“The future is already here – it's just not evenly distributed." - William Gibson, 2003
As I walked into WHSmiths and bought the 2023 copy last week, I realised I had been reading the magazine 'Wired', and its special edition 'The Wired world in 2022' but hadn't fully absorbed it, so I resolved to re-read, digest and summarise my favourite articles for you, dear read.
The publication is broken down into 10 sections, ranging through technology, health, business, politics, environment, culture, gear, security, transport and science. It takes the format of one page articles written by many experts in their field including some of my personal favourites, Mariana Mazzucato, Vanessa Nakate and Bill Gates.
Here are my top X take aways:
IMPORTANT: The below are to be read as notes (mostly for me), rather than fully formed ideas and constructs.
- Human and computer intelligence converge - Much has been made of recent AI developments. This field is growing at an increasing pace. Wu Dao - The largest neural network in the world, based at the Beijing Academy of AI is ten (10x) times larger than the much heralded GPT-3 in terms of parameters and can perform tasks such as image recognition, image generation, write poems and formulate essays on complex subjects.
- Quantum computing is entering a shift phase - The first type of quantum computers were called NIST - near-term intermediate scale quantum.
These are being out performed by error-correct quantum (ECQ) computers, which are dramatically more capable. It turns out NIST appears to only qualify in a silo of specific problems.
- Molecular simulation will become a reality - Linked to the improvements in the Quantum computing field, previously scientists could only simulate interactions between molecules with two electrons, now in 2022 they can do it with eight., this opens the door to more interesting molecules like Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide. Practicially, and in the long term, it means scientists can model extending the life of batteries, or making solar panels more efficient. Crucially, being able to model CO2 more accurately, it means we can model the effects of global warming more accurately. Similarly, simulating ethylene means new polymers are closer, simulating nitrogen makes farming processes easier to improve, simulating silicon means microprocessors can be modelled to eke out performance gains that benefit all.
- Batteries will get greener - Battery use is increasing, an estimated 400Gwh more in 2022. There is a shift away from, cobalt, which is an important part of the electric vehicle battery but human rights abuses in the Democratic Republic of Congo make it a poor choice. More work is being done to improve the second life of batteries as well as their disposal.
- Brain organoids will develop 'consciousness' - A brain organoid is an artificually grown mass of cells and tissues that resemble an organ. Tests suggest they are developing activity patterns indicative of consciousness in humans. Defining consiousness, however is hard, and scientists are unsure how to define it. There are ethical implications, what if an organiod is suffering?
- People will take control of their health care - The NHS in the UK are trailing a blood test (Galleri test) which looks for abnormal DNA in blood and can detect more than 50 types of cancel at a relatively early stage.
- IVF will transform - Shockingly, the number of sperm per millimetre of semen has decreased 50% in 40 years. IVF has a 25% success rate and costs up to £50,000. Start-ups are begining to tackle this challenge.