One of the unfortunate aspects of labeling yourself a transhumanist or a futurist is often the perceived inability to do anything appreciable to advance your cause. Unless you’re a scientist or engineer, there’s little that the average futurist can do. Even politically, it’s often difficult to do anything more than support a technoprogressive standpoint, and hope that society slowly babysteps in the right direction. There are no cyborg rights protests to attend, no “Support Brain Uploading” 5K’s to run, and even futurist non-profits can usually do little more then spread awareness.
Crowdfunding changes that though. It gives scientists and engineers with big ideas and small pockets the opportunity to actually bring those ideas to life, and for futurists, it gives us the opportunity to play a direct hand in the future. This recurring feature article will help highlight the best ideas seeking your help each month. Here are the four best future-promoting projects of November.
Fusion Propulsion Research
This project’s presentation and pitch could use more than a little bit of work, but that’s to be expected – it was written by an engineer. Once you grind your way through all the unnecessary technical writing and barrage of poorly organized thoughts, the core proposal is fantastic.
In order to make interplanetary travel – even within our solar system – a truly feasible idea, we need a power source capable of sustained acceleration, preferably at a constant 1G. This would greatly decrease travel times versus contemporary technology and would provide some Earth-like artificial gravity to the space travelers. Unfortunately, no such technology capable of that much energy output over such a sustained period of time is currently available.
The folks at UAH (University of Alabama in Huntsville) are attempting to lay the scientific groundwork for a fusion propulsion system to fill this capability gap. They’ve got the equipment to do it, the right people to do it, and the moxie to go chasing their pipe dreams. With the help of some crowdfunding to supplement their grant funding, mankind could be one step closer to conquering our solar system. It might be a lofty, pie-in-the-sky goal, but if you want big change, you have to dream big too. Qui audet adipiscitur.
Support Fusion Propulsion Research on indiegogo
Toy Brain-Controlled Helicopter
On the opposite end of the spectrum, from massive fusion research projects you have simple gadgets. That’s exactly what the Puzzlebox Orbit is: a toy gadget. By employing a simple EEG headset to read your brainwaves, the Orbit is able to be piloted directly with your mind.
While that might not have as far-reaching possibilities or the same scientific merit as fusion research, the Orbit is important for other reasons. By providing children and adults with a simple and intuitive tech demo, in the form of a toy, Puzzlebox is helping to raise awareness of research into neuroscience and help popularize it. Toys like these help stimulate people’s curiosity and sense of wonder, and more than anything else, those are essential to building the kind of future we want to live in. Best of all though, you can get your own Orbit with just an $89 contribution.
Puzzlebox Orbit: Brain-Controlled Helicopter on Kickstarter
Taking the idea of EEG-based gadgets and running with it, the folks at InteraXon have come up with the Muse, a semi-stylish headband that monitors your brain activity. By itself, the Muse and its accompanying software are pretty mundane. They monitor your brain activity to help your learn to cope with stress, monitor your emotions, etc. But where the idea really takes flight is with the addition of the Muse’s SDK (Standard Developer’s Kit). Instead of seeking to build stand-alone devices, each of which might require its own EEG headset, the Muse seeks to serve as a standardized format for brainwave data collection.
The potential implications of Muse and its SDK are staggering. Linked directly to a smartphone and supported with the right apps, the Muse could do all sorts of things. You could use it to detect when you nod off and automatically set a wake-up alarm. Maybe you might want it to detect when you are in severe distress and trigger your house and car alarms. It would even be possible to make toys like the Orbit commonplace, relying on the standardized platform of the Muse instead of their own specially-designed headbands. Just like the Orbit, the Muse also offers the promise of sweet loot for your contribution; $145 gets you a Muse headband and the accompanying SDK.
Muse: The Brain-Sensing Headband on indiegogo
Hobbyist-Designed Manned Space Capsule
It’s a true testament to just how far we have come in terms of space exploration that now even space and rocket hobbyists are able to seriously consider conducting their own manned missions to space. What once took the resources of the two most powerful nations in the world to accomplish is now being accomplished by a non-profit.
Copenhagen Suborbitals has already succeeded in several high-profile rocket launches, as well as two tests of their manned space capsule. Now they’re hoping to continue building on that success by developing and testing another manned space capsule. Specifically, they are seeking donations to help cover the cost of designing and building the capsule’s pressure system. Although their goals might seem over-ambitious to some, Copenhagen Suborbitals has the trained professionals capable of accomplishing the job and has proven that time and time again. If you have ever wanted to say that you helped directly contribute to human space exploration, this is your opportunity.
DIY Space Capsule Tycho Deep Space II on indiegogo
If you know of any projects that you feel should be on this list in the future, please contact us by email, Facebook, or Twitter. Suggestions are always welcome.