Skepticism

Afternoon Inquisition 1.6

Y’all are familiar with Edge.org, right?  Of course you are.   Every January they serve up the Annual Question, along with loads of answers from all sort of cool folks, including many FOS (Friends of Skepchick.)  Instead of hotlinking 150 times, I’m just going to suggest you head on over there and read for yourself.

Surprisingly, Edge somehow missed the Skepchick community when they were collecting responses.  Seeing as how they’re surely very busy reading the many swell responses and getting all head asplodey,  I figured I’d just go ahead and ask you guys myself.

2009’s question is this:  

What game-changing scientific ideas and developments do you expect to live to see?

If you’re not up for answering yourself, do feel free to leave a comment letting us know which answers over at Edge blow your mind.  For me, so far, it’s Howard Rheingold’s Social Media Literacy.


 


a.real.girl

A B Kovacs is the Director of Døøm at Empty Set Entertainment, a publishing company she co-founded with critical thinker and fiction author Scott Sigler. She considers herself a “Creative Adjacent” — helping creative people be more productive and prolific by managing the logistics of Making for the masses. She's a science nerd, a rabid movie geek, and an unrepentantly voracious reader. She doesn't like chocolate all that much.

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37 Comments

  1. I expect there will be tourist space travel below 6 figures.
    I’m not accomplished enough to understand all the possibilities of genetic research, but I expect to have my mind blown on a regular basis for the rest of my life.
    MRI research, which helps understand how the different parts of our brain interact, will result in computers that are far more intuitive and user friendly.
    The Free Thought satellite will broadcast free internet access to million in nations with restricted access, helping to enlighten those oppressed by religious rule.

  2. Because of my love of gadgets the one that really struck a chord with me was Keith Devlin’s answer about how there will be a time probably within the next 30 years when almost every adult on the planet will have a mobile phone. Not just mobile phones, but the access to the internet that only the most expensive phones today have.

    As Keith puts it “That puts global connectivity, immense computational power, and access to all the world’s knowledge amassed over many centuries, in everyone’s hands. The world has never, ever, been in that situation before. It really will change everything.”

  3. @NoAstronomer: I expect to see machine intelligence surpass human intelligence.

    ———–

    That’s a lot of progress, considering that computers are significantly dumber than cockroaches at the moment. I expect to see seamless melding of human/machine intelligence long before “pure” machine intelligence gets anywhere close.

  4. I expect to see a neural computer interface. Something at least sophisticated enough to replace other computer inputs, mouse, keyboard, joystick, robowhore, as well as driving prosthetic limbs.

  5. Although it may come LATE in my life, I genuinely expect that we’ll see self-contained, nanobot-based per-person health systems that will complement the body’s own maintenance.

    Via basic radio communication the CPU could control and gain feedback from the bots, mapping out the entire body, and then being able to dispatch the units as needed. The system could clean away arterial plaque and cholesterol, monitor and report on issues before they become serious, and possibly even fight viruses directly that the body’s incapable of fighting on its own, or does so inefficiently. I see the system receiving constant updates, much like computer virus definitions, to more effectively and efficiently battle new or newly-understood illnesses.

    The bots could swarm together to produce dams to prevent extreme blood loss until outside medical attention is received, or possibly convert non-priority materials in the body into suture-like substances with which to close off large wounds automatically.

    The system might even be able to stimulate certain glands to produce hormones for pain relief or other desired physical or mental responses to help the host survive or maintain themselves until better solutions can be reached.

    It sounds like a pretty extreme leap, but looking at how much we’re doing in nanotech right now, and how quickly our progress is, well, progressing, I think it’s relatively feasible that I could see this. Sadly with my luck I’m sure I’ll be just past the maximum age for implantation when it does arrive.

  6. Humans on Mars.
    Significant life extension by overcoming a couple of the hurdles outlined at http://www.methuselahfoundation.org/
    Human/Machine interfaces allowing thought control of hardware (bionic/vehicle/etc) and software (Googlepedia(wetware edition)) processes.
    Wireless network saturation and vehicular auto-pilot software good enough to allow for computer controlled vehicles to be common place (and hopefully the standard)

  7. Hydrospanners.
    (Hey, Han Solo had one, whatever the Hell it is!)

    Deep Thought. (Although we’ll have to wait several million years to find out that that, though we have the answer to the Universal Question, we will have no idea as to what the Universal Question is…)

    On a serious note: Practical life extension technologies – but only for the very rich and powerful. The rest of us will be farked.

  8. I’m not sure if I’ll see it, but a working gravitational field theory would be ultimate. Newton’s and Einstein’s theories are astonishingly accurate regarding gravitational effects. But there is no working theory for the gravitational force the way there is for the weak, strong, and electromagnetic forces.

    If field theory applies to all forces but gravitation, the gravity of the situation is enormous (pun intended).

    On the other hand, if it does, the possibilities?

    Not necessarily anti-gravity, but the equilavent of loaded 757’s that weigh nothing at takeoff and 5000 road vehicles that weigh very little would be possible.

  9. Two major things:

    1) Zero-carbon energy cheap enough to run the economy on.

    2) Radical life extension.

    Of course if #2 does show up, then what I can expect to live to see gets quite a bit more expansive.

  10. Customized drugs based on an individual’s genetic sequence.

    If stem cell research gets some of the restrictions lifted, then I think we will see treatments and cures for Parkinson’s, alzheimer’s , spinal cord and brain injuries, and other neurological disorders.

  11. @The 327th Male: I’m prepared to go one further, stick my neck out and say that I think we’ll find (or show a lack of) the Higgs Boson within the next 10 years.

    I think within the next 50 years we’ll also see an Internet Boom in the Third World, Computers generally getting cheaper and faster, more fuel efficient/hybrid/electric cars, A Boom in alternative energy generation (which is better deployment of exsisting technology rather than new technology), a replacement for Hubble, an unmanned trans-neptunian space probe mission, a Mars Rover specifically designed to work 10+, the confirmation of liquid water on Europa (no, right now we just THINK it has liquid water, we dont KNOW it has), the first human clone, ice free arctic in summer (we could see that in 10 years).

    My big prediction for the next 20 years though will be the overall “Greening” of the economy, more renewables, more public transport and a greater generall awareness of the environment as rising sea levels return Holland to the oceans

  12. @Knurl:

    Not necessarily anti-gravity, but the equilavent of loaded 757’s that weigh nothing at takeoff and 5000 road vehicles that weigh very little would be possible.

    Um, I doubt that. Very much. That’s anyonic subspace warp modulation you’re talking about, not a quantum theory of gravity.

    Newton’s and Einstein’s theories are astonishingly accurate regarding gravitational effects. But there is no working theory for the gravitational force the way there is for the weak, strong, and electromagnetic forces.

    Actually, if you want to get persnickety about it, you could say that we only understand the effects of the nuclear and electromagnetic forces, too. (“The effect of a gluon coupling to a quark is to exchange colours but leave the quark flavour unchanged. . .” etc.)

    Oh, and if anyone wants my idea for a “game-changer”, how about this:

    In the future, people in the “public intellectual” business like Brockman, the publisher of Edge, will no longer give unwarranted boosts to the credibility of frauds like Rupert Sheldrake by granting them public soapboxes they do not deserve.

    Or else, the market for books like the Edge anthologies will become sufficiently well-trained in the fine art of baloney detection that they will set their standards higher and cease pissing away their money and their eyeball time on publishers who do not deserve the attention.

  13. @davew:
    Dense energy storage. Something about 10x better than current batteries.

    Forget batteries. I think they’ve already got some lines of thinking towards battery-sized power generation. Something like using the radioactive decay from material in the core to create power when the radiation hits the shell.
    It would be rather dangerous when the battry gets damaged, but it seems that’s already the case with a lot of batteries today.

    Essentialy, it would mean batteries with a lifetime of 25-30 years. Of use. Without recharging.

  14. @Detroitus:
    Jet-packs and flying cars in every home! I’m holding out for it… I just know that the Jetsons wouldn’t lie to me.
    While becoming more affordable, I think the problem is competence. Even today, there are many people driving on our roads who schouldn’t even be allowed to step behind the wheel. The dangers only increase when you add another dimension to your driving experience.

    So while it might become affordable (like buying a motorcycle or a boat), you’d still need sufficient training/qualification/licensing to keep it all safe.

    Only a decent autopilot would take care of that, and I only expect that to happen for road vehicles within my lifetime.

  15. @DNAmom:
    If stem cell research gets some of the restrictions lifted, then I think we will see treatments and cures for Parkinson’s, alzheimer’s , spinal cord and brain injuries, and other neurological disorders.
    What restrictions?
    Oh, you weren’t talking about what could happen outside of the US.

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