist to open his front door. The chips can also be used in the workplace. One Swedish office complex Epicenter has already made chipping a voluntary identification option for tenants and their employees. The Belgian digital marketing firm NewFusion also began offering implants to staff in 2017.

With electronic medical records becoming more pervasive, personal medical data could also be stored on implanted RFID chips. If you arrive in the emergency room and need a blood transfusion you can immediately be scanned for your blood type. Allergic to certain medications? The ER doctors will know this too, as well as who has medical power of attorney, whether or not you’re an organ donor, and what your end of life wishes are (e.g. if you have a DNR-“do not resuscitate” order).

  1. Exoskeletons

Man wearing Hyundai exoskeleton and lifting door

Hyundai’s “Iron Man” robotic exoskeleton in action. Image credit: Hyundai/Business Insider

The Terminator was “a cybernetic organism. Living tissue over a metal endoskeleton.” But that was in 1984 and the concept was fictional. Jump ahead to the 2020s and you could be a different kind of cyborg—one that wears a metal exoskeleton over your biological meat sack.

Why would you? If you’re in the military, particularly in combat, an exoskeleton can dramatically enhance your strength and endurance and allow you to carry more supplies when moving on foot.

Military exoskeleton infographic

If you’re just a regular human then carrying supplies is probably not a big concern. But back pain likely is. Sure, an exoskeleton may not help an office worker much, but it could be a big help to factory workers and manual laborers. In the near future, before the impending robot job-apocalypse, exoskeletons could help laborers to use the correct muscles when lifting and allow them to lift more weight safely.

More profoundly, if you suffer from spinal cord injuries an exoskeleton could help you to walk again. Elderly people with mobility issues could also benefit from the technology.

Steven Sanchez walking with exoskeleton

Paralyzed from the waist down, Steven Sanchez walks with the aid of an exoskeleton.

The transhumanist politician Zoltan Istvan also thinks that exoskeletons could soon transform sport and other forms of recreation by helping us to reach new physical peaks and compete at a different level. He even thinks we’ll use them in the bedroom, though it’s contentious whether humans will really want to ‘suit up’ as a preamble to getting down and dirty.

  1. Real-time Language Translation

English to Italian Google translation

Real time language translation applications have been around for a few years though they’ve had their share of quirks and imperfections. However, recent advances in machine learning have done a lot to improve machine translation of late—so much so that we are now on the cusp of achieving seamless translation in real time. In late 2016 The New York Times reported that Google’s translation “A.I. system had demonstrated overnight improvements roughly equal to the total gains the old one had accrued over its entire lifetime.”

With artificial intelligence facilitating a whole new level of precision in this field, a wave of companies are racing to bring even better products to the market, including Microsoft and Google. The US startup Waverly Labs has crowdsourced over $4 million and has pre-sold 22,000 prototype earbuds that will translate in real time while canceling ambient noise. At $299 a pair, you have to wonder whether human translators will be able to earn much of a living from here on out.

  1. Augmented Vision

Bionic eye

Bionic eyes are a thing! They are currently used to treat hereditary and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and rely on a camera mounted on glasses feeding inputs to electrodes attached to the retina. This technique is a remarkable, though still imperfect, means of reversing a form of blindness.

Another kind of intraocular bionic lens is being developed by the Ocumetics Technology Corp and is currently being tested in clinical trials. The aim of the product is to restore “clear vision at all distances, without glasses or contact lenses” regardless of the age of the patient. Ideally, “three times better than 20/20 vision” could be achieved and laser eye surgery could eventually be rendered obsolete.

Perfect vision and no glasses would be a massive improvement for many. But why stop there? Theoretical physicist Michio Kaku thinks we should aim for superhuman vision and maintains that we are already well on our way.

Telescopic contact lenses have already been developed, which can enable the user to zoom in and out with a wink. The technology was developed by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and could soon be marketed to sufferers of AMD. But as the technology improves and gets cheaper it could eventually become the norm to have telescopic vision, as well as other add-ons like night vision.

  1. Smart Contact Lenses

Samsung smart contact lens patented design

Patent diagrams for Samsung’s smart contact lenses. 

But wait, the eye stuff gets even cooler! Both Sony and Samsung have patented smart contact lens technology that can record video by blinking. The augmented reality company Magic Leap is also working on a smart contact lens, in tandem with its much anticipated new augmented reality headset. Both products will be able to overlay computer generated images onto the real world.

But augmented reality tech isn’t just for fun. Another application of smart contact lenses being developed at the X lab (formerly Google X) is the capability to detect blood glucose levels in tears and alert diabetics when their blood sugar is too low.

How could this change your life in the next decade? Leading transhumanists and tech gurus Peter Diamandis and Kevin Kelly think that in the near future these kinds of innovations will hail the end of PCs, smartphones and screens-as-we-know-them. Soon you could walk around with the equivalent of your smartphone inside you, while the screen could be both everywhere and nowhere. Classic miniaturization and dematerialization in action!

  1. 3D Printed Body Parts


3D printed human ear

Lab-grown bladders and functional vaginas have already been successfully implanted in patients. But even more exciting is the promise of 3D printing and implanting vital organs like hearts, lungs and kidneys.

Professor Martin Birchall, a surgeon at University College London, believes that this will come and that important stepping stones will arrive very soon. He told the BBC in 2016:

“I think it will be less than a decade before surgeons like me are trialling customized printed organs and tissues. I can’t wait!”

The Economist is even more optimistic, predicting that the first implantable livers and kidneys could be 3D printed as early as 2023.

  1. Smarter Drugs

Pill bottle

Let’s be honest, humans love drugs. Some age-old faves include alcohol, caffeine and sugar. But when it comes to both medicinal treatment and recreational or performance-enhancing drugs (think Prozac for depression and anxiety, or caffeine and amphetamines for alertness and concentration) today’s drugs are pretty darn primitive. Why? Because they’re a one-size-fits-all solution that can’t be well tailored to the individual. Benefits are also very hard to decouple from side effects.

The good news is that soon we could have a new generation of better, smarter drugs. Already, artificial intelligence and cheap genomic sequencing are accelerating the drug discovery process and facilitating an increase in effective personalized medicine. Unsurprisingly, pharmaceutical companiesgovernments and tech corporations are eagerly getting in on this medical big data game.

The Human Longevity Inc., which was run until early 2017 by the pioneering geneticist Craig Venter (of Human Genome Project fame) is on track to complete an ambitious plan to sequence 1 million human genomes by 2020. The company hopes to mine this enormous database of genetic, and phenotypic (lifestyle) data and rapidly accelerate the innovation of personalized drugs and treatment plans.

Personalized cancer treatments are already increasingly common and effective. Soon, as former US President Bill Clinton once said, we could “know the term cancer only as a constellation of stars.”

  1. Brain-computer Interfaces

Child controls robots using his mind

Humans can already control wheelchairsadvanced neuroprosthetic limbsand drones with their minds. Brain-computer interfaces (BCI) have also been used to communicate with patients suffering from the rare affliction of locked-in syndrome. Soon we could be using technology like this all the time, not just to correct for disabilities, but to enhance communication and sensory connection. Perhaps we could even connect telepathically?

Mark Zuckerberg certainly thinks so. He famously proclaimed in 2015 that in the future (though more than a decade away):

“You’re going to just be able to capture a thought, what you’re thinking or feeling in kind of its ideal and perfect form in your head, and be able to share that with the world in a format where they can get that.”

Zuckerberg is not the only tech kingpin thinking about this stuff. In 2016 Elon Musk famously spruiked the idea of a “neural lace,” effectively an advanced BCI in which biological brains seamlessly mesh with non-biological computing. Rumblings on Twitter and hints from Musk himself suggest he is actually planning to work on his own lace design.

The leaders of Stanford University’s NeuroTechnology Initiative also believe that in years to come “brain­-machine interfaces will transform medicine, technology and society” and that “future devices will likely not only restore, but also augment, human capacities.”

  1. Designer Babies

Foetus in artificial womb

In 2016 the first 3-parent baby was born. The nucleus from one of the mother’s eggs was transplanted into a donor egg with the nucleus removed. The donor egg was then fertilized with the father’s sperm, a process undertaken to avoid a fatal condition called Leigh syndrome, which is carried in the mother’s mitochondrial DNA.

With gene editing becoming a more precise science, thanks to new techniques like CRISPR-Cas9, it will not be long before they are utilized en masse to prevent most heritable diseases. Why would you roll the genetic dice when you could actively intervene to ensure that your child will be healthy? Especially if you’ve had your genome sequenced and know you are a carrier of deleterious genes, like the BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations, which strongly predispose those with the mutations to breast and ovarian cancer.

Pre-natal screening already affects the proportion of certain genetic traits in the population—a high percentage (most recently estimated at 67%) of fetuses identified as having Down syndrome are aborted. While statistics like this have sparked widespread ethical debates, they also indicate that humans tend to be willing to make use of technologies that give them more choice over their reproductive outcomes. IVF is another obvious example.

The ultimate potential of gene-editing technology is profound and could be species changing. It’s uncertain how far we’ll progress (or indeed allow the technology to progress) in the next few years. But you’ll definitely see movement in this space over the next decade.

  1. Enhanced Sexual Organs

Kim Kardashian with champagne


Almost 300,000 Americans underwent breast augmentation surgery in 2016, a 4% increase on the previous year and a 37% increase since 2000. But it’s not just boobs, almost all cosmetic procedures are on the rise. Clearly Americans have embraced this mode of human enhancement with gusto.

But who wouldn’t want to achieve the same goals without sticking bags of silicon inside their body? There might just be a better way.

Transgender transhumanist Valkyrie Ice McGill predicted in 2014 that by 2024 a total functional gender transformation will be possible. The same technology that could enable a complete gender reassignment could also allow patients to achieve breast, buttock, and penis enlargements with more natural results. She stated:

“A decade from now, a plastic surgeon is likely to use body modeling software developed by MMOs and VR to enable you to decide precisely how you want to look, and then supervise the da Vinci autosurgeon as it uses your own body fat and skin cells to produce a stock of programmable stem cells, and then performs hundreds or even thousands of minimally invasive microsurgeries to place those programmed cells throughout your body, where they will become extra muscle mass, larger breasts, repair damaged internal organs, etc., allowing your future self the option of “resculpting” your personal appearance.”

Holy crap! A bigger butt grown from your own stem cells. Kinda cool, if a little predictable. But then we idealize curvy women and muscular men because it’s been an historical ideal with a strong biological impetus. Our tastes don’t spring from nowhere.

Yet when it comes to sex, humanity as a species has big aspirations and vivid imaginations. There will always be those who want to create completely new ideals of beauty and sexuality and who hope to transcend the limits and values of the present day.

The transhumanist George Dvorsky is one such human. He has playfully outlined out a speculative ideal for “the penis of the future.” Notably, it’s not the same old thing but bigger. Among other traits, Dvorsky hopes that a future penis could be bacteria resistant and WiFi enabled. Another eager biohacker and transhumanist Rich Lee has a different vision. He thinks vibrating penis implants will be the way of the future.

Some other fascinating predictions can be found in the 2016 Future of Sex report. The authors believe that dating in virtual reality will be common by 2022, and that by 2027 we’ll have brain interfaces that allow us to literally turn on our partners via their most powerful sexual organ: their mind.

Future of Sex report infographic

While the fullest realization of many of these technologies will likely be felt over several decades, it is realistic to imagine we will see these kinds of innovations improving fast and becoming more widely tested and adopted in the decade to come. Sure, you might not have a vibrating penis in 10 years time, but you will certainly have met someone with a chip implant by 2027 and there’s a very good chance you’ll have one yourself. The same goes for much of the rest. Very exciting stuff!

Sonoluminescence Is Light Made From Sound

How hard can you punch? Chances are it’s nothing compared to the mantis shrimp: its tiny claws strike so fast that the shock wave can actually produce light. This phenomenon is called sonoluminescence, and here’s how it works: if an ultrasonic sound wave—that is, one with a frequency far above that of human hearing—hits water, it pushes the water faster than it can react, forcing its pressure to drop suddenly. That leaves behind an area of low pressure in the form of tiny gas bubbles. The process of creating that gas bubble is called cavitation. At this point, it gets really strange: because these cavitation bubbles have much lower pressure than a regular bubble, they immediately collapse, rapidly increasing the pressure inside the bubble. That collapse makes the bubble hotter than the surface of the sun and produces a tiny flash of light. That’s sonoluminescence. It’s not just the mantis shrimp that makes this happen; things like firing a gun underwater and applying an ultrasonic field can also bring about this effect. Scientists don’t yet fully understand why it occurs, but they have a few theories. Explore them in the video below.

What Is Sonoluminescence?

Hear the theories on why it happens.

Volvo will launch its first all-electric car in 2019 to take on Tesla – here’s everything we know.

Volvo is looking to China for the future of its electric cars.

The carmaker said Wednesday that it plans to produce its first fully electric car in China and will export it around the world.

The Swedish automaker, which is owned by the Chinese company Geely, is making a big bet on electric vehicles.

In 2015, Volvo launched its XC90, which was its first vehicle with a hybrid powertrain. And in April 2016, the company vowed that it would sell one million electrified cars by 2025.

Volvo’s first fully electric car is slated to go into production in 2019. Here’s everything we know about the car so far.

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Mark Zuckerberg wants to eliminate all screens from your life with special glasses.

If Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has his way, you’ll never have to buy a gadget with a screen again.

Instead, you’ll be using a pair of augmented reality (AR) glasses or even contacts in the future in order to place digital content on top of any surface.

facebook glasses

At a keynote speech at Facebook’s annual F8 developers conference Tuesday, Zuckerberg said that while the company is kicking off its AR efforts with the smartphone camera and screen, the ultimate goal is to just have one gadget that rules them all.

“We all know where we want this to get eventually,” Zuckerberg said during the keynote. “We all want glasses or eventually contact lenses that look and feel normal but let us overlay all kinds of information and digital objects on top of the real world.”

To be clear, Zuckerberg didn’t come out and say Facebook is building a glasses or contacts right away since the technology is so far off. Facebook isn’t the only company exploring AR glasses either. Apple, Google, Microsoft, Snap and the startup Magic Leap are all focused on developing similar types of products.

But the all have the same goal: to eliminate screens from your life and give you that one gadget to trump the rest.


Scientists Create the Highest Quality Hologram Device Ever Made

  • A researchers from Australian National University were able to develop a hologram device that gives the highest quality images to date.
  • According to the study, the compact device is made up of millions of tiny silicon pillars, which are up to 500 times thinner than human hair.


Holograms are a staple of almost every science fiction movie or TV show out there – from Star Wars to Star Trek. Now, thanks to researchers from the Australian National University (ANU), we may be a step closer to achieving just that — and sending messages to Obi Wan Kenobi.

The ANU team was able to develop a hologram device that gives the highest quality images to date. “As a child, I learned about the concept of holographic imaging from the Star Wars movies. It’s really cool to be working on an invention that uses the principles of holography depicted in those movies,” said lead researcher Lei Want, from ANU’s Research School of Physics and Engineering. The team published their research in the journal Optica.

Wang’s device is able to create high-quality hologram images in infrared, using “transparent metaholograms based on silicon metasurfaces that allow high-resolution grayscale images to be encoded,” according to the study. The device is also quite small. It’s made up of millions of tiny silicon pillars, which are up to 500 times thinner than human hair.

 “This new material is transparent, which means it loses minimal energy from the light, and it also does complex manipulations with light,” said co-researcher Sergey Kruk. “Our ability to structure materials at the nanoscale allows the device to achieve new optical properties that go beyond the properties of natural materials. The holograms that we made demonstrate the strong potential of this technology to be used in a range of applications.”




The real-life applications of such a hologram device aren’t too far from the sci-fi counterparts. “While research in holography plays an important role in the development of futuristic displays and augmented reality devices, today we are working on many other applications such as ultra-thin and light-weight optical devices for cameras and satellites,” Wang said.

Furthermore, because of its size, this device is very portable. This significantly reduces the size and weight of the usually bulky components used in other imaging devices. This can cut the cost for space missions, for example, where heavier loads translate to higher rocket fuel consumption. Apart from these, holograms can also be used to aid medical research and develop treatments for various diseases.

Holography isn’t very different from what augmented or virtual reality (AR/VR) technology is enabling us to do. Essentially, this technology allows us to see and interact with our environment in a much deeper way, so to speak. This tech can even let us see something as if we were really there, in the moment, with added empathy. This could change the way we enjoy news, documentaries, or even live events from afar. Soon, we may be able to send messages that capture emotion or urgency much better than a phone call ever could.

Optical Computers Run At The Speed Of Light—Literally

Virtually every device you use—from the one you’re using to read this to the pocket calculator growing dust in the back of your desk—relies on the same basic technology: circuits containing many tiny transistors that communicate with each other using electrons. We’ve come a very long way since the room-sized computers of the 1950s, but as computing gets smaller, faster, and more complicated, we get closer to hitting a wall. There’s a physical limit to how powerful traditional computers can get. That’s why scientists are turning to completely new forms of technology for future computers.

The first in our three-part series explored how some computers use artificial neurons to “think.” Discover another way scientists are rethinking computing in the second part of the series below.

Computing At The Speed Of Light

 Neurons are only one way to make computers more like brains. Another way is by changing the medium they use to communicate. Conventional computers exchange information in the form of electrons, while the human brain uses a complex mix of chemical signals. Some research suggests, however, that the brain also relies on light particles known as photons. What if computers did too?

Optical computing is designed to do just that. Photons can move information much more quickly than electrons can—they literally travel at the speed of light. We’re already using photons to send data at breakneck speeds via fiber-optic cables; the problem is that the data has to be converted back into electrons once it arrives at its destination. If you could replace a computer’s wires with optical waveguides, it might be able to do all the same things it could before at a much greater speed.

Photons Aren’t A Fix-All

 There are a few problems, though. For one thing, light waves are just too big for what we need them to do. According to ExtremeTech, “In general, the smallest useful wavelength of light for computing has been in the infrared range, around 1000 nm in size, while improvements in silicon transistors have seen them reach and even pass the 10 nm threshold.” There are a few tricks scientists can use to get around this problem, but they add unnecessary complications to something that needs near-flawless speed and precision.

Still, the principles of optical computing are useful in certain circumstances. Li-Fi uses light instead of radiowaves to broadcast wireless internet 100 times faster than Wi-Fi, for instance. Technologies such as Optalsys have also found novel ways to get around light’s limitations. In the future, your laptop may not run on photons, but optical computing will surely have a place.

Watch And Learn: Our Favorite Content About Optical Computing

Researchers Create A Light-Based Microprocessor

It’s up to 50 times faster than electron-based microprocessors.

A Matrioshka Brain Is A Computer The Size Of A Solar System

Imagine a computer the size of a solar system. For power, it would use a Dyson sphere—a solar array that completely surrounds the host star to collect almost all of its energy. That energy-collecting sphere would double as an ultra-powerful computer processor. Once the sphere had collected all the energy it needed, it would pass the excess to another larger Dyson-sphere processor that completely surrounded the first, repeating the process until all of the energy was being used. That’s why this theoretical computer is called a Matrioshka brain: the nested Dyson spheres would resemble matryoshka dolls, or Russian nesting dolls.

Of course, if you surround your star with Dyson spheres, it would be difficult for life on your planet to continue. That’s kind of the point: this Matrioshka brain would be so powerful that a species could upload their entire consciousness into it and live within an alternate universe simulated by the computer. The species itself could die and its planet could be destroyed, but the civilization would live on in a digital world identical to the one it left behind. In fact, many people, including Elon Musk, believe we’re living in a simulation like that at this very moment. This provides one answer to the Fermi Paradox—that is, the question of why we haven’t encountered aliens despite the likelihood that they’re out there. It’s possible that any civilization advanced enough to find us has already decided to abandon reality entirely and upload themselves to a Matrioshka brain. Delve deeper into megastructures and theoretical tech with the videos below.

 How To Turn The Solar System Into A Computer

What’s a Matrioshka brain, and how would it work?

Watch the video. URL:

What Is A Dyson Sphere?

Find out whether this theoretical megastructure is even possible.

Watch the video. URL:

  1. In the future, we’ll build larger and larger solar arrays until we enclose the entire sun in a cloud of solar satellites. This “cloud” is known as a Dyson sphere.00:25
  2. In 1960, physicist Freeman Dyson theorized that if future civilization could enclose our star in a rigid shell, we could generate 384 yottawatts (384 x 10^24 watts) of energy.01:00
  3. There are many problems with the concept.

The Computers Of The Future Will Think Like Brains

Virtually every device you use—from the one you’re using to read this to the pocket calculator growing dust in the back of your desk—relies on the same basic technology: circuits containing many tiny transistors that communicate with each other using electrons. We’ve come a very long way since the room-sized computers of the 1950s, but as computing gets smaller, faster, and more complicated, we get closer to hitting a wall. There’s a physical limit to how powerful traditional computers can get. That’s why scientists are turning to completely new forms of technology for future computers.

The first in our three-part series on the future of computing involves one form you’re familiar with—it’s sitting right inside your skull.

If It Works Like A Brain And Thinks Like A Brain

 These days, we’re not satisfied letting our computers simply run programs and crunch numbers. For tasks like recognizing faces, identifying speech patterns, and reading handwriting, we need artificial intelligence: computers that can think. That’s why scientists figured out a way to build computers that work like brains, using neurons—artificial ones, anyway.

The big difference between an artificial neural network, as it’s called, and a conventional, or algorithmic, computer is the approach it uses to solve problems. An algorithmic computer solves problems based on an ordered set of instructions. The problem is, you have to know what the instructions are first so you can tell the computer what to do. The benefit to this approach is that the results are predictable, but there are definite drawbacks. An algorithmic computer can only do things one step at a time—even though with many components working simultaneously, that can happen surprisingly fast—and you can’t ask it a question you don’t know how to solve.

That’s where neural networks come in. They process information kind of like a brain: a large number of interconnected “neurons” all work at the same time to solve a problem. Instead of following a set of instructions, they do things by following examples. That means that a neural network literally learns how to solve problems based on limited information. Of course, when you don’t know how to solve a problem, you also don’t know what the solution will be. Like your brain, neural networks sometimes arrive at the wrong solutions. That’s the one drawback to neural computing: it’s unpredictable.

Perfect Harmony

 This isn’t to say that artificial neural networks are better than conventional computers. Each system has its own applications. Need some equations solved? Algorithmic computer to the rescue. Need to quickly and accurately detect lung cancer? Neural networks can do that. They can even work together: algorithmic computers are often used to “supervise” neural networks.

Watch And Learn: Our Favorite Content About Neural Networks

Computers That Think Like Humans

Inside A Neural Network

Get deep into the nitty gritty of how a neural network operates.

Computers Might Never Be Able To Solve These Three Problems

In computer science, an undecidable problem is one that requires a yes or no answer, but is impossible for any known computer to reliably solve. Three of these problems are the halting problem, Kolmogorov complexity, and the Wang tile problem. The halting problem refers to whether a computer can determine if a program will ever finish running, whereas Kolmogorov complexity deals with compression, and the impossibility of perfectly compressing any given file. Wang tiles are square tiles with a color on each side. Infinitely placing them next to each other so that the colors of each side match the colors on the adjacent squares is called “tiling the plane,” and there is currently no computer that can predict whether a given set of Wang tiles will tile the plane. Dive deeper into these computer conundrums in the video below.

3 Problems Computers Will Never Solve

Computers can’t do everything. Here are three problems that they’ll never conquer.

  1. The halting problems states that no computer can always determine if a program will continue to run or eventually stop.00:32
  2. Thus far, no program can perfectly compress any given file due to Kolmogorov complexity.01:23
  3. There can be no method that can take any given set of Wang tiles and tell you whether or not it will tile the plane.02:05

The Philosophy Of Artificial Intelligence

Computers may not be able to solve some problems, but they are on the cusp of having lifelike AI. Explore the ethics of this new frontier.