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The futurist: 56 firsts waiting to happen

Thomas Frey //June 26, 2012//

The futurist: 56 firsts waiting to happen

Thomas Frey //June 26, 2012//

On May 24, Gary Connery, a 42-year-old British stuntman, jumped from a helicopter hovering one mile in the air over southern England and glided to the earth using a specially designed wing suit. His runway was comprised of a cobbled-up crash-pad fabricated from 18,000 cardboard boxes.

With this record-setting jump, Gary became the first skydiver to land without using a parachute. While others have survived through some fluke of nature, he was the first one to plan it from the start.

We live in a world obsessed with accomplishments, and more specifically, obsessed with being first.

Few of us remember the second person to set foot on the moon or the second person to invent the airplane or the second one to run a mile in under 4 minutes.

So given this almost fanatical pursuit to become the “first” at something, what exactly are some of the big accomplishments still waiting to be claimed that will land someone in the history books? Here are a few that come to mind.

History of Firsts

People can become famous for a variety reasons stemming from heroic, unfortunate, ground breaking, or even uncontrollable circumstances. When a new trend appears in transportation, communication, or the technical world, an opportunistic innovator is always there to be the first to develop or test the new technology. History has many examples of influential firsts that have had a huge impact on society, culture, and the world as a whole.

Here are a few examples of people who have gone first:

  • First People to Fly: On November 21, 1783, the first manned hot air balloon flight was made in Paris, France, by Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and François Laurent d’Arlandes.
  • First Nude Actress in a Movie: In 1915, actress Audrey Munson became the first leading actress to appear nude in a movie. Her appearance in the film “Inspiration” led to her being the model or inspiration for more than 15 statues in New York City.
  • First Woman to Cross the Atlantic: May 20, 1932, Amelia Earhart became the first female American aviator to conduct a solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean.
  • First Woman Cabinet Member: In 1933, Frances Perkins was appointed Secretary of Labor by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, making her the first woman member of a presidential cabinet.
  • First Symbol for the Civil-Rights Movement: On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks, a longtime activist with the NAACP, refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, so that a white man could have it. Her arrest became a major turning point for the civil-rights movement.
  • First  Person to Expose the Mafia: In October 1963, Joseph Valachi became the first informant for the FBI to testify that the Mafia did exist.
  • First African-American Major League Baseball Player: On April 15, 1947 Jackie Robinson made his major league debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers, becoming the first African American Major League Baseball player in the modern era. Robinson broke the race barrier and changed the world of professional baseball.
  • First Million-Dollar Actor: In 1957 William Holden became the first actor to be paid $1 million for a single film. That year he starred in the production of The Bridge on the River Kwai and established the first million dollar payday for Hollywood.
  • First IVF Baby: On July 25, 1978, Louise Joy Brown became the first baby to be born through in vitro fertilization. Today, IVF has become a commonly practiced procedure all over the world.
  • First Computer Virus: In 1988, Cornell University student Robert Tappan Morris unwittingly became to first person to create a computer virus. While trying to gauge the size of the Internet, the “Morris Worm” exploited some known vulnerabilities in Unix sendmail, but became extremely damaging when the code infected computers multiple times with the virus.
  • First Super-Marathoner: In November 2003, 59-year old Sir Ranulph Fiennes became the first person to run 7 marathons, in 7 days, on 7 different continents.
  • First on Twitter to Reach 25 Million: In May 2012, Lady Gaga became the first person on Twitter to reach 25 million followers.
  • First to Solve Isaac Newton’s Problem: In May 2012, Shouryya Ray, a 16-year-old German student became the first person to solve a mathematical problem posed by Sir Isaac Newton more than 300 years ago – how to calculate exactly the path of a projectile under gravity and subject to air resistance. This was a problem that had stumped mathematicians for centuries. Bravo Shouryya!

56 Future Firsts

If we look at where we’ve come from, the list of opportunities for new “firsts” are growing on a daily basis. Here is a list of 56 of them to help challenge your thinking.

Eight Space Firsts

While Star Trek famously proclaimed space to be the “final frontier,” there are, in fact, many unexplored frontiers. Here are a few space-related “firsts” that come to mind:

  1. First person on Mars
  2. First person to set foot on an asteroid
  3. First person to travel at the speed of light
  4. First space hotel
  5. First person to set foot on the Sun (No, I’m not volunteering!)
  6. First President of the Moon
  7. First space-based power station
  8. First to develop an inexpensive way to escape earth’s orbit

Eight Physics Firsts

Without trying to violate too many of the laws of physics, here are a few of today’s holy grails:

  1. First mass energy storage system
  2. Controlling gravity – first to discover the true nature of gravity
  3. Discovery of the “God” particle
  4. First person to create room temperature super conductors
  5. First person to create low-energy hot water
  6. Nuclear fusion
  7. Movable holes – drill a hole in the wrong place, no problem, just move the hole
  8. Flashdark – the opposite of a flashlight. This one shines “darkness” onto a surface

Eight Driverless Vehicle Firsts

Over the next 10 years we will see the first wave of autonomous vehicles hit the roads, with some of the initial inroads made by vehicles that deliver packages, groceries, and fast-mail envelopes.

  1. First driverless valet service
  2. First person to travel across the U.S. without a driver
  3. First person to travel over 200 mph in a driverless car
  4. First driverless taxi service
  5. First driverless pizza delivery
  6. First flying delivery drone to dock with a house
  7. First accident-free driverless vehicle over 10-year period
  8. First driverless vehicle allowed to enter the Indianapolis 500

Eight Firsts in Healthcare

Comedian Chris Rock likes to take medical researchers to task, noting, “There’s no money in the cure. They haven’t cured anything since polio.”

Whether or not there is any truth to his statement, there are a huge number of cures and other medical advances waiting to happen:

  1. Cure for cancer
  2. Cure for diabetes
  3. Cure for obesity
  4. Cure for Alzheimer
  5. Cure for strokes
  6. Cure for heart disease
  7. Self-healing, self-repairing body
  8. First person to live past 200

Eight 3D Printer Firsts

3D printing is an object creation technology where the shapes of the objects are formed through a process of building up layers of material until all of the details are in place.

  1. First printed house
  2. First printed commercial building
  3. First shredded and reprinted house
  4. First printed airplane
  5. First printed rocket
  6. First to scan and print “perfect fit” clothing in under 10 minutes
  7. First to scan and print “perfect fit” shoes in under 10 minutes
  8. First printed can filled with printed soup, or first printed bottle filled with printed wine