The Wonder, November 30 - Sun Spray, Super Selfies, and the Future of Power

INblog, technology, the wonder|BYsf appworks

A Weekly Snapshot of Life-Changing Technology

Happy Friday!

Well, it happened. The first gene-edited baby has been born. What does it mean?

  • It’s a profound leap in both science and ethics.
  • Gene editing is banned in the US and UNESCO has called for a temporary global ban while the public debates.
  • DNA changes can pass to future generations.
  • Resistance to infections and diseases can be planted into DNA.
  • The scientists involved undersold the work as something similar to a vaccine.
  • Now that the cat is out of the bag, society will have to react rather than plan.

What do you think about gene-editing? Hit reply and let us know.

-Andrew

Three Neat Things
  1. Put it to the test. Walmart recently launched WalmartToyLab.com, a digital playground where kids can explore and interact with a number of toys. They can create a wishlist and the Walmart app will help shoppers find the exact location of that toy. It’s a fun experience and could take some of the guesswork out of toy shopping by letting kids preview and test.
  2. Learn Machine Learning. Amazon is making the machine learning courses that it uses to train its engineers available to everybody for free.
  3. Staycation. Visit Prague’s old town in this 405 gigapixel photo.

Now on to the Wonder.

Sun Spray

Researchers from Harvard plan to spray sunlight-reflecting particles into the stratosphere – an approach that could be used to quickly lower the planet’s temperature.

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Andrew’s Take: One of the problems with climate change is that it affects different areas of the world differently. There are parts of the world that will actually benefit from a warmer global temperature (at great expense to other parts). There is no fair way to decide who to optimize global temperature for, so maybe we shouldn’t even try. Like engineering babies, geo-engineering earth’s temperature could be a dark science with terrifying consequences.

Darius’s Take: Though I’d prefer to solve this problem from the inside out, rather than the outside in, we’re getting desperate now and I’m open to radical suggestions. The approach is simple, but tinkering with our atmosphere seems risky, to say the least. We could overshoot, for example. It also feels like we’re treating the symptom and not the cause.

Super Selfies

LG filed a patent for a smartphone camera with 16 lenses. The 4X4 array would allow you to shoot 3D movies and manipulate shots by moving someone’s head around or replacing it entirely.

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Andrew’s Take: A picture is worth a thousand words, so 16 pictures is worth…a whole lot more? This is tantalizing for two reasons. I use my camera roll as a memory book, scrolling through from time to time to recall where I was and what I did during a certain period. This upgrade could make my memory book much more powerful. I also believe that there is profound meaning in capturing a memory in the way that it made you feel. That is hard to do with a single picture, but with 16 images and powerful AI software, it could become a breeze. On the downside, so could creating deep fakes. 

Darius’s Take: As cameras and sensors increase, more of what we experience will be recorded in various ways. Elon Musk is already working on a hard drive for the brain and there are a few companies working on contact lenses that record and catalogue your life. The mobile phone stands a good chance at being our central processor for recording and manipulating this data. LG is doubling down on that.

The Future of Power

Construction on a $4 billion Indonesia EV battery project begins in January, 2019.

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Andrew’s Take: Demand for battery-powered vehicles is only going up and the converse is true of oil. That gave me a thought…I wonder how this could tip the global balance of power? So I looked something up:

Top oil producing nations: USA, Saudi Arabia, Russian, and China.

Top nickel producing nations: Indonesia, Philippines, Canada, and Australia. 

Darius’s Take: I was surprised to see South Korea, Japan, and China jointly investing in this project. Maybe they realize that if they work together, the future of energy could run through Asia.

Good morning...

We are the first humans to see a Mars sunrise.

Thanks for reading! We’ll see you next week.

-Andrew and Darius