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The Life in 2025 Issue

29.03.2012

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Guest
Editor

Mother’s very own Natasha Hoban


It’s a bit of a future-gazing issue this week. With an ageing population, economic uncertainty and the need for a more sustainable future, we explore what life in 2025 could very well be like. Expect space travel on earth, bio-synthetic healing, augmented learning and more. See you in 2025.


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Travel: City Pods and Space Travel on Earth

Today, half of the world’s population lives in a city. And this is only going to continue growing, reaching 70% by 2050, according to experts. This increasing swell is causing many headaches for urban planners and designers, the biggest of which is the transport infrastructure in and around our mega cities. The number one question: How will we get around in an efficient and sustainable fashion?


In place of cars in congested London, we may well turn to something like the zero-emission EN-V. Its inventors,General Motors and their partners The Shanghai Automotive Industry,


hope it will be mass-produced by 2021. Controlled by acoustic distance sensors,car-to-car data and GPS, the EN-V demands nothing more of its driver than knowing where you’d like to go.

So in the future, anyone, young or old, with or without a license, would be able to just hop in and go.The fleet of tiny EN-V pods is set to be battery-powered and would navigate our cities using sensors and wireless technologies to cruise at speeds up to 40km/hr. Each networked car would run on a navigation platform developed by G.M. and Segway called P.U.M.A.
 
Is it likely to be a reality for a city like London? Well the biggest challenge is overcoming infrastructure. But if we can build a tube network, put Boris bikes on the road and launch a car sharing scheme in Britain, why couldn’t we be all cruising around in EN-Vs?
 
Getting in and out of our cities could be a lot more efficient too. Forget visits to dreary Heathrow or being herded like cattle onto yet another packed train; ‘Trans-Oceanic Tubes’ will make getting in and out of cities super fast.

Called The Evacuated Tube Transport (ET3), this new system is advertised as “space travel on earth” and promises to be cheaper,faster and greener than both rail and air travel.


ET3 promises to be so unbelievably fast that passengers could travel between New York and China in just 2 hours.Six person capsules would zoom at over 4,000 mph through a series of vacuum-sealed tubes running both below and above ground, with the capsules being electrically propelled between destinations.


A viable option? Or just fantasy? Well. Trend site PSFK report ‘that the original patent for the ET3 was awarded in 1999 to Daryl Oster’ and ‘he’s since been refining the idea with transportation engineer PhD Dr. Zhang Yaoping.’  They also report that dozens of licenses have been bought in five different countries, including China, who have bought the most. So who knows?
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Health: Bio-Synthetic Healing
 

The global population is ageing rapidly. Earlier this week, the Office of National Statistics said that 35% of children born in the UK in 2012 would live beyond 100 years old.
 
Such an achievement is down to medical advancement and our understanding of the human body. But it will definitely squeeze our healthcare system, so what advances should we expect in the future?

Well, the answer lies in ‘Bio-Synthetic Healing’ as synthetic materials are set to work with natural tissue to repair damage.
 
The biggest advancement will come in the use of 3D printing technology,allowing the medical profession to print body parts quickly and efficiently, at low cost. But this is already happening. In June last year, a 3D printed jaw

 
reconstruction was given to an 86-year-old woman in the Netherlands. Designed using CAD software,a specialist rapid metal manufacturer called Layerwise printed the metallic jaw using a precision layering technique. The implant was then given a bio-ceramic coating to aid cell growth and augment the natural relationship between bone and tissue. The whole printing process was done in a couple of hours, as apposed to reconstructive surgery that normally takes weeks. And the patient was able to speak normally just hours after the procedure.
 
So what about printing tissue and organs? Well, Layerwise think that’s plausible too in the not-so-distant future. If doctors and scientists can find suitable organic matter to print with, the 3D printer is seen as the perfect solution for printing the complex shapes that make up the bodies’ organs.
 
Another bio-synthetic advancement could replace the humble ‘plaster’. New Scientist recently reported of a new substance called ‘Universal Body Glue’ that protect the cells from the external environment and aid quicker repair of slow healing wounds.


 Like magic, the chemical compounds of the substance work together with the exposed cells by sticking them together. Which sounds great, but what if we could avoid cuts and tissue damage in the first place? This is where bulletproof skin comes in. Yes really! A new futuristic reinforced tissue made from human skin cells weaved with ‘spiders silk’ designed by the artist Jalila Essaïdi. As SFTW reported a few weeks back, spiders silk is mighty strong. Indeed, New Scientist reports it’s four times stronger than Kevlar, the material used in bulletproof vests. And while they’re still in development phase, the current test tissue can already resist a bullet travelling at half the normal velocity of a speeding bullet. Watch it in action here.
 
3D printing to replace organ donation and create new limbs; bulletproof skin – all very ‘Sci-Fi’ - but actually, also very plausible healthcare options in the next 20 years.
 

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Work: Robot Colleagues and the Un-Printer

 
The feeling of working more, earning less and spending less time with our family; something we’re all already familiar with. We already know that more flexible working is a viable solution. Indeed, a recent survey found that 70% of companies offering flexible working had improved workplace relationships as a consequence.
 
But what tools will aid flexible working in the future? Well, how about a robotic you that means you can attend work from home?
 
This is the thinking behind a new 10kg robot called Jazz Connect. Developed by a Paris-based robotics company called Gostai, Jazz Connect houses your face on its face-height screen and is controlled by you remotely. Sort of a robotic ‘skype on wheels’.

 
The aim is that Jazz Connect will give you a quasi-physical presence at work or in a meeting without you actually needing to be there, thus making working from home or internationally suddenly becomes much easier. "Jazz's main purpose is for companies to reduce travel expenses," explains Gostai's vice-president Julien Seret in Wired Magazine. "Our customers have multiple sites and require teams from across the company to work on them."At £7,500 a pop we’re not sure whether robot colleagues will be replacing conference calls and videos calls anytime soon, but they’re a fun concept nonetheless.
 
Aside from getting a work-life balance, the other major challenge in the workplace is set to be sustainability.
 
While the promise of paperless working environment has been talked about for a long time, unless your company is willing to buy everyone an iPad, paper and printers show no sign of leaving the office quite yet. So we were delighted to see plans for a new printer which would un-print existing type and image from paper, so you can start afresh.

 


Developed by scientists at the University of Cambridge, the un-printer’s lasers will remove ink from paper by vaporizing the toner. In essence, like the paper recycling we already know, but 80% better. The new technique would help cut carbon emissions and would mean we’d require less paper in the long run.
 
After un-printing the paper looks as good as new, with each sheet capable of being un-printed three times. Even if we can’t banish paper from the office, looks like there’s going to be little excuse for not recycling in this way.
 

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Home: An Intelligent Place to Live
 

The home of the future is undoubtedly going to be an exciting place to live. While gesture- and voice-controlled environments are already upon us; the real smart home of the future wouldn’t need any commands at all. Instead, your home would know everything about you and everyone living there and react accordingly.
 
Take ‘Nest’, a new energy-smart thermostat. It continually learns about a homeowner’s daily routine. Knowing when they get up in the morning and when they arrive home from work in the evening, it understands and adapts to their routine and controls the central heating and water accordingly.  


The result is a more efficient home, which can even be tracked via a special Nest iPhone app.
 
But temperature control is just the beginning. A more sophisticated ‘smart home’ platform is the eNeighbor, a system currently being trialed in the US. Here, sensors are embedded throughout the home in the floor, the fridge, the bed and even the toilet to measure the homeowner’s life signs. Analysing the data via a central computer, eNeighbour tracks such things as weight, posture and how long the homeowner is sleeping for, to crucially watch for any signs of ill health. It even learns from the homeowner over time to get smarter, and for those with specific needs or illnesses, it can even be programmed to watch out for certain warning signs. All data can also be tracked remotely by an out of home carer.
 
Given its life-saving benefits, eNeighbor is currently being used in homes for the elderly as an alternative to putting the vulnerable in care homes.  
 


But both Nest and eNeightbor shine light on a more exciting future that ultilises technology in an empathetic, intuitive way for a better every day life.
 
Here’s hoping that the sensitive, compassionate nature of these home technologies continues to develop and learn apace. Just imagine if your home knew you were ready for bed and so turned down the lights, locked the doors, warmed up your bedroom and put on your favourite pre-sleep-TV program without you having to lift a finger? Now that’s what you call a smart home.
 

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Education: Automated Learning
 

From free state-run schools to ‘paid for’ higher education courses, the globally rising population is set to challenge how we learn in the future.
 
More schools will help. This was the topic of a recent concept called ‘Schools in the Sky’, a big, bold, brash idea to reignite the education movement. It involved openings schools at the very top of NYC skyscrapers and making them stand out by painting them yellow – the same yellow used for taxis and schools buses.

Fast Company magazine reported that the team behind ‘Schools in the Sky’ described their project as ‘a provocation.’ ‘By giving schools the most valuable and visible space in the city, education becomes something we’ll need to intrinsically value more, or,


at minimum, something that we can’t possibly ignore.’
 
Whilst ‘Schools in the Sky’ is a great conversation starter, it probably won’t solve our future education challenges around the world. So what will?
 
Well. ‘Automated learning’ done remotely via the Internet could be one low cost and accessible solution for future learning. And the good news is that a number of the world’s leading educational institutes are already leading the way here.
 
MIT in the US has recently launched a course studied and accessed completely online. An ‘electronics course’ that, unlike other online courses, is completely free and open to anyone in the world without prior entrance requirements. As part of a new scheme called the MITx, students earn the grades and qualifications online required to make up an official MIT qualification.
 
By virtue of being purely designed for online students, the course features a virtual laboratory, e-textbooks, online discussions


and videos that are the equivalent of lectures in the real world. According to a university spokesperson, the courses are ‘no less intense’ or ‘watered-down,’ and students are required to study for around 10 hours a week for three months.
 
Another development in this area comes from Oxford University. They have created a free interactive textbook for tablet devices. Like the online course at MIT, Oxford Uni’s digital textbooks are intended to go beyond just sharing knowledge to provide engaging ways in which students can interact with tasks and challenges.
 
Does augmented learning spell a better future for education? Only time will tell, but surely free courses accessible from anywhere, anytime and any place to anyone can only be a good thing.
 

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About the Author

From English Literature student to journalist in India, Natasha is now working her way around the ad agencies of London.
One of her biggest loves is art and photography. Recently she’s been painting technical and damaged objects, whilst her travels through South America and Asia, has been the subject of recent drawings and photography. http://natashahoban.wordpress.com

Credits

Lead Image and Story 5, Via Fast Co Design; Story 1, Via PSFK & EN-V; Story 2, Via Layerwise; Story 3, Via Wired Magazine; Story 4, Via Modernistic Design.