WILL ALL THIS MEAN IMMORTALITY? Along with preventive medicine and other medical advances, regenerative medicine will play a role in gradually increasing the average human lifespan — just as it has increased over the past centuries. But the goal of regenerative medicine isn't immortality, it is to improve patients lives and, in some cases, hopefully to even cure disease.
UNDER THE SEA
Chris Roman, professor of oceanography at URI, is developing new ways to map the ocean floor. He'll be lecturing, with Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute chief technologist James Bellingham and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research meteorologist Joseph Cione, on robotics use in the ocean.
WE ALREADY HAVE AUTONOMOUS UNDERWATER VEHICLES (AUVs) THAT CAN TRAVEL UNDERWATER WITHOUT INPUT FROM THE SCIENTISTS OR MILITARY COMMANDERS WHO SET THEM LOOSE. WHAT'S NEXT? Yes, right now we have vehicles that can swim freely in the ocean and are pretty good at doing what they are told to do when released. In the near future, with advances in battery technology and low-power computing, we will see vehicles that can swim for weeks or months rather than just days while carrying around laboratory quality sensors. This will create the need for vehicles to make smart decisions on their own. I also think we'll see a trend toward using lots of small, low-cost robots in the ocean and atmosphere that can all network and talk to each other. At some point we'll have the Roomba of the sea doing useful things.
IN THE LONG RUN, WHAT COULD ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE MEAN FOR DEEP-SEA EXPLORATION? As mentioned above, smarter vehicles will be enabled by advances in artificial intelligence (AI). Quite simply the ocean is a really big place, and you can't hope to be everywhere at once. Smarter vehicles will take sensor data and make choices on what to do and how to explore the interesting parts of the ocean all by themselves. We'll also use AI to run teams of robots that can self-coordinate and explore in ways we can't with ships alone. I think ships are going to become aircraft carriers for robots.
MIGHT WE STILL FIND ATLANTIS? I don't think I'll put my money on finding the Atlantis of legend intact and tucked away under the sea somewhere. Nevertheless, the oceans do contain a wealth of undiscovered historical information. For example, the ancient ship wrecks we find are time capsules from past civilizations that provide details for legends like Atlantis that intertwine bits of history, fantasy, and our current knowledge of marine geology. You never know what will turn up if you keep looking.
SOCIAL MEDIA A Bluefin Labs TV genome visualization.
TALK TO THE ROBOT
Deb Roy has focused, in recent years, on how children develop language — using the research to help build machines that communicate in human-like ways.
On leave from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he served as director of the Cognitive Machines Group at the MIT Media Lab, he is now working as CEO at Bluefin Labs, which he cofounded in 2008.
VIDEO CAMERAS SCATTERED THROUGHOUT YOUR HOUSE RECORDED MUCH OF THE FIRST THREE YEARS OF YOUR SON'S LIFE IN A BID TO UNLOCK THE MYSTERIES OF LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT. WHAT WAS THE SINGLE MOST SURPRISING THING YOU LEARNED? That where a word is used is a better predictor than how often it is used of when it will be learned.