Human innovation: where do we go next?

Where Do We Go Next Over the course of history, humanity has taken strides that have propelled us to be the most intelligent species that we have discovered. From the beginning of cavemen who could no more than grunt a command, to wireless communication and computer controlled systems, human innovation and gain have taken unbelievable strides. In one hundred years, we have gone from dreaming of flying through the air, to walking on the moon, and now taking pictures of distant galaxies from far away from our home planet. With the progress we have made, the question of where do we go next still lingers. There is always one major aspect of development throughout history, whether it is the airplane, a rocket in space, nuclear technology, or fuel-efficient vehicles. Where do we go next, and what factors can be analyzed? However a multi-conceptual debate it may be, choosing what aspect to research can be further narrowed by three simple factors. The three points are what value does it hold to the future, who does it help, and how and it be attained? These questions answer the fundamental parts of the research debate, and are a good place to start when attempting to decide where humanity should invest its future. When considering all of the different possibilities of where to go next, it can be realized that the possibilities are in fact endless. However, certain topics of research are more useful than others, so it is possible to focus in on a few main ideals. Some main possible areas of future research and development are space travel, alternative power sources, genetic research and development, and lastly medical concepts. These four ideas carry a majority of merit among the rest of the field, and any one of these, researched in depth, may yield amazing gains in terms of humanity. While all of these can in fact be researched at the same time, a certain level of importance must be created so that it is clear which of these are more beneficial to the overall population gain. The first possible consideration is space travel. Traveling through space has been depicted in the movies and television for a great number of years. Some of the most popular entertainment has involved some sort of space travel, whether is be human, or alien. From Star Wars to Contact, movies have provided scenarios of distant lands and foreign species that humans may come in contact to. The common factor in all of these films is that the solution to space travel already exists. Space travel in those films has already been solved. In terms of current technology, it would take about nine months to reach Mars from earth, as Mars is, at best guess, 40, 130, 000 kilometers from earth. (Mars). This makes a trip to our closest planet an incredible task, let alone traveling to a far and distant galaxy. Space travel is the concept of developing technology that would make the trip to another distant land possible, in an amount of time that would be manageable by a single human being. The likely aspect would be some sort of propulsion system that would cut the time taken to get somewhere dramatically. This allows exploration and testing to be done with results that could be obtained in a quick fashion. By exploring other places, new elements could be discovered, new species discovered, and we could have a better understanding of our own planet by observing similar ones in space. The effects are limitless, from new metals that could be lightweight, yet hard as steel, or cures to diseases from new elements and materials. It is also possible some sort of fuel or oil could be found on other planets. The social and economical possibilities are endless to speculate. Many problems arise when attempting to discuss space travel. One of the largest is keeping public support for space travel, and getting the average person to believe in exploration of new places. The average person will not see the point of traveling to distant worlds when problems plague our own. The problems that exist now should be solved first before venturing to a new frontier. Funding also raises a red flag, and would be very complicated to come by without public approval, as it is usually the public, through taxes, that allow such research to occur. Despite the possible pitfalls and hang-ups, the benefits of space travel may propel humanity into a new generation of space pilgrims. But what can space travel attain without the necessary power source to get a ship that far? In today’s society, coal is the number one used method of creating energy. With the current supply, and at the increased rate of usage per year, it is estimated that the supply of coal could in fact may be depleted faster than anticipated (Energy). Other major non-renewable power sources include petroleum and natural gasses. Renewable resources such as wind and solar energy are too costly and not efficient enough for mass public usage. Therefore, it arises that some sort of alternate power source must be developed so that there is ample energy for the future. Without power, it is impossible for this world to function, as everything used today has some sort of link to electricity. The solution to this problem might have already been discovered, but is far from perfection. It is the use of hydrogen to produce energy. Hydrogen is one of the most abundant elements in the world. Found in many forms and combinations, hydrogen offers a readily available solution to an increasing problem of not having enough resource to go around. The one major downfall is that hydrogen when not in a chemical bond is relatively unstable. Creating a method to stabilize hydrogen so that it could be safely implemented into mass usage, especially in vehicles, could tremendously help the energy situation. By depending on an abundant resource, the strain on oil and coal could be dramatically decreased, and outlying benefits exist. Coal mining could become a rarity, which saves land from being destroyed to dig into the ground. The sparing of this land could instead be used for houses or forests, and not strip-mining for coal or other natural resources. A lack of dependency on oil also relives a major stress on the United States, as it relies heavily on OPEC nations for their oil supplies. This not only affects gas prices, but also national policy and international politics, all of which might be eased by an alternate power source. The next major area of development is in the area of genetics. Ever since the experiment involving a sheep that was successfully cloned, the debate over ethics of genetic use has flared into a worldwide debate. The United States has banned any sort of genetic testing, while other nations have allowed it to take place in their country. Genetic research most commonly involves the cloning of human cells to grow some part of a body, be it some sort of tissue or organ, if not an entire human. The ethical debate is that every person is unique, and no one should be cloned and have a replica. It would cancel out the natural cycle, and could give certain individuals the opportunity to play God. Although many aspects of genetic research exist, the whole concept of growing human parts or fixing characteristics is morally wrong to some people. The benefits to society are incredible with a specific aspect of genetics. The use of stem cells to grow human organs could lead to cures and solutions to multiple ailments and disabilities that people may have. Growing the necessary part for a piece of nervous tissue in the spinal cord could give someone an opportunity to no longer be paralyzed. Creating ocular nerves may restore sight to a blind individual. These benefits are life changing and carry huge benefits to the medical industry and society as a whole. The debate remains that how can it be confined to stem cells. If organs can be grown, than what is to stop someone from cloning another person. On a smaller scale, the possible characteristic changes that could be done to the genetics of a sperm or egg cell could change the natural appearance of a baby. Rather than brown hair, blonde hair could be edited in so to speak. The completely disrupts nature’s cycle of individuality, and what’s more is that the altered DNA may produce defects when it is passed on to another generation. With the good, come the bad aspects as well. The genetic debate, while producing many benefits to society, would cost an enormous amount of money, as well as create a massive debate over the ethics of genetic altering or cloning. Along the same lines of genetics is the medical field. Since the medieval times, humanity has experimented with medical techniques and remedies. Some absurd, some unbelievable, but all of the methods were part of an innovational revolution which has gotten modern medicine to the point it is at now. One hundred years ago, an X-Ray machine or an EKG scan was unknown to anyone. Today we perform surgery on patients using lasers and cameras the size of needles. What was once considered a life threatening disease such as Appendicitis now is a minor surgery that averages hospital stays of a day. Thousands of medicines have been developed to ease pain, increase blood flow, or cure an infection. None of this was available just one hundred years ago, and the possibilities of the next one hundred years are limitless. In 1900, the average life expectancy of a man or woman was 47 years. Today that number has increased 30 years to 77 years old, nearly doubling the previous expectancy (Life). In retrospect, the medical industry is in a sort of infant stage, as it has only been extensive in the last 50 years. The discovery of penicillin was the beginning, giving early doctors the realization that diseases could be fought by using chemicals and biological agents. This brought the research and development into full force. Medical breakthroughs began as far back as 1889, when Aspirin was first produced. Today technology has brought us the MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), EKG (Electrocardiography), and Pentothal which is used in anesthesia. Those three innovations alone have revolutionized the industry, and that’s not to tell what extensive research could uncover in as little as twenty years. Such technology could include a 3-d look at the body to better understand injuries and ailments. An increase in the viewable area of a body can increase treatment options and possible surgical procedures to either treat or remove cancerous masses or other defects. Another possible innovation to come from extensive medical research is a superior antibiotic that is highly effective against multiple diseases. Penicillin began the antibiotic pathway, with others such as the popular Z-Pack today, which is known to wipe out many common ailments ranging from bronchitis to other respiratory diseases. The development of a chemically superior drug that fights many common sicknesses at an effective rate could change the entire world. The drug could be shipped in mass quantities to other nations in Asia and Africa, where common diseases can be as destructive as to kill mass quantities of people. In America, the threat of a deadly flu outbreak is unheard of where in other underdeveloped nations flu kills thousands per year. A newly developed drug to fight all forms of sickness could save thousands around the world, and be produced at a cheap price so that is may be available to even the poorest of people in the world. There is, however, one major pitfall to the whole idea of a miracle drug. The value of the drug would be worth billions of dollars, which is enough for certain companies and individuals to use it for economic gain rather than to help humanity. Wars have begun because of things much less significant than a miracle drug, so it can be imagined what kind of stir this would create in the international community. Besides an item of profitability, the resistance of the drug over time might wear down as it receives more and more usage. Diseases can adapt to certain drugs and make their potency fall dramatically. No matter the potential scenarios that could arise, increased medical research could increase the longevity of the common person in other countries to that as much as here in the United States at 77 years old (Life). The four possible paths to be further researched are all diverse in the involved principles and what the benefits to humanity would be. Every one has its downfalls, and has benefits that could change life in some aspect. Whether it is traveling to a distant land, generating energy from new and readily available sources, engineering parts and characteristics of human beings, or exploring the new and exciting possibilities of the medical field, the future holds a great deal of new and innovative ideas that humanity must discover. Still in the infancies of our technological revolution, humanity has only scratched the surface of the full potential of its innovation. In 100 years, humanity could be cultivating the moon, creating energy out of previously overlooked substances, growing human organs for transplant, or viewing the human body using new, innovative 3-d technology. Which path we take is the decision of today.