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10 technologies that will change the world in the next 10 years

3D printers, sensor networks, virtual humans and other technologies under development now will drastically change our world in the decade to come, according to Cisco chief futurist Dave Evans

By , Network World
July 15, 2011 12:29 PM ET
working bicycle created via a 3D printer

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Between now and then, augmented reality and gesture-based computing will enter our classrooms, medical facilities and communications, and transform them as well. "Already, machine vision enables users to take a picture of a Sudoku puzzle with their smartphone and have it solved almost immediately," he notes.

No. 9: Yes, there's a cure for that

"We think nothing of using pacemakers," Evans points out. In the next 10 years, he believes medical technologies will grow vastly more sophisticated as computing power becomes available in smaller forms. Devices such as nanobots and the ability to grow replacement organs from our own tissues will be the norm. "The ultimate integration may be brain-machine interfaces that eventually allow people with spinal cord injuries to live normal lives," he says.

Today we have mind-controlled video games and wheelchairs, software by Intel that can scan the brain and tell what you are thinking and tools that can actually predict what you are going to do before you do it.

No. 10: Humans or Borg?

According to Stephen Hawking, "Humans are entering a stage of self-designed evolution." Taking the medical technology idea to the next level, healthy humans will be given the tools to augment themselves. Evans offers the following examples:

July 2009 -- Spanish researchers discover substance for photographic memory.

October 2009 -- Italian and Swedish scientists develop the first artificial hand with feeling.

March 2010 -- Retina implants restore vision to blind patients.

June 2011 -- Texas Heart Institute develops a "spinning" heart with no pulse, no clogs and no breakdowns.

While the early use of these technologies will be to repair unhealthy tissue or fix the consequences of brain injury, eventually designer enhancements will be available to all.

Ultimately, humans will use so much technology to mend, improve or enhance our bodies, that we will become the Borg. Futurist Ray Kurzweil is pioneering this idea with a concept he calls singularity, the point at which man and machine merge and become a new species. (Kurzweil says this will happen by 2054). Evans is not convinced about singularity, particularly in Kurzweil's time frame. Evans sits on the Singularity University in Mountain View and finds the data plausible, and agrees that we are on that trajectory.

Julie Bort is the editor of Network World's Cisco Subnet community. She also writes the Odds and Ends blog for Cisco Subnet and the Microsoft Update blog for Microsoft Subnet and Source Seeker for the Open Source Subnet community sites. Follow Bort on Twitter @Julie188.

Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.

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