As the world chugs forward, it's hard not to focus on the struggles we as a species are facing. Advances in science and engineering are supposed to make life easier for everyone, but there are plenty of scary new technologies out there that can make us cynical about the future. However, it's not all bad news! Breakthroughs that are helping advance society show all the good that can come from advanced technology when it is properly and responsibly implemented.
These helpful current technologies are changing lives for the better and showing how the social benefits of technology outweigh some of the more negative effects. We are all benefiting from these amazing new inventions and techniques, whether they are helping save lives by manipulating DNA or sucking greenhouse gases out of our atmosphere. These are the best advancements in tech, and they are already making a difference.
Genetic engineering is one of those terms that has been so badly stigmatized by popular media, most people only associate it with mad scientists and horrifying experiments gone awry. The reality of genetic engineering is far less menacing than those B-horror movies would like you to believe, and new advances in gene editing might actually save your life.
CRISPR, which is an acronym for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, is a new technology that allows for the precise editing of specific strands of DNA. This tool has given researchers the ability to target specific segments of DNA code and alter them at will with precision accuracy. This has led to an explosion of gene therapy treatments that can target genetic disorders right at the source, potentially eradicating them for good.
Researchers in China have already shown how CRISPR can be used to correct defective genes in embryos, and experts are exploring the full range of possibilities. Other scientists are using CRISPR as a disease prevention tool by modifying the DNA of mosquitos that carry deadly viruses like Zika, West Nile virus, and yellow fever. With CRISPR, doctors could be performing DNA surgery on you in the very near future.
The Anti-Vax movement is as strong as it's ever been, but the fear and paranoia surrounding vaccines is both ignorant and dangerous. Vaccines are responsible for saving millions of lives and have eradicated some of humanity's worst plagues. Medical professionals have persisted in developing new vaccines despite the vocal opposition, and that work has been rewarded with a slurry of new vaccines.
Three African nations have been the first to receive a brand new Malaria vaccine, the first victory against a disease that kills over 400,000 people annually. The World Health Organization (WHO) is distributing the vaccine to 750,000 children in Kenya, Ghana, and Malawi, where malaria wreaks havoc on the local populations.
Space travel has always pushed human innovation to the limit, and many of the technologies developed to get us into orbit have led to amazing advances back on Earth. Going into space is expensive though, and NASA no longer has a reusable space vehicle. In comes SpaceX, Elon Musk's revolutionary rocket company that is changing humanity's relationship to space forever.
SpaceX has developed a first of its kind reusable rocket which can carry a load into space and then safely touch back down on the ground. The rocket, known as the Falcon 9, has already made multiple launches and has become a staple of the space industry. Reusable rockets make space travel much cheaper and easier, meaning that more revolutionary technologies can continue being developed thanks to the men and women in orbit.
Graphene is a revolutionary new super-material composed of entirely of carbon atoms. The atoms are arranged in a way that makes the material ridiculously strong, keeping even the smallest atoms from passing through. The main benefit is that, while more durable than almost any material, it is still extremely light and easy to apply. Graphene was once extremely difficult to manufacture, but researchers at MIT have developed the first method of producing graphene at an industrial scale.
Graphene can already be found in an array of products, including tennis rackets and light bulbs, but the real benefits are only starting to become a reality. One day graphene could be used to make ultra-light bulletproof armor or help medical professionals develop new technologies to treat their patients.