Technology on the Horizon

Many people love new gadgets. Of course many times we look at them for fun, but these gadgets — or (to be more formal) technology — can change our lives, says host Mary Walden. She asks her husband, N.C. State University economist Mike Walden, “What do experts say might be game changing technology or gadgets we may soon see?”

Mike Walden: Mary, the weekly magazine The Economist, which is sort of the British version of Time or Newsweek, has a quarterly technology review, and their latest one just came out. In this review, they talked about just your question, “What’s on the horizon?” So let me just mention a couple of the things that The Economist says we may be seeing down the road.  One is cargo ships without a crew. Sort of like driverless vehicles that we’ve seen programs about, those big cargo ships that move around the world won’t need a crew; they’ll all be directed with satellite controls. Another big innovation that we may see down the road is giant batteries that can power something — a car, some air-conditioning or a heater at your home — for hours if not days or weeks. This could be a game-changer in terms of allowing us to move to a different kind of energy support system. Also I found very interesting the manufacturing of human tissues and organs. I know this gets kind of sci-fi, but the point here is that we may be on the verge of being able to do that. Obviously that would have profound implications for the healthcare system. And then last, something I think that’s very important for here in North Carolina, the creation of smart fabrics — that is, fabrics that you wear that could keep you cool or keep you heated or protected for the military, as well as super strong fabrics. I’ve heard that we could be manufacturing airplanes out of fabric in the future. They’d be super-light, therefore super-efficient. And all this is obviously coming out of a new textile industry, which of course we have very much of here in North Carolina.

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