Breakthrough Technologies Will Soon Leave Laboratories: School Students Share Their Vision Of Future
60 years ago, Earth's first artificial satellite was launched; four years later, the first man followed it to space. At that time, almost every student dreamt of becoming an astronaut. Times have changed, but even now many students believe that the future belongs to space exploration and robotics. One of St. Petersburg's best schools - Lyceum #239 - decided to make this year's first day of school space themed. ITMO.NEWS learned what the soon-to-be graduates dream about and which technologies they believe to be most promising.
Each year, the administration of Lyceum #239 picks a particular theme for both the first day of school and the last day of school; for instance, two years ago, they were devoted to the Year of Cinema, and this time it is space exploration. According to Maksim Pratusevich, Lyceum #239's principal, it was an easy choice: it was 60 years ago that the first artificial satellite was launched into Earth's orbit; what is more, this year is the year when Astronomy once again takes its place amongst school subjects.
Graduates from Lyceum #239 have long been deemed among the strongest specialists in research work, as well as in different engineering fields and IT-technologies. Maksim Pratusevich confirms that most of their recent graduates find IT most attractive; yet, more and more new fields and markets now ignite their interest, as well.
"Catching up is mostly pointless. Progress is often about finding some new field and carving out a niche, including setting the standards for it, believes Maksim Pratusevich. Surely, we have this strategy for scientific and technical development, which includes a list of breakthrough technologies. To my mind, the most promising are those that have to do with quantum computing, nanotechnologies, and the power industry. Effective storing of energy is definitely something that will soon change our whole world."
Quantum computers, neural interfaces and driverless trucks: what's there to expect in some 5-10 years?
Back in the beginning of 2017, MIT's analysts published their annual ranking of technologies which they believe will greatly influence politics, economics, medicine, and culture in the nearest future. Many of the technologies that were included in last years' rankings, like smart watches and VR goggles, are already here. According to the experts, now the future is about a wide range of technologies from quantum computations to new neural interfaces. In some two years, we can already expect sufficient progress in the field of reinforced learning - a type of machine learning when the system develops itself by interacting with the environment. DeepMind laboratory, one of Alphabet's divisions, has recently achieved what was not expected in the course of the nearest ten years: their AlphaGo program beat Lee Sedol, world champion in go - a game that was deemed impossible for an AI to master.
DeepMind's staff believes that reinforced learning can be used for a lot more than just gaming AI's. For instance, it can help robots learn to move and manipulate the objects they are not familiar with without additional instructions, or make driverless cars learn from their every trip.
Another promising field is quantum computations. Last May, IBM opened access to its quantum computer via the IBM Quantum Experience cloud-based program; as of now, more than 40,000 people used it to conduct more than 275,000 experiments. The new computer's processor is 5-qubit, and in the nearest future, IBM aspires to make it 50. On March 6, IBM announced the creation of its new IBM Q division that will focus on commercializing quantum computers for business and science.
MIT experts also expect that neural chips may be introduced in treating paralyzed patients in as soon as 10-15 years. Scientists have already made significant progress in developing neural interfaces that can recover locomotor functions in patients with spinal cord trauma; currently, laboratories in different countries conduct tests of such technologies, including tests on volunteers. In April 2016, researchers from Ohio State University and Battelle Memorial Institute got considerable results in treating a patient with quadriplegia. Thanks to a chip implanted into the primary motor cortex that uses electrical stimulators to send signals to muscles, the patient learned to move fingers and even play Guitar Hero.
Students of Lyceum #239. Credit: Newtonew
In the future, scientists aspire to create wireless neural chips that will be able to restore neural connections in patients with Alzheimer's disease. This year, Elon Musk, Tesla's and SpaceX's founder, founded the new Neuralink company; the technology they're working on will be used for improving memory and treating brain injuries. According to Musk, they are expecting results in the near future: they plan to release their product in as soon as four years.
Among other promising inventions of the next 5-10 years are the cell atlas (a detailed 3D map of human cells), driverless trucks and solar thermophotovoltaic cells.
Still, all of this is just forecasts. Whether they'll be brought to life or not - that's a question the new generations of scientists and specialists are yet to answer. Some of those specialists are now only preparing to graduate from school; so, we've decided to ask them about the future they believe in.
Maria Zuryanova and Aleksandr Sokolovskiy, sophomores at Lyceum #239
Maria Zuryanova and Aleksandr Sokolovskiy
Aleksandr Sokolovskiy: Without a doubt, now is the time when quantum computation technologies are rapidly developing, as well as different medical technologies, particularly on a nanoscale. It is also most interesting to follow the new advances that have to do with lasers and their use in manufacturing microchips. Thanks to them, we will soon have access to faster and simpler information exchange.
In some five years, we can expect to have much more powerful processors, as well as a real revolution in medicine: I want to believe that scientists will find a cure for cancer and many hereditary diseases, at last. Obviously, Elon Musk's ideas that have to do with SpaceX are enticing, as well. This is really an interesting project that can make space missions cheaper; we hope that Musk will soon succeed in having all of a rocket's stages return to the launch site, not just the first one.
Maria Zuryanova: What's more, seeing his other inventions work would be interesting as well - Hyperloop, for instance. As for me, I want to work with space technologies once I graduate. It is already a most promising field, and I believe it will develop even faster from now on: both in what has to do with space missions and space exploration as it is.
Sergei Vorobyov, sophomore at Lyceum #239
I believe that robotics is the field that looms large now. Most interesting ideas emerge in this particular field; robotics continues to further automize our everyday lives. Space exploration progresses even faster; we already have private companies that can do space flights, and new technologies that make it even cheaper are emerging. This year, Astronomy has been introduced into the school curricula, as well, so I believe that these two fields will be most popular in the future. I myself want to focus on something that has to do with space, as well.
Konstantin Lavinyokov, Alexander Sokko and Kirill Kondratuk, freshmen at Lyceum #239
Konstantin Lavinyokov, Alexander Sokko and Kirill Kondratuk
Konstantin Lavinyokov: I'm interested in what has to do with constructing small rockets and microsatellites - I plan to focus on rocket engineering in the future. What's more, quantum technologies is something that is rapidly developed now - in China, for instance. I'm not very good with them, but it's obvious that they will greatly contribute to increasing the speed we exchange information with.
Alexander Sokko: As for me, I want to become a surgeon. I believe that the future belongs to neurobiology, as well. It would be great if we were to invent more advanced prostheses in the near future. As for genetic engineering, I guess there are lots of challenges we are to face, primarily in what has to do with developing the corresponding legislation and solving many ethical issues. It is most important for the scientists to learn to read brain signals and connect bionic prostheses directly to the human body. I believe that is possible, and we can expect such invention quite soon.
Vladimir Pushin and Ivan Shulga, sophomores at Lyceum #239
Vladimir Pushin and Ivan Shulga
Vladimir Pushin: In my opinion, among the most promising fields is 3D modeling, robotics and everything that has to do with computer-aided manufacturing. The latter already helps make many processes cheaper and more effective. Once I graduate, I want to focus on the car industry - firstly, I like cars, secondly, I like robotics, and thirdly, this is a great field for developing my own startup.
Obviously, driverless cars are a hot topic now, and analysts expect to have driverless trucks as soon as in the nearest future. Will that be in some five years from now? I believe that's possible, though there are some challenges we will have to overcome to decrease the associated risks. On the other hand, eye surgery is risky as well, but they do it anyway. So, I think we can expect many promising advances in the field of unmanned crafts, as well.
Ivan Shulga: I believe that soon, scientists will make progress in developing technologies that will help treat cancer, and that will be a most important breakthrough. I hope such projects will become a possibility in the nearest future - that would save thousands of lives! For me, that is what's important. Yet, personally, I’m not into biology. As of now, I'm interested in directing, filming and engineering, though I don't want to limit myself to just these fields only.
Dmitriy Filatov, graduate
To my mind, one of the most promising technologies are those that have to do with artificial intelligence. Yet, AI is still a disputable issue, and we have to be very careful about progressing in this field. Among other fields that stand at the forefront of science are obviously new types medications and the technologies that have to do with developing new types of energy and fuel, as the modern ones are becoming insufficient. As for me, I've already made up my mind: I'm into robotics. This allows me to develop in both physics and computer science at the same time.
Sergei Dumplis, graduate
I believe that the most promising fields of research are the cross-disciplinary ones. The modern world is subject to globalization, and it seems that the same happens in science. Personally, I want to work on the convergence of medicine, physics, chemistry and computer science. In modern medicine, everything related to an interdisciplinary approach is developing at a really fast pace; we can say the same about the power industry, as well.