• Science Week: What invention do you want to see most in the future?

    To celebrate Science Week bloggers are being invited to talk about the effect that science has had in their lives through a range of topics – each day the organisers will reward the best post with a Nintendo Wii console. This post is one of my entries to the competition.

    “Q2 – What invention do you want to see most in the future?”

    It’s funny; once I started to think about potential future inventions I’d like to see I ended up in a number of mental moral battles over each one’s implications.

    A time machine would be great, I thought, but then I reckoned that with the effect it would have on the past such a creation would probably do more harm than good. A teleporter? Sure, I hate most journeys too and would love to get to most places in an instant but then the warnings of dodgy Sci-Fi stories started to worry me. What if I accidentally shared my trip to the office with a tiny insect and ended up developing its severe body hair and acne problem as a result? What if the technology was used for a new form of terrorism where people teleported bombs to the exact place that someone was standing in at that time, thus blowing them up from the inside out? (This idea came from the one episode of Earth: Final Conflict I ever saw).

    So as I sat there, staring at the solitary wire protruding from the back of my laptop, I realised just what kind of invention would truly make a difference. At the moment the technology for renewable and green energy is a reality, I thought, it’s just a matter of widespread adoption. What has yet to be mastered, however, is a new way to deliver this energy – so my most anticipated invention has to be wireless electricity.

    Think about it; wireless technology has reached its tipping point and now every device on the market comes with some kind of wireless functionality. Mobile phones are everywhere, landlines phones no longer mean a handled tethered to a block via a weird curly wire, printers and cameras and next generation consoles all have wifi or bluetooth chips built in and even the most basic of kitchen appliances can now be operated by remote control or SMS. And yet they all still have to be plugged in.

    We’re at a stage now where a computer can operate wirelessly with a mouse and keyboard, printer, camera, speakers and internet connection – its only the power cable that’s getting in the way (or maybe the monitor cable too, depending on your computer).

    Just imagine being able to pick up any device in your house and put it anywhere else without having to even switch it off. Imagine having your mobile charged while it sits in your pocket or your laptop charged while it sits in your bag. Imagine not having to search for plugs anymore, or have to add another double adaptor to your already perilously over-used gang-plug. Imagine if fitting a new light simply meant screwing it anywhere on the wall or ceiling (putting the switch somewhere else, which communicated with the light via bluetooth). Imagine how much more practical it would be to have an electric car if you could charge it anywhere in the country, not just where there were custom-build charging ports. The list goes on.

    Of course, I couldn’t help but think of the moral, or more importantly medical, consequences of such an invention. Given that we as humans were raised on a healthy fear of electricity it’s certainly intimidating to think of it whizzing around our heads constantly. But unlike the unpredictable and potentially catastrophic uses of some hypothetical technology I think wireless electricity will be nothing other than a marvel assuming the whole “extreme danger” thing is worked through by those in the know.

    Then there’s the issue of access management – how do companies keep people who aren’t paying from using their service? What if I have my own supply that I want to stop neighbours leeching off of? Something tells me that by the time wireless electricity becomes a mass-marketable reality, people won’t be thinking about electricity in commercial terms anymore.

    Some more of today’s entries: Roosta, Daragh, Simon, Kevin (leave a comment if you have an entry you want added)