Back in 2007, Brian Williams anchored an NBC Nightly News segment about what the year 2017 would be like and what scientific advancements would make our lives easier. The video (which you can watch below) posits that microchips implanted under our fingers could easily identify us at the airport and in emergency situations. It hoped that facial recognition software would help us catch terrorists.
Flash forward to the end of 2016. We don’t have any life- or time-saving microchips, and facial recognition software is most commonly used by advertisers to sell us things on Facebook.
But cynicism aside, there is hope that 2017 may include some groundbreaking discoveries, medical advancements, and widespread implementation of awesome inventions. Even though we’ve disappointed 2007 Brian Williams in an alternate timeline, we’ve got a lot to look forward to next year, and in more ways than not, the future is now.
First Human Head Transplant?
Last year, Italian neuroscientist Sergio Canavero announced via TedTalk that he would be performing the world’s first human head transplant in Dec. 2017. His patient, Valery Spiridonov, volunteered to be a part of this experimental procedure. Many in the neuroscience community are skeptical of the legitimacy of the procedure based on prior results. In the past, mice have only survived head transplantation by several minutes, and when performed on a monkey, the inability to reattach the spinal cord proved to be fatal. Canavero says that he now feels the technology is there to make that reattachment possible.
Adidas has pioneered a pair of 100 percent biodegradable kicks made out of Biosteel fiber, a.k.a. replica spider silk. The adidas Futurecraft Biofabric repurposes ocean waste to create a sustainable fabric that totally dissolves in water. So, when you’re done with these shoes, you can reduce your carbon footprint, literally, by placing them in your sink and composting them. So far, 7,000 pairs have been made, and a larger release is set for sometime next spring.
The First Private Lunar Mission
In August, the U.S. federal government approved the first private lunar mission for 2017. The company running it, U.S. startup Moon Express (a.k.a. MoonEx), isn’t just competing to be a pioneer in space travel, it’s also competing for money. Google announced a $20 million prize to any private company that could successfully make a lunar landing. With MoonEx’s newest benchmark, it will first be making contact with the moon in late 2017 with a robotic aircraft before transitioning into commercial flight.
The HIV Vaccine Goes Into Phase II Testing
The newest attempt at eradicating HIV and AIDS is set to move to clinical trials. SAV001 is a revolutionary vaccine that uses a safe, dead version of the HIV virus so that the immune system can prepare antibodies to fight it. Six hundred volunteers in North America will participate in the trials, which had extremely positive Phase I results. If successful, SAV001 could prevent future deaths from an epidemic that has killed 41 million people worldwide. Testing begins in fall 2017.
Say Goodbye to Permanent Ink Tattoos
Practically everyone has wanted a tattoo in their lifetime, but the one thing stopping most people is their permanency. Tattoo removal’s current technology is painful and incredibly expensive. Enter Ephemeral Tattoos, a new company that has pioneered a tattoo that only lasts one year, and can be removed earlier at any time. The product uses a special ink designed with smaller molecules so that the human body can absorb them more easily into the immune system. Tattoos will cost $50–$100 and early removal will cost about $100.
Hyperloop Pods Compete in January (Again)
As Elon Musk continues his quest to revolutionize high-speed rail in California, a number of very real design competitions have occurred. Last year, Hyperloop and SpaceX allowed universities and private companies to compete with test pods (train car-like vehicles suited for high speed rail) on a Hyperloop test track. Awards were given for design concepts and entries were judged primarily on innovation. Hyperloop is running the competition again Jan. 27–29. This time, the track is longer and qualifying entries will be judged on mass, functionality, and speed. An additional competition will occur in the summer.