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The Download, Feb 22, 2017: 10 Breakthrough Technologies, Life Gets Longer, and Robot Role Models

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February 22, 2017

Three Things You Need to Know Today

The 10 Breakthrough Technologies of 2017
We’ve chosen the ten most important technologies that are emerging this year. They will shape the world—by affecting the economy and our politics, improving medicine, and influencing culture. Some, such as 360-degree selfies and facial recognition payments, are available right now. Others, like hot solar cells and brain implants to reverse paralysis, will make their impact over the coming years. And one—the botnet of things—isn’t even a positive force. But they are all, in their own way, vitally important. Check them out.

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Life Gets Longer, For Some More Than Others
Life expectancy is increasing—unequally. New research published in the Lancet shows that  the global population will all live longer by 2030, with the gap between men and women narrowing. But breaking the findings down by nation is fascinating: South Korean women will be first to hit a 90-year average, while the U.S. will have the lowest life expectancy of all the rich countries. Still, there’s hope for those who can pay: a recent study suggested that there may be no theoretical limit to life extension, and there's no shortage of researchers toiling to find the fountain of youth.

Robots Win Friends Then Influence People
Your next role model may be robotic. As artificial intelligence systems become increasingly human, their abilities to influence people also improve. And it’s working: researchers from Tel Aviv University show that children who play with a robotic companion acquire its unremitting can-do attitude, a new study in Australia is using humanoid robots to coach people to eat more healthily, and our own Will Knight has found that chatbots with social skills can make particularly compelling suggestions.

Ten Fascinating Things  

China is about to get its first maximum-security biolab to study the world’s most dangerous pathogens—but not everyone's happy about it.

What are cities doing to humans? Analysis of old bones sheds a little light on the impact of urbanization on our species.

In the future, we might all need to get by with a little less H2O. This is what happens when you try to live a post-water life for a week.

Having sucked the advertising revenue out of local media, should Facebook now help support it?

There’s a surprising new source for therapeutic proteins: animal slobber.

A new breed of headphones doesn’t just wirelessly inject sound into your ears—it also gives you selective hearing.

How do you make a data center more efficient? Build it underwater.

It sounds unlikely, but a new combination of drugs can regenerate hair cells in the inner ear to fight hearing loss.

Lab-grown meat is still a little ways off. So if you can’t deny yourself a burger, but want to eat sustainably, how about a crowdfunded cow.

Increasingly, progress bars are unnecessary. Here’s why some software still uses fake ones anyway.

Quote of the Day 

“I don't know, your honor.”

— Frank Volpe, a lead attorney for several U.S. fossil fuel companies on a climate change lawsuit, couldn’t answer a judge when asked if atmospheric carbon dioxide levels had reached 400 parts per million. (They have.)

 

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Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

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