Tuesday, January 6, 2009

What will change everything?

The Edge annual question for 2009, "what will change everything?", is being posed by John Brockman to a community of thinkers. More precisely, "what game-changing scientific ideas and developments do you expect to live to see?". Below are part of some answers that I particularly found interesting (although you should read all of them!):

Kevin Kelly, Editor-At-Large, Wired: "It is hard to imagine anything that would "change everything" as much as a cheap, powerful, ubiquitous artificial intelligence—the kind of synthetic mind that learns and improves itself."

Ed Regis, Science Writer: "The idea was that scientists and engineers would construct vast fleets of "assemblers," molecular-scale, programmable devices that would build objects of practically any arbitrary size and complexity, from the molecules up. Program the assemblers to put together an SUV, a sailboat, or a spacecraft, and they'd do it—automatically, and without human aid or intervention. Further, they'd do it using cheap, readily-available feedstock molecules as raw materials."

Marc D. Hauser, Psychologist and Biologist, Harvard University: "Science fiction writers traffic in a world that tries on possible worlds. What if, as in the Hollywood blockbuster Minority Report, we could read people's intentions before they act and thus preempt violence? An intentionality detector would be a terrific device to have, but talk about ethical nightmares. " This is something that I also thought about when thinking about the question posed.

Marcelo Gleiser, Appleton Professor of Natural Philosophy, Dartmouth College, talks about mastering death through. "I can think of two ways in which mortality can be tamed. One at the cellular level and the other through an integration of body with genetic, cognitive sciences, and cyber technology."

Freeman Dyson, Physicist, Institute of Advanced Studies: "I expect that genetics and molecular biology will be dominant for the next fifty years, and after that neurology will have its turn. Neurology will change the game of human life drastically, as soon as we develop the tools to observe and direct the activities of a human brain in detail from the outside". In a nutshell: direct communication between brain and brain.

Lawrence Krauss, Physicist, Director, Origins Initiative, Arizona State University: "The Use Of Nuclear Weapons Against A Civilian Population." To be honest, I doubt this will happen. Its implications are far too deep and serious.

Gregory Benford, Novelist, Co-founder & Chairman: "Live To 150." I second that!

Richard Foreman, Founder Director, Ontological-Hysteric Theater; Playwright: "Nothing Will Change Everything." Pretty straight forward, isn't it?

... and many many more. Definitely worth reading!

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