Briefs: Biology + Biotechnology

Biometrics Go Live: Applications for Consumers


Biometrics in the most general sense is the statistical study of biological phenomena. Biometric identification, often called simply “biometrics,” is a specific application of biometrics for determining or verifying the identity of an individual. Long described as an emerging technology, biometrics is now being implemented in a wide variety of applications and settings.

While there remains some skepticism about the scalability of biometrics to large numbers of users, biometrics is already in widespread use.

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Technology Disruptions through 2025


Technology has always been a major driver of change, even disruption, in human affairs. Through 2025, it is poised to do so in significant new ways—impacting areas ranging from energy to consumer lifestyles to World 3 development to warfare—thanks to revolutionary advances now in the wings.

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Eye-Tracking and Eye-Control: In the Blink of an Eye

Eye-Tracking Peter_Sheik_Flickr

Poets have long declaimed that the eyes are windows to the soul. Today’s technology entrepreneurs and marketers have a more prosaic idea—using eyes, specifically the movement and behavior of a person’s eye, to gauge interest, detect health problems, and control technology.

Bolstered by this possibility—and the spread of key technologies such as cameras, sensors, and cloud computing—eye-tracking and eye-control technologies are leaving the lab and demonstrations and moving into commercial settings. This could bring about new form factors for computing, new ways to interact with the built environment, and even new artistic processes. It will also likely continue to erode current privacy levels.

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Microbiomics: 100 Trillion Little Friends?


Trillions of organisms live in and on each human being, making up 90% of the cells in a human body, and some estimate that the typical person carries two to six pounds of bacteria. Commonly viewed as parasites or invaders in the past, they are increasingly seen as crucial determiners of health and disease, central to many basic functions.

Study of the microbiome—the collection of microbes living on humans—has expanded rapidly over the last 15 years. With rising media coverage, popular awareness of the concept is spreading, and reaching the level of mainstream products, with probiotic foods the most prominent examples. This is likely just the beginning, as the field promises breakthroughs in health, and is likely to shift thinking in that area and beyond.

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Is Average Over?

Brandon Martin-Anderson

Tyler Cowen, a professor of economics at George Mason University and a popular economics blogger, made waves with his bestseller Average Is Over, a controversial and compelling forecast that maintains that the modern world is on the cusp of a sea change, brought on largely by the rise of artificial intelligence (AI).

“The basic look of our lives … hasn’t been revolutionized all that much in 40 to 50 years,” Cowen writes. “That’s about to change.”

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UK Biodiversity: Future Threats and Opportunities


A two-day exercise in horizon scanning among UK policymakers, environmental scientists, science journalists and environmental NGOs has identified a list of 25 new potential challenges to UK biodiversity before 2050. Most of the issues present both hazards and opportunities for biodiversity. Read more…