May 09, 2010

Seven Horizons Timeline and Roadmap to Emerging Technology Over the Next Twenty Years

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The object of the Seven Horizons Timelines Project (emerging technology over the next twenty years) is to assess emerging technologies - especially human enhancement technologies and their associated areas (e.g. autonomous artificial intelligence) - and then attempt to answer these questions about each:

How seriously should we take this?
How much time have we got?

Note: this is very similar to what Nextbigfuture tries to do except Nextbigfuture does no focus on just human enhancement technology but on civilization impacting and improving technologies. Nextbigfuture also looks at trying to find and suggest better plans and projects that combine emerging and existing technology for faster deployment.

The Seven Horizons Defined

Seven Horizons are defined here

The First Horizon:
"Available, But Not Ubiquitious": This is the horizon that honors novelist William Gibson’s observation, "The future is already here; it’s just not evenly distributed." In this horizon, the technology is already on the market, but many people are still unaware of it. The Mattel Corporation’s mind-machine interface toys, for example, or modafinil, the prescription pharmaceutical that shuts off the human trigger to sleep while enhancing cognition.

Second Horizon:
"Commercial": This is the stage where the MBA’s usually live. The stuff has been demonstrated to work, the business model is thought to be in place, the crank up process to commercial delivery is in full swing. The stuff has cleared stage three clinical trials, for example. We’re just waiting for the factory and the advertising campaign and the company organization to be finished. It’s real and near. DNA Factory, for example. Typically 1-3 years to reaching the public, barring some implosion.

Third Horizon:
"Engineering." This is the stage where the venture capitalists usually live. The stuff seems to work, and they’re figuring out if they can ramp it up for major production in a fashion that makes economic sense. Lots of money changing hands. Vaccines against addiction, such as to cigarettes, for example. Aging-reversal drugs. Typically 2-6 years to reaching the public unless some deal-killer emerges. ·

Fourth Horizon:
"Scientific." This is the stage where researchers are demonstrating the innovation is possible. They have proof of concept. But it is not guaranteed yet that it can be safely and economically brought to market, or when. Organ and limb regeneration probably belongs in this category. Brain implant chips. Memory pills. Transforming skin cells into brain cells. Typically 4-10 years to reaching the public if everything goes right. ·

Fifth Horizon:
"Informed Speculation." This is where you will typically find organizations such as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). In this horizon, it is not clear whether the technology will work, but a lot of money is being thrown at it. Synthetic Telepathy helmets that allow mind to mind communication via a computerized helmet, for example.

Sixth Horizon:
"Blue Sky." Essentially, credible science fiction. This is the situation where, e.g., we know for a fact that plant genes can be spliced into mammals, and serious people are thinking about humans who can generate energy from the sun via photosynthesis, but who know what that means. Typical time to consumer, 10-20 years, if ever.

Seventh Horizon:
"Questionable." Stuff we really have our doubts about within our twenty-year timeline.

Some of My Comments
Some of the things that could get categorized into the seventh horizon by some may have the following errors:
* you are thinking about an approach to that problem that sucks and are ignoring better ways or plans
Antimatter usage is usually placed into the far future but there are better plans for accelerating its usage.

Nextbigfuture also makes sure to stay on top of Horizon 2, 3, 4 and 5. Many people do not realize what the latest scientific work is or what is getting private or VC or DARPA type funding.

Here is the seven horizons with a lot of documents on UAVs and robotics.

Seven Horizon Project predictions, which is just links to some xconomy prediction articles.

They have a wiki which has some categorization for what technology they think belongs in each category.

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