By Dick Pelletier
With all the switching between images in today’s sci-fi action
films, the audience does not suspect that faces and figures
appearing on screen are not always the real thing. It’s literally
impossible to tell if they are real or computer generated images,
digital concoctions created inside a computer at Sony Pictures
Imageworks in Culver City, CA.
“We’ve reached a point where we can make every single thing
computer generated,” says graphics supervisor Mark Sagar in a
recent Wired Magazine article. The ability to do computer generated
everything, including human faces, has recently opened a wealth of
creative possibilities. Presenting accurate digital faces was the
final, crucial piece to the puzzle.
But the main benefit of digital actors isn’t replacing live
ones: it’s in creating scenes that are impossible in the real
world. “In the past,” says Scott Stokdyk, visual-effects supervisor
of the Spider Man series, “directors and editors were restricted to
cuts around different quick actions, and camera angles, to convey a
story. Now they don’t have those kinds of limits.”
Directors can follow synthetic actors as they swoop around
skyscrapers and dodge bullets. What’s more, actors can be digitally
aged, or de-aged, without having to spend hours in makeup. Some
speculate that digital actors could make real actors obsolete, but
most people believe there will always be a need for “real flesh and
This amazing digital wizardry has fostered another technology –
interactive avatars. Driven by firms such as Microsoft and Honda,
lifelike avatars with compelling characters will be available for
home TV displays by 2015 or sooner.
By Dick Pelletier
In just ten short years, you may be looking into the mirror and
wondering, “Who is that gorgeous creature?” Your reflection would
reveal a much younger and healthier you; with natural hair color,
youthful skin, perfect vision, real teeth, a spring in your step,
and an incredibly sharp mind and memory.
Welcome to tomorrow’s futuristic world of biotech enhancements,
which forward thinkers believe will be widely available and
affordable by 2018. According to venture capitalists, the next ten
years will be driven by lightening-fast complex medical
breakthroughs that promise to improve health, extend lives; even
redefine what it means to be human.
The Institute for Global Future’s Dr. James Canton believes a
trillion dollar health enhancement market will evolve in the next
decade. And 100 million baby boomers and senior citizens are
anxiously awaiting its products; which one day will include biotech
and nanotech miracles to replace aging organs, muscles, bones and
Some health enhancements are already available today. Fertility
science, prosthetic limbs, wonder drugs like Prozac and Viagra;
even steroid use, are all designed to improve human performance.
Last year, 12 million opted for plastic surgery in their quest to
look and feel better, giving the cosmetics industry its largest
But over the next ten years, stem cell and gene therapies,
initially developed to cure sicknesses, will dwarf what can be
accomplished with the knife. These new therapies promise far less
intrusive means to achieve that “younger body” look. And ‘boomers
and seniors can’t wait to take advantage of these breakthrough
Opinion by Dick Pelletier
Some of you have heard me talk about prospects for extreme life
extension – “To live in a healthy body continuously until I choose
to die; to not be killed by disease or aging.”
I believe that science and technology will make extreme life
extension possible for most of us alive today. The prime requisite
is to maintain good health, keep a positive attitude towards the
future, and root for science and technology breakthroughs in the
We will soon experience overwhelming advances in disease
prevention and age reversal through gene therapies and nanotech
breakthroughs. Over the coming years, we will slowly grow into a
body fashioned from “designer genes” that can never age or get
Overpopulation: Prospects for this beautiful future are
not without controversy. Some argue that humans living longer will
cause overpopulation problems, such as expanding poverty and
damaging the environment. However, they fail to realize that
technology – spurred on by commerce (filling needs) – will provide
solutions through improved agriculture, easier access to food and
better use of space resources.
Poor health: Some assume that people will continue to
exhibit signs of aging and be decrepit into their hundreds citing
people who are kept alive for years in terrible health, sometimes
beyond the point at which they wish to live. Merely extending life
without improving health is a bad idea. This is why today’s medical
world focuses, not just on preventing death, but on alleviating the
affects of aging by curing diseases. Discoveries will soon develop
for the reversal of aging, so that elderly people might one day
choose to revert to the mind and body of a healthy 20-something.
By Dick Pelletier
If there was a pill that could immediately improve your memory,
enabling you to recall any selected event in your past with sharp
detail, would you take it? How about a pill that would erase an
unwanted memory, like a traumatic childhood event that still
bothers you in adult life?
And even more radical, would you like to download knowledge
directly into your brain enabling you to immediately speak and
understand a new language, or instantly learn any new subject
matter, without suffering through the lengthy process of learning
Memory-management drugs that address the first two questions are
being developed now and should be available in about five years,
according to Memory Pharmaceuticals, www.memorypharma.com, a
leading New Jersey drug research firm.
Most of these memory remedies focus on boosting recall, but some
address the 13 million Americans who suffer from post-traumatic
stress disorder with drugs that will dim, or even erase, traumatic
memories. Such products promise to revolutionize psychotherapy.
Instead of trying to overcome a past trauma, patients will soon be
able to simply erase all memories of the event as if it had never
happened – problem solved.
A more radical and futuristic technology, downloading knowledge
directly into our brain, could be available in the near future,
according to Peter Passaro, graduate student at Georgia Tech, in
his article posted at www.betterhumans.com. Passaro suggests that
mind-machine interfaces will be available by 2020, and he mentions
how this might be accomplished. (cont.)
By Dick Pelletier
Arthur C. Clarke once said: “Any sufficiently advanced
technology is virtually indistinguishable from magic.” Enter
mankind’s newest plunge into the future – nanotechnology.
One day soon, a small Star Trek-like replicator called a
“nanofactory” will sit on your kitchen counter and let you order up
any product you want – plasma TV, clothes, an appliance, or whatever your
dreams desire – at little or no cost.
This wild technology sounds like science fiction, but its not.
According to AI entrepreneur Ray Kurzweil and nanotech author Eric
Drexler, this nanofactory will arrive by the 3rd decade of this
century – 2020-2030.
Here’s how nanotech replicators would work: microscopic-size
machines collect raw atoms from supplied chemicals, or from
something as inexpensive as seawater, and enable those atoms to
grow or “morph” into the final product: a sweater, refrigerator,
health medicine, or even a duplicate nanofactory.
Key technologies of the past half-century – transistors,
semiconductors, and genetic engineering – all focused on reducing
size, materials and costs, while increasing power and efficiency.
We now stand poised to continue this trend into a revolution that
offers the potential to rebuild the entire physical world – our
bodies and brains included – one atom at a time.
The National Institutes of Health states that someday implanted
nanotech materials will actually become part of the body – able to
search out and destroy cancer cells before they develop into a
tumor, or precisely direct drugs to heal damaged tissues – and when
no longer needed, dissolve and be absorbed or excreted. (cont.)
By Dick Pelletier
The immense popularity of Star Trek suggests that “to boldly go
where no man has gone before” could become humanity’s mandate for
Satellite Industry Association President Richard Dalbello sees
the space industry as the jewel of our economy. It drives
innovation, creates jobs, and positions us to begin mankind’s
greatest dream – to explore other worlds.
But many believe our progress is too slow. Past explorations
produced huge benefits much faster. 25 years after the Lewis &
Clark exploration, wagons rolled west to Oregon and clipper ships
landed pioneers in California. 25 years after the Wright Brothers,
citizens could fly around the country. By contrast, landing on the
moon – our “giant step for mankind” – has only produced 40 to 50+
years of earth orbits and a few unmanned flights.
Space enthusiasts say this slow progress shows we are
misdirected. They would like to see faster development of moon and
Mars settlements and strong incentives created for private
businesses to design and build space colonies and other facilities
Space flights are expensive today, but once travel to and from
orbit become cheap; profit-driven entrepreneurs will head for the
high frontier to build hotels, permanent housing, and entertainment
and sports facilities.
Exploring space will also push genetic research. Better Humans
author Simon Smith claims environments such as Mars extreme cold
temperatures and toxic atmosphere will require biological changes.
Sending humans into space without genetic modification would be
By Dick Pelletier
Bodies that never get sick, clothes that change their material
and color, and machines that fix their own glitches. These are some
of the dreams researchers see as they attempt to copy how nature
gathers non-living matter and transforms it into living things.
Life is generally not thought of as being mechanical, but a cell
basically is a miniature machine which rearranges non-living atoms
to create parts that “bring it to life.”
What makes life possible, scientists say, is the natural
tendency of atoms to assemble into molecules, and molecules to
assemble into larger structures. Scientists want to understand this
process and use it to create self-replicating nano-materials that
can be instructed to “grow” into a variety of products.
If we could make life, researchers say, we could apply its
principles towards building almost any product. Life is very
complicated, but it repairs itself, organizes itself, and adapts to
changes – all automatically. It’s the ideal blueprint for
assembling things atom by atom with no material waste and minimal
Commercial benefits could include nano-size cell-repair machines
that create new arteries, deliver drugs to specific sites, and heal
the body from the inside; clothing that changes its molecular
structure and color on command; bio-systems that clean up the
environment; and powerful nano-chips that improve electronic and
Leaders in artificial life research are the European Union’s
Programmable Artificial Cell Evolution project, and the
NASA-supported Protocell project at Los
Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico. (cont.)
By Dick Pelletier
An ulterior motive drives much of the optimism and positive take
that appears in ‘FutureTalk’ articles which describe how the future
There is an audacious thought roaming through my brain that the
“magical future” I describe so often actually includes me. With a
little luck, I believe that I can stay alive and reap all the
benefits this wonder time has to offer.
Though more than 50 million will die in 2008, I am convinced
that I will not be among them. In researching articles each week, I
discover facts that support the optimistic slant that each topic
seems to take.
Chronologically my body has reached seventy-seven years;
biologically it behaves as a mid-sixty-year-old, and emotionally it
sometimes acts like a ‘30 something. By continuing to believe
optimistically about the future, it’s easy for me to imagine myself
‘being there’. (cont.)
By Dick Pelletier
Imagine living in a perfect body without fear of unwanted death.
Consider a world where “smart” homes with friendly bio-materials
responds to our every whim; and bird-like skycars on autopilot
whisk us silently through the sky to our destinations.
Although these scenarios may seem too futuristic to happen in
just 32 to 42 years, positive futurists believe that
exponentially-advancing technologies could turn this 2040s vision
Futurist Ray Kurzweil, in The Singularity is Near describes
many of these technologies including how our bodies will evolve.
Today’s frail human body “version 1.0” has a high failure rate –
More than 50 million will die this year. Over the next two decades,
biotech and nanotech advances will provide a stronger “version
2.0”, which will reduce deaths significantly.
“This brings us to “version 3.0”, Kurzweil says, “an amazing
body that boasts a zero failure rate.” Even if a destructive
accident were to occur, 2040s technologies would immediately
construct a new body, retrieve mind and memories, and allow our
indefinite lifespan to continue.
Homes will not look sci-fi in 2040, because most people still
enjoy living in houses, not futuristic pods. But tomorrow’s
residences will include biomaterials imbedded in ceilings, walls
and floors that kill harmful germs, provide pleasant odors, and
make us feel cozy and secure. (cont.)
By Dick Pelletier
As the future unfolds, humanity will reach intelligence levels
never before dreamed possible. Today’s powerful supercomputers will
evolve into tomorrow’s sophisticated robots and achieve
These super smart machines will one day learn to build copies of
themselves with each generation becoming smarter than the last.
This will create an information explosion that promises to change
the world beyond our wildest imaginings.
The event, called the Singularity, is projected by positive
futurists to happen around mid-2030s and will speed breakthroughs
in every science and technology. Genetic engineering, nanotech,
transportation, space exploration, and environmental improvements
will all quickly mature from the impact of the Singularity and will
begin delivering huge benefits.
Nanotech, for example, promises to eliminate world food shortage
and create forever-healthy bodies – even take a potshot at death
itself – plus provide unlimited material wealth. But so far,
progress has been painstakingly slow. The Singularity could rush
this wonder technology forward overnight.
Other health problems could be solved too. Cancer, heart
disease, Alzheimer’s, AIDS – virtually
every human sickness could disappear.
In a recent Focus magazine article, acclaimed scientist Stephen
Hawking warned that computers are advancing faster than humans. “If
we don’t make changes, they could take over our world.” (cont.)