Artificial Reproduction and Species Preservation

Artificial Reproduction and Species Preservation

Extinction is a natural process. Over 99% of all species that ever existed on planet earth are now extinct. The problem, is that never before, has only one species been the cause for the death of so many others, and not in such a small space of time. As a result, potentially 50,000 species will go extinct in the next 30 - 50 years. The researchers and scientists behind The Frozen Ark are attempting the seemingly impossible; to find a cure for extinction.

The concept is fairly simple. The team want to collect the DNA samples from plant, fungi and animal tissue on the planet, particularly the endangered ones, and to freeze the DNA samples in liquid nitrogen so that we have effectively a DNA snapshot of life on the planet. This can then be used as technology advances as a last resort for preserving the natural beauty of the world. It is not quite clear how this will be done yet, but with controversial attempts to clone animals making headlines, the idea of reproducing a living creature from well preserved DNA is not unbelievable. So far, 48,000 samples of over 5,000 species have been collected and added to The Frozen Ark DNA banks, in conditions that can endure low or unreliable power supplies with a mind towards conservation of the project, as well as the planet.

The idea of preserving animal tissue and DNA is not particularly new, but The Frozen Ark is the first attempt that has really made progress on a worldwide scale. As the planet warms up and more species are threatening extinction, the pressure is growing, and unfortunately, as fast as the team can collect DNA samples to store in their banks, more species are being added to the list of impending extinction. It has not been decided yet exactly how the DNA will be used, but we do know that it can be potentially helpful if not vital to the future of our planet.

One of the problems that the team face is that the planet is undergoing a considerable amount of climate change, and even if a perfect clone of a species from a DNA sample were already possible, there is no guarantee that the clone would be able to survive against the climate it is introduced to as the climate is was existing in before was somewhat different. It is possible that the scientists will put less weight on collecting DNA samples from species that are unable to cope with climate change because of this reason, and to focus on the species they believe can better endure the shift.

Another similar problem that we face that is being tackled by scientists in The Netherlands is our booming meat consumption rates. Humans consume over 250,000 million tonnes of meat every year, and our demand for edible flesh is constantly growing. Livestock animals take a lot of food, space and resources to produce and maintain, and the idea of growing animals with the sole purpose of killing upsets a lot of people and quickly divides up the population into meat lovers, vegetarians and animal rights activists.

Scientists have found a way that they can potentially produce substitutes for meat in a laboratory. The technology exists to make edible meat from minuscule damaged muscle fibres extracted from a living organism, each cell of which can multiply roughly a million times. This is done by breaking apart the muscle fibres both physically and with the introduction of an enzyme and allowing the stem cells to reproduce the damaged muscle. A collagen gel is then added to align the cells into something that, scientifically speaking, resembles meat.

This means that we can produce edible meat without the need for killing animals, but the problem is that humankind has a craving for the particular tastes we have acquired, and the researchers are still trying to discover what gives meat it’s meaty flavour. The team wish to experiment by adding iron and fat into the mixture to see if it makes their artificially produced meat taste more like actual meat, and even have the goal to produce an artificially prepared burger that resembles the product on the market today. The challenges they face are the price of production, the controversial ideology, and then induction into a difficult market.

Black Mirror - how real is the tech

Black Mirror - how real is the tech

Black Mirror is a British television series, originally aired by Channel 4 in 2011 and purchased by Netflix in in 2015. The creator, Charlie Brooker, looks at how technology is advancing and, in standalone episodes, creates stories about the unanticipated consequences. The show is critically acclaimed and has won many awards, and has got many people asking if the often dark and dire storylines are a possibility. Here is a comparison between some of the ideas and our own reality of technology.

Season 3 Episode 1 Nosedive - In this episode, the characters possess a handheld device, not so different from a smartphone device, which closely monitors a person’s popularity based on online activity. Every social interaction is rated and contributes to a user’s overall rating as a human, and those with higher ratings have benefits such as exclusive invitations, better car rental service, and higher chances of promotion. The episode follows one character, Lacie, who makes some brave and risky decisions that ultimately lead to her demise as her rating plummets.

While this is not the strict society that we live in, there are certainly comparable elements. We do control a lot of our life from the smartphone in our hands, and TripAdvisor ratings, the Facebook like and reaction system and double tapping on an Instagram photo can all contribute to a person or company’s merit and ultimately elate them through the higher stages of society. That said the value of Facebook recently took a hit as it was unearthed that people are posting less and less personal information on their profiles which could have been potentially sold to targeted advertising, so perhaps we are starting to move away from this trend a little. One interesting story that came up was with Alipay; the main form of mobile payment in China, which gave users a rating based on their credit activity, where users with a high rating would receive discounts and benefits, and users with a low rating would often have to pay extra deposits to rent gear, or even get downgraded in travel or in a few cases, banned from certain airlines.

Season 1 Episode 3 - The Entire History of You - In this episode, the characters are equipped with a device called grain which records everything the user is seeing and can be replayed on a screen. The device is used quite cleverly at airport security so that security personnel can determine what the character did in the last 24 hours to understand if they were a threat to the flight. The episode follows Liam, who begins to suspect that his wife might be cheating on him, and how he uses the technology to unearth the truth.

When you compare our access to digital recording equipment to how it has been in the past, the sheer development of camera equipped smartphones allow us to take photographs and films of anything and everything and immediately access it to the internet, which means that more of our lives are being digitally remembered and stored. This was obviously a lot more difficult before digital technology as film developing was expensive. Snap Inc are potentially developing sunglasses that can snap photographs and upload them to the internet. While it may not be built into our bodies as it is in the episode, perhaps we are unconsciously contributing to a similar reality. Even attaching a GoPro to your head is comparable. The technology is all available in different formats, so it could just be a matter of time.

Season 3 Episode 4 San Junipero - This award winning episode is a favourite amongst viewers, perhaps due to it’s more positive vibes than most of the other episodes. This shows a reality where dying people can upload their brains into a system to eternally live out their fantasies, and follows the story of two lovers deciding whether to commit to the system or not.

Futurist and professor Robin Hanson predicts that we will be able to digitally capture and to upload brains to a digital system within the next 100 years, though also notes that the episode only focusses on the prospect of retirement and not all the other possible implications of the ability to do this. He claims that the best brains will be cloned and will take many jobs from physical people, as well as creating their own digital civilisation. AI technology is developing fast, and this is just one direction that it might take in the future.

Electric Vehicles to Expect in 2021-2023

Electric Vehicles to Expect in 2021-2023

The world should expect some exciting electric vehicles models reportedly scheduled for release at the end of 2021 to 2023. Yes, while these EVs are not yet on sale, they are in various stages, ranging from concept to the actual production. Indeed, in the past few decades, multiple automakers have added more EVs to their regular lineup. It seems that everyone is working on e- vehicles these days. Leading the way are the famous, well-known, well-established manufacturers. But some new names are coming over to try their hand in this field. Among these are Lordstown, Rivian, and Byton. Here are a few models that car-lovers can expect soon:

Aspark Owl (In photo and expected: 2021): Aspark Owl is considered to be the first hypercar of what the famous Japanese EV maker says will be a high-dollar lineup of cars. The Aspark Owl is well-known for producing the 1984 horsepower from 4 electric motors. The manufacturer claims this is a peculiar torque-vectoring system. The 64.0-kWh lithium-ion battery pack that the new car promises to deliver 280 miles of driving range. The car manufacturer claims the Owl can do a top speed of 249 mph, but the cost is colossal. The Aspark Owl will cost approximately $3.2 million. The manufacturer says they'll limit the initial production to 50 units worldwide; deliveries are set to begin in late 2021.

Audi A6 e-Tron (Expected: 2022): For the time being, the Audi A6 e-Tron is said to be a concept. Regardless, the manufacturer says it's super close to realizing what the production car will actually look like. The Audi A6 e-Tron concept is primarily based on the scalable Premium Platform Electric (PPE) architecture. Thus, the model can be lengthened, lifted, and widened to fit various fancy EV models. The car will be sold alongside the A6- a gas-powered model. The Audi A6 e-Tron is likely to be the first PPE EV to underpin the future electric audis. The concept of the Audi A6 e-Tron is meant to use twin electric motors with a total output of 469 horsepower. Since all PPE cars come with an 800-volt charging capability, the big sedan could do up to 400 miles on a single charge.

BMW i4 (Expected: Late 2021): The BMW iX is expected to go on sale in early 2022. European car lovers will have the first opportunity to buy the car. The BMW iX is expected to become the flagship BMW electric vehicle. The powerful vehicle will have a combined output of 516 horsepower. It will have 300 miles of range. The BMW manufacturer says the car will support DC fast charging to a maximum of 200 kW. The BMW iX is about the same size as the current X5; the initial cost is $84,194, complete with a standard all-wheel drive.

Bollinger B1 (Expected: 2022): The Bollinger B1 is the product of a Michigan-based startup. The new car is a typical utilitarian-looking high-end vehicle. The vehicle is expected to go out on sale in 2021; the starting price is about $125,000. The Bollinger B1 is targeted at those who're prepared to add lots of captions to an already high-end SUV or truck. Interestingly, both the SUV and truck are said to offer 614 horsepower and 668 pound-feet of torque. They have a 4.5-second zero to 60mph time. Further, the Bollinger B2 model is also expected in 2022. The model comes with a foldable-removable body panel, a Jeep Gladiator style, and locking differentials. It also comes with disconnecting sway bars from the front to the rear and 20 inches of ground clearance to complete its off-road credentials. And things get even more interesting: The B2 features front and rear tailgates, a hydropneumatic suspension, geared axle hubs, and the capacity to carry 16-foot pieces of lumber while the tailgate is closed. The Bollinger B2 will set you back $125,000. The manufacturer is already taking deposits and will soon announce the 2022 on-sale date.

Byton M-Byte Concept (Expected: Mid-2021): Byton's M-Byte and K-Byte, a crossover and a sedan, were both exhibited at the CES technology show. These are the leading edge of what's expected to be a flood of electric vehicles from the famous Chinese startup. Interestingly, the startup has only been around since 2016. Once again, European car enthusiasts will have the first opportunity to buy them. The M-Byte's starting price is estimated at about $45,000 (US price). The M-Byte comes with a 72.0 kWh battery; it's a 272-hp rear-wheel-drive model. It comes in two versions (a rear-wheel-drive model and a 408-hp all-wheel-drive model).

Videoconferencing Beyond 2021

Videoconferencing Beyond 2021

Supposing you skipped the future and asked someone else to summarize the year 2020 in two words, what do you think most people would say? Chances are the answer would be Covid & Zoom! Check this out- both terms occupied the top of Google search trends for most of that year. Interestingly, the idea of videoconferencing isn't entirely new. The initial use of videoconferencing stretches back to early 1964. Think of it: Back then, a mere three-minute call from New York to Chicago using the AT&T Picturebooth would cost you a whopping $255! Admittedly, technology has- since come a long way. Actually, video calls had already become an integral part of our lives long before the pandemic came along. The Fortune Business insights report that the global video conferencing market was valued at $5.32 billion in 2019. Analysts expected the market to grow to $10.92 billion by the year 2027.

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world in March 2020, many schools, offices, and corporate establishments went into a mandatory lockdown. Henceforth, videoconferencing became the only means to communicate with friends, family, and co-workers. Without delay, Zoom quickly seized the big opportunity. Zoom's easy-to-use interface and other support features that accommodate up to 100 participants quickly became the modus operandi. Yes, Zoo became the new default place for various social activities that could no longer take place in a physical location. Fast forward to February 2021- most people are still resigned to their webcams and spare rooms due to the breakout of the second wave of new coronavirus infections and on-off lockdowns.

Undoubtedly, the Covid-19 pandemic has significantly transformed the traditional workplace culture for good. This sudden pause in life raised a new magnifying glass to the way the world's workplace was organized. Many were caught in a flurry of non-stop meetings, stimulation, and engagement. Then came the realization that "Monday to Friday" doesn't have to be the only arrangement for work. Soon, a survey found that 77% of all employees were demanding more flexibility in the post-coronavirus pandemic workplace. Inevitably, this would translate to a flexible and permanent remote working policy in many organizations. Most global companies, including Unilever, Google, and Netflix, have already announced they're committed to arranging for a permanent remote working environment. But this kind of hybrid working requires the creation of new infrastructure and other facilities. This will ultimately become a reality by means of modern technology. Today, the video market is described as "ever-growing but fragmented." Think of it: In May 2020, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams surpassed the 50 million downloads milestone. Due to the explosion of online communication in the recent past, videoconferencing interoperability is now a hot topic. "Interoperability" is a term that is used to refer to the unrestricted sharing of resources within different systems. There'll be many technical issues and much rigidity associated with communicating with people on different platforms without video conferencing interoperability.

As such, the more prominent UC companies (including Teams and Zoom) have already picked on this. From 2021 the companies made it possible to launch a call from Teams room to Zoom. Zoom also made it possible to launch a meeting for hours on end. However, there are many other videoconferencing platforms. Hence we've not reached the era of full interoperability as we'd like to. Of course, we'll never really have a single videoconferencing forum (the same way there's no such thing as a single email provider). Instead, as often happens in the corporate world, we'll always have a few big players dominating the market- the big boys.

But we can always have variety and choice. So different people have the freedom to choose other solutions- Teams, Zoom, Webex, GoToMeeting, Blue jeans, and the like. The modern business market demands adaptability. Overall, businesses should take advantage of the situation and embrace diversity. They may even go ahead and create interoperable meeting places where anyone can make the type of call they want. For example, using the Launcher meeting room software, anyone can walk into a UC-equipped meeting room where they can instantly launch calls. With this solution installed, all kinds of meeting spaces are able to accommodate various types of videoconferencing software that different clients or teams prefer. With Launcher, you can always make the meeting rooms fully operational and interoperable.