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On the Horizon Futures Report

On the Horizon Futures Report

Curated by Pamela McConathy Schied, MS, Futures Studies in Commerce, College of Technology, University of Houston; Principal, Foresight Communications Group,

Tube Travel May Be Next Step in Transportation

1-hyperloopTesla Motors’ Elon Musk’s futuristic vision of a passenger capsule transportation system is one step closer to reality. Hyperloop Transportation  Technologies (HTT), the company developing the tube-transport-in-a-vacuum system, announced it will begin construction on a five-mile test track in Quay Valley, California, sometime next year at a cost of about $100 million.

The company says it now has about 400 “team members” on the project and is in the process of acquiring the necessary permits to begin selecting builders.

“What we are doing has never been done before, so that is a very big challenge,” says Dirk Ahlborn, CEO of HTT. “Over the next couple of months, we are going to reveal some things we have been working on for quite some time.”

According to earlier calculations, the capsules will move faster than 500 mph in an enclosed environment shielded by steel tubes. A trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles would take someone about 30 minutes.

Hospital Farms Providing Healthier Plant-based Foods to Patients

St. Luke’s Hospital in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, has partnered with the Rodale Institute to improve the food on their hospital menus. And they mean business. The hospital, part of a six-campus network, now runs a 10-acre organic farm that produces tens of thousands of pounds of produce — 30 varieties of fruits and vegetables — that are served to patients and sold at weekly farmers markets on several hospital campuses.

“Our mission is to provide great healthcare and part of that is educating patients about the benefits of a plant-based, organic diet,” says Ed Nawrocki, a St. Luke’s Hospital administrator. “One of the best ways to do that is to lead by example and show them how delicious produce grown on our farm tastes.”

Other hospitals using produce grown onsite include Stony Brook University Hospital on Long Island and Watertown regional Medical Center in Wisconsin. The University of Wisconsin Hospital buys produce from local farms, while others allow the community to use land on their campuses for community gardens.

“Hippocrates talked about food as medicine and we believe that to be true,” says Mark “Coach” Smallwood, executive director at the Rodale Institute. “Hospitals are realizing the value of producing fresh, local, organic food to serve to patients.”

The Perilous Age of Backyard Synthetic Biology is Here

Leading international  scientists are calling for a moratorium on gene editing following the publication in April of a paper by Chinese researchers about their attempts to edit the DNA of a human embryo.

The topic dominated the covers of many major publications recently — from Wired, to The Economist and MIT Technology Review.

“The technique is revolutionary, and like all revolutions, it’s perilous…and  could allow genetics researchers to conjure everything anyone has ever worried they would—designer babies, invasive mutants, species-specific bioweapons, and a dozen other apocalyptic sci-fi tropes. It brings with it all-new rules for the practice of research in the life sciences. But no one knows what the rules are—or who will be the first to break them.”

— Wired

Vivek Wadhwa, a fellow at Rock Center for Corporate Governance at Stanford University, and a distinguished fellow at Singularity University, noted in the Washington Post that “we  are entering an age of backyard synthetic biology that should worry everybody.”

“Altering the human germ line without studying the consequences could have horrific consequences,” he writes. “Geneticists with good intentions could mistakenly engineer changes in DNA that generate dangerous mutations and cause painful deaths. Scientists — and countries — with less noble intentions could again try to build a race of superhumans.

According to Wadhwa, until recently, editing DNA required sophisticated labs, years of experience, and many thousands of dollars. New discoveries now make it cheaper and easier to do. He also says this puts the DNA of every single organism at risk — every plant, every animal, every bacterium is now fair game for genetic manipulation.

“Yes, rogue scientists may continue working at modifying the human germ line. But a moratorium could be as effective as the global moratorium on the cloning of humans has been. At least scientists such as those who engineered the human embryos in China would become international pariahs rather than celebrated for publishing papers in prestigious publications.”


Cancer Cure? One of the most highly valued private biotech startups of all time ($3 billion) has no revenue, no market presence to speak of, 140 employees, and is betting on a scientific idea that’s not universally accepted – that cancer is caused by rare and powerful cancer stem cells.

What the Corporation of 2050 Might Look Like Using a common tool of futurists, the scenario, Futurist Stowe Boyd crafted several scenarios of what the corporation of 2050 might look like. He calls them “stories about the future that don’t need to be true, but help us think about the future in a structured way.” He started with several forces that are likely to have a major impact on the world of business by that time — economic inequality, climate change and “artificials” (AI and robots). He concluded that in order “for our children and grandchildren to live happy, meaningul lives, and for civilization to prosper and evolve, one of his scenarios, the Human Spring, most occur. Soon.”

Architect/Artist Designs Amazing Tent That Collects Water and Stores Solar Energy Jordanian-Canadian architect, designer and artist Abeer Seikaly was recently given the Lexus Design Award for designing a multipurpose tent to be weatherproof, strong, but lightweight for easy transport. Solar energy can be collected from the fabric and stored in a battery for use at night. Seiklay reports the tent is currently under development and in the prototype stage.

What 25 Futurists are Blogging About If you follow these 25 blogging futurists, be warned! You may experience a shift in how you currently think about the future. One this is certain, change is ahead, whether you want it or not. The worlds of work, health, education, relationships, technology and many other areas are on the cusp of major disruption.


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