2013’s Scientific Breakthroughs


io9.com has a great list of “The 18 Most Futuristic Predictions That Came True in 2013“.  I find this list most intriguing, and I’m particularly moved by these 4:

1. The entrance of the space probe Voyager I into interstellar space.  A thousand years from now, if human civilization still exists, I like to think that this date will be a celebrated holiday.  It truly is an astounding technological and philosophical achievement.

12. The first effective treatment that measurably reverses biological aging.  If this pans out, we really are entering a science-fiction era requiring a profound re-imagining of the limitations of human biology.  It opens up additional questions about resource distribution, and whether reproduction will be as valued, as well whether a deepening divide will grow between those with and without access to life-prolonging technologies (something I’ve been trying to write a book about for some time).

13. The first positive energy production from a fusion reactor.  Nuclear fusion changes everything.  Human civilization is defined by the mastery of agriculture.  Modern civilization is defined by the production and distribution of energy.  Oil has special characteristics that have allowed it to be the great supercharger of economies and civilizations.  Nuclear fusion is the first real challenger to oil’s throne.  It burns cleanly, does not deplete rare Earth resources, and is theoretically available everywhere where humans live. It changes everything.

16. Stem cells were derived from cloned human embryos.  This means that we might just be able to healthily clone adult human beings.  Again, this represents a profound paradigm shift in how we define the human animal, and introduces a host of powerful philosophical questions with which science fiction has been wrestling for decades.

I’ll give a special shout-out to #5, which is the landing of a military drone on an aircraft carrier.  This horrifies me.  It suggests that we are about to enter a new era of unmanned warfare, wherein the one last, tenuous barrier to mass human murder –the requirement that human lives be risked to accomplish that terrible end– will have been removed.  This horrible Pandora’s box has been opened, and I think it is more terrifying than the nuclear bomb.  This drone represents very bad things that will come our way within only a few years and decades.

What do you think?