I read the service on Time magazine on Google’s “moon shots”. It was interesting and had me intrigued, but it also gave me some doubts and afterthoughts.
Driverless car. It has some implications, that I think rather obvious and unavoidable, but that weren’t stated. The project is not an evolution of the private car, it’s a project for a public transport system. Cars today have car navigators, and in many places you have that connected to a centralized service that will take into account traffic projections and peak hours, redirecting your route. Sum that to the driverless car and you have a system. Taxis will be there, and will be driverless, so the incentive to own a car will be reduced to an individual quirk. And taxis will have an option for car pooling, the individual taxi will cost somewhat more, but that will be the only difference. Once the system is perfected, and insurance statistics prove that the human driver is more dangerous, cars driven by humans will disappear, or remain as a very costly eccentricity, or a sport in closed circuits. It will have implications in road and housing design, etc. I think this overall is a positive evolution, that will rationalize transportation, but there will be opposition, something like the NRA, National Drivers Association.
Calico. Defeat death. You sure that is a priority? I am an old geezer of 73, but I don’t look forward eagerly to a much longer life, I expect to live maybe another ten years, that’s more or less what the statistics say and that’s ok with me. I would like to stay healthy in this last period, but that’s it. Some centuries from now people will look back to century XXI and label it as the century of the overpopulation disaster (pollution, deforestation, poverty, hunger, lack of water etc. are side effects). Population planning and control is the issue, not a longer life span, which will only make it worse.
In my opinion, the real moon shot is in your field: human/computer interface. I think there’s a lot to do in that direction. Human mind is flexible and reprogrammable. I am thinking of the experiment with the glasses for inverted vision. At first you see everything upside down, but after a week your mind adapts, and you see everything ok (and upside down if you take your glasses off). And that other item about the vocal chords: if you think consciously about something, you tend to vocalize in silence, your chords will move and that movement can be detected, it’s not mind reading, but it is very close. If a computer reads your chords and responds (there are ways, not only the screen in Google glass, it could be a tactile binary message, or a direct binary nerve activation), after a while you won’t distinguish between your own memory and the computer message. Discovery of America? 12 october 1492. Was that my memory or the computer’s? Who cares? Human/computer integration can have unthinkable developments.
And I am intrigued by 3D printing, I think there are some other untapped developments there, more moon shots.