As I sit back in holiday mode and look back over the last year, 2013 was an amazing year for me, both personally and business wise.
My health was good (except a terrible gall stone attach in the middle of the year), our children have had a great year and blessed us with 2 more grandchildren (that makes 7 now), business was good and a few weeks ago Pam and I moved home into the type of home we wouldn’t have dared dream about a decade ago.
Every day when I wake up I remind myself of 3 things I should be grateful for – this habit keeps me grounded.
So what did 2013 mean for you?
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In Business Spectator Alan Kohler gave a review of the year of a different kind – looked at the marvelous year in the Digital Revolution. It’s worth reading the whole article here or some exerts below.
I am writing this on a device that corrects my spelling and grammar as I go. It also connects me to just about every document ever published, every book, newspaper, magazine, scientific paper, government document, including secret ones, as well as billions of videos.
I can sit here and inspect any building in any street in the world, read any poem or chat to any person in the world that wants to chat to me, all virtually for free. I can watch stock exchanges in real time and listen to any radio station in the world. And in my pocket is another device that doubles as a telephone and a camera.
2013 was just another year in this incredible revolution we are living through, but if I were to pick one thing that this year will be remembered for it would be 3D printing, that incomprehensible form of manufacturing that seems certain to change the way we make just about everything.
In January, architects began working on the first 3D printed building (artificial marble, ‘printed’ by a huge 3D printer). It will be finished in 2014. A few days later, another team designed and tested a 3D-printed structure that can be built out of lunar rock to serve as a moon base.
In February 3D printers produced edible meals and another lot of scientists developed a 3D printer that could produce clusters of living stem cells, potentially allowing complete organs to be printed in future. Someone else produced a viable artificial human ear from a 3D printer, and a US firm built a lightweight urban car entirely from a 3D-printed plastic body that’s as strong as steel.
In March researchers successfully replaced 75 per cent of a person’s skull with 3D-printed polymer. In April some scientists built a 3D printer that can create material very similar to human tissue.
In June some American scientists used 3D printing to create microscopic batteries that can power robots that are too small to see without a microscope. In July some other researchers demonstrated a method of 3D printing liquid metal at room temperature which will allow electronic circuitry to be printed on demand. Later that month NASA successfully tested a rocket engine made from 3D-printed parts.
And then last month there was another breakthrough in 3D printing in general that reduces production time from hours to minutes.
And those were just the developments in 3D printing.
Also in January was the first successful hand transplant, the first autonomous, driverless car, the first successful cure of blindness in mice, the first molecular-sized machine, a pill-sized medical scanner that can scan the oesophagus for disease, and in late January scientists finished encoding Shakespeare’s sonnets on a single strand of synthetic DNA, which they reckon can be used commercially for data storage in future.
NEC and Corning developed a new form of fiber optic cable that can transfer a petabit of data per second (that’s a billion megabits, or 10 million times what is promised by the NBN).
In February American engineers developed a flexible battery that can be charged wirelessly and researchers at Duke University successfully connected the brains of two rats so they could share information.
In March Boston Dynamics released its new military robot, scientists in Britain successfully grew teeth from stem cells.
In April the first building to be entirely powered by algae was finished in Hamburg, scientists in Exeter created genetically modified E. coli bacteria that can convert sugar into diesel fuel, IBM developed a robot that combines telepresence and augmented reality to do very complex tasks remotely. In May engineers created a multi-lens digital camera that mimics an insect’s eye, skin cells were transformed into bone cells.
I could go on (and on). In June there was a report that China has developed the world’s most powerful computer – 33 quadrilion operations per second – and Google launched a fleet of balloons for beaming wireless internet all over the place far more cheaply than satellites. In August the first mind controlled prosthetic leg was created, as well as the first artificial pancreas.
The pace and breadth of scientific discovery, and more importantly its application as ‘technology’ to industry and medicine, and into every corner of our lives, are breathtaking. It is now accelerating so rapidly as money pours from governments, companies and philanthropists into universities, research institutes and corporate R&D programmes that two things have become clear: science is both totally ascendant and out of control.
I don’t mean that as a pejorative – only that there is no one controlling it. Science seems to have become a wild, bustling marketplace, a global tournament of discovery between universities and individual researchers.
So I reckon it wasn’t economic and political events that were the important events of 2013, it was this globally networked, relentless race of discovery – principally 3D printing, stem cell research and robots that can think.
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