Some people may appear to be resistant to the changes brought about by technological progress. They may focus on the potential risks associated with new technology, rather than the potential benefits, and use these risks to oppose these technologies. It is understandable why they may be apprehensive, considering recent events such as the data privacy scandals involving major internet companies and the ethical debates around genetic engineering.
Nevertheless, if we decide to agree with them, we would be in danger of overlooking the many issues that we can tackle with the help of technology. Examples of the advantages of technology include improvements in medical treatments and healthcare availability, improved communication, renewable energy sources, and more efficient transportation methods.
It is essential that we pay heed not only to the potential benefits that technology can bring to our lives, but also to the potential risks. Unfortunately, there are many potential pitfalls associated with the use of technology, including the spread of misinformation and the potential for the mass surveillance of populations. However, it is also important to note that technology has the potential to be utilised to address some of the most pressing issues currently facing our world. As an example, here are six possible ways in which technology can be used to tackle such problems.
Degenerative Diseases: Detection and Management
The importance of looking after one’s health is increasingly recognised as a global issue. With advances in medical technology, people are living longer, but this also means that degenerative illnesses are becoming more prevalent. Unfortunately, there is still limited knowledge about several serious conditions, such as Alzheimer’s, cancer, Lou Gehrig’s disease and Parkinson’s.
Despite being aware of the potential consequences, we have yet to find a way to prevent or halt these ailments. To this day, we are still uncertain as to what causes them; we merely have a list of potential causes. It is therefore in our best interests to invest resources into understanding these issues, as they have the potential to affect everyone, even from a young age. This is where technology, such as cutting-edge developments, can be particularly useful.
In the coming years, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is set to revolutionise healthcare, with researchers utilising non-invasive methods such as Machine Learning algorithms to detect the early signs of neurodegenerative diseases. By using predictive analysis, it is possible to identify subtle but important trends that may not be immediately apparent to human observers. This could potentially lead to earlier diagnosis and improved treatment options for those affected by these conditions.
The potential of artificial intelligence (AI)-based technologies is far greater than just aiding in diagnostic processes. To demonstrate this, AstraZeneca (UK) and BERG Biotechnology (US) have recently established a strategic partnership to explore the development of novel treatments for Parkinson’s disease. This is an incredibly complex condition which makes it almost impossible to find biomarkers through conventional methods. Therefore, AI algorithms are required to identify new biomarkers in order to advance diagnostics and create novel therapeutic options.
BenevolentAI is undertaking a pioneering Artificial Intelligence (AI) project to develop a potential remedy for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease). Despite the fact that this serious and potentially fatal condition currently has no cure, the outcomes of this advanced technology have been encouraging so far.
Restoring the Health of the Seas
It is sadly true that our oceans are full of rubbish and plastic, as many of us are aware. Visiting any ocean would unfortunately demonstrate the truth of this. However, recent research released over the past few months has revealed that the true extent of plastic pollution in the oceans is far worse than we ever imagined; it is almost one million times more than we previously thought. This is a shocking and sobering fact which has profound implications for our environment.
Microplastics are a concerning environmental issue, and the extent of the damage they cause is hard to estimate. These microplastics are dispersed widely throughout the ocean, sinking to the seafloor and being consumed by marine organisms – a worrying development that has been exacerbated by the continued use of plastic straws and shopping bags, which break down and contribute to the contamination of our seas. It is becoming increasingly clear that urgent action must be taken in order to protect both people and nature from the potentially devastating effects of microplastics.
It is hoped that technological solutions may be employed to reduce the impact of this issue and prevent it from becoming worse. An example of this is the work of the non-profit organisation, The Ocean Cleanup. They believe that by positioning U-shaped screens in strategic locations, they can significantly reduce the amount of plastic in the world’s oceans, by collecting the debris as it is carried by the ocean currents.
The Seabin Project is a captivating venture which places garbage bins on floating platforms, which are then fitted with pumps and filters, in locations such as marinas and ports. This equipment is able to remove debris, as well as oil, from the ocean, with particular emphasis on areas that are known to be significant contributors to marine litter.
Getting Rid of Carbon Emissions in the Air
Climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time with potentially devastating consequences. It is essential that we all join forces to mitigate the effects of climate change before it is too late. There are various initiatives in place around the world to combat climate change, however it is uncertain whether these are enough to make a difference. It is clear that more needs to be done in order to ensure a sustainable future for generations to come.
It is commendable that we are striving to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions in order to slow down the effects of climate change, however, this alone will not be enough. With the already high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, we must also look to find ways of actively removing it in order to achieve meaningful results. This process is known as carbon sequestration, a term which is often used by those in the industry.
Despite there being a variety of techniques for dealing with carbon dioxide, the most effective way of handling it is to capture it and then store it in underground reservoirs. However, some companies are investigating the possibility of utilising the CO2, as it already has a commercial value. These organisations are hoping to exploit the potential of CO2 being used as a component in the production process.
The C2CNT molecule serves as an excellent example of this concept. The organisation has perfected a process which makes it possible to transform carbon dioxide into fibres of carbon. These fibres can then be used to create carbon composites, which provide a superior alternative to metal materials in a wide range of applications – from bicycle frames to aircraft structures.
The Indian research group Breathe is exploring the potential of artificial photosynthesis to convert carbon dioxide into methanol. This is extremely encouraging news, as methanol has a variety of uses, such as a fuel or a component in medicines, resins and other materials. This breakthrough could have far-reaching implications for the environment and humanity as a whole.
Predictions of Future Disasters
In the modern era, the development of technology has allowed us to predict weather patterns and other natural events in advance. Nevertheless, natural disasters and man-made catastrophes remain unpredictable, striking without warning. Floods, landslides, earthquakes, hydrological fluctuations and tsunamis are all examples of phenomena which can occur without warning and cause significant disruption. Furthermore, when humans act irresponsibly, this can lead to additional and unforeseen disasters.
If we had a better understanding of the kind of catastrophes we may face, it would enable us to better prepare for them in the immediate and medium-term, while also allowing us to work on more permanent solutions over the long-term. Having a reliable warning system that can alert us of an impending disaster a few hours before it occurs would be a massive benefit in the face of such catastrophic events.
The Disaster Prevention Research Institute in Kyoto, Japan is striving to achieve the goal of providing novel methods to forecast the effects of climate change, mudslides, and flooding. They have made significant progress in the prediction of catastrophes and are working towards creating more reliable early warning systems by leveraging spatiotemporal models of disasters.
IBM, with a sizeable portfolio of volcanoes to analyse, has been employing its advanced Artificial Intelligence-powered Watson suite in a bid to predict when any of the many volcanoes around the world might erupt. The company has been engaged in this initiative for years, and while they have yet to achieve their goal, they are continuing to work towards it with optimism.
Assisting Humanity with Technology
It is clear that contemporary technology has been utilised in a variety of ways to help us tackle the most pressing challenges that humanity is facing. Whilst no new technology has been without its flaws, the majority of these developments appear to be highly promising, instilling a sense of hope for the future of technological advancement.
Nevertheless, this does not relieve us from the duty of observing the impacts of technological development. Nevertheless, these and other utilisations demonstrate that technology is perhaps our most powerful asset in tackling these colossal issues.