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November 16, 2006

New Scientist has forecasts for the next 50 years

In New Scientist magazine, they have forecasts for the next 50 years.

Several of the forecasts involve discovering alien life or the remains of alien life and several forecast breakthroughs in understanding the workings of the brain and mind

Here are the ones I agree with or find interesting. The forecasts I agree with tend to be too conservative. Although the Nathan Myhrvold and Bill Joy predictions are just a statement of a general direction and identifying an area of high impact.

Nathan Myhrvold predicts: Applied physics will be revolutionised in the next 50 years in ways we never thought possible, by advances in metamaterials, substances whose intricate synthetic structures enable them to transcend many of the limitations of natural materials. Better telescopes, microscopes and invisibility are just the earliest breakthroughs from metamaterials. Metamaterials will completely change the way we approach optics and nearly every aspect of electronics. Just as solid-state devices replaced vacuum tubes, metamaterial optics will make glass lenses a quaint artefact of an obsolete era. Other metamaterials designed to shepherd electrons more precisely and efficiently could solve the heat and scaling problems that plague microcircuitry.

David Deutch predicts quantum computers On the theoretical side, I expect a further major integration between physics and information science. The key breakthrough would be the development of a quantum theory of construction - the general theory of what, according to the laws of physics, can or cannot be built and with what resources.

Bill Joy forecasts clean, inexhaustible and cheap energy sources.

Francis Collins predicts advances in genetics and anti-aging will dramatically lengthen lifespans Richard Miller predicts the key breakthrough will be the elucidation of the molecular pathways that render cells from long-lived animals - whales, people, bats, porcupines - resistant to many forms of injury. Bruce Lahn predicts the creation of unlimited organs for transplantation

Peter Atkins forecasts the creation of synthetic life

Eric Horvitz predicts computers and artificial intelligence systems that will drive technological breakthroughs and advancement of technology. (A conservative way of stating that we will have reached some form of technological singularity without the associated implications). Rodney Brooks forecasts some progress with Artificial Intelligence

I believe the worst prediction is
Taking some form of psychodelic drugs so that we can accept our mortality This is bad to not fix our problems but to take drugs so you do not care that you have not fixed it.

Some of the predictions are for things that are already well underway
Susan Greenfield forecasts brain imaging will be able to see changes at the synaptic level that underpin learning. This has already started to be done with animals Miniturization and other advancement will allow this to be done less invasively.

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