Documenting the Coming Singularity

Monday, January 22, 2018

What's Coming in 2018?

What can we look forward to, science breakthrough-wise, in the near future, say this year?

By Philip Ball in The Guardian

Quantum computers
This will be the year when we see a quantum computer solve a computational problem that conventional computers can’t, using the rules of quantum mechanics to manipulate data, potentially making them much more powerful than classical devices. Many researchers think that the prototype devices built during the past year will soon be able to achieve “quantum supremacy” – the solution of a task that would take a classical computer an impractical length of time. This doesn’t mean that quantum computers are yet ready to take over the computer industry, but this will be the year that they start to become a genuine commercial proposition.

Quantum internet
Using quantum rules for processing information has more advantages than just speed. These rules make possible some tricks that just aren’t imaginable using classical physics. Information encoded in qubits (units of quantum information) can be encrypted and transmitted from a sender to a receiver in a form that can’t be intercepted and read without that eavesdropping being detectable by the receiver, a method called quantum cryptography. China has developed “quantum-capable” satellites that could ultimately host an international, ultra-secure “quantum internet”. Many experts put that at a decade or so off, but we can expect more trials – and inventions – of quantum network technologies this year.

RNA therapies
The announcement last month of a potential new treatment for Huntington’s disease, an inheritable neurodegenerative disease for which there is no known cure, has broad implications. The preliminary tests showed a lowering in the levels of toxic proteins in the brain, suggesting that the method might work for other dementia-related conditions.

Gene-editing therapies
Diseases with a well defined genetic cause can potentially be cured by replacing the mutant genes with properly functioning, healthy ones. That’s the basis of gene therapies, which have been talked about for years but have so far failed to deliver. The discovery in 2012 of a set of molecular tools, called CRISPR-Cas9, for targeting and editing genes with great accuracy has revitalised interest in attacking such genetic diseases at their root. But is the method safe enough for human use? Clinical trials kicked off last year, particularly in China but also in the US. It should start to become clear this year just how effective and safe these procedures are.


Follow me on Twitter. Please subscribe to our news feed. Get regular updates via Email. Contact us for advertising inquiries.