le_englishmajor (le_englishmajor) wrote in curious_minds,

Challenges for the next 50 years

Select a minimum of three challenges and discuss

1) the rationale behind proposing them
2) your opinion on whether or not they should take precedence over others.
3) if solving these challenges will indeed make life better for mankind
4) other challenges (if you can think of any) that should be added to this list.

Feb 17, 2008
14 challenges for next 50 years
Experts believe solving these problems will make life better for mankind

1. Make solar energy affordable.

2. Provide energy from nuclear fusion.

3. Develop methods to capture carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuels and tackle global warming.

4. Manage the rate at which human activity removes nitrogen from the air, worsening global warming.

5. Provide access to clean water.

6. Restore and improve urban infrastructure while preserving the environment.

7. Advance health informatics so that doctors can track carefully patients' biological information.

8. Engineer better medicines.

9. Reverse engineer the brain and determine how it works.

10. Prevent nuclear terror by finding ways to protect energy sources.

11. Secure cyberspace from identity thefts and viruses.

12. Enhance virtual reality so that it can be used for training experts and treating patients.

13. Advance personalised learning by using Internet courses or virtual reality.

14. Engineer the tools for scientific discovery.

BOSTON - REVERSE engineering the brain, reprogramming genes to prevent diseases and producing clean energy are some of the biggest challenges for the next 50 years, according to a group of leading experts in the world.

And they believe the pace of advances in technology means the rate of progress will be 30 times faster in the next half century, opening up the prospect of innovation in many fields.

'Tremendous advances in quality of life have come from improved technology in areas such as farming and manufacturing,' said Google co-founder Larry Page. 'If we focus our effort on the important grand challenges of our age, we can hugely improve the future.'

The experts, comprising scientists, entrepreneurs and thinkers from around the world, unveiled a list of 14 'grand challenges' on Friday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston.

If met, the challenges would improve people's lives, they said.

'Meeting these challenges would be 'game changing',' said Dr Charles Vest, president of the US National Academy of Engineering (NAE), which convened the panel in 2006. 'Success with any one of them could dramatically improve life for everyone.'

The group, which also includes biologist Craig Venter, inventor Dean Kamen, and futurologist Ray Kurzweil, has met several times to discuss and identify the list of problems for technology that, if solved, would change the world.

Through an interactive website, their effort received worldwide input from engineers and scientists, as well as from the public, over a one-year period. The final choices fell into four themes that are essential for humanity to flourish: sustainability, health, reducing vulnerability, and joy of living.

'As the population grows and its needs and desires expand, the problem of sustaining civilisation's continuing advancement, while still improving the quality of life, looms more immediate,' they wrote in their report.

'Vulnerabilities to pandemic diseases, terrorist violence and natural disasters require new methods of protection and prevention.'

The group identified provision of clean energy as one of the priorities. They said that sunshine was a 'tantalising source of environmentally friendly power'. But capturing it, converting it into something useful and storing it posed a challenge, they said.

They also identified personalised medicine as another challenge and said that a better understanding of how the body works would offer a way to identify the things that determine health.

'An important way of exploiting such information would be the development of methods that allow doctors to forecast the benefits of potential treatments,' the experts wrote.

They said 'reverse engineering' the brain, to determine how it performs its magic, should offer the dual benefits of helping treat diseases while providing clues for computerised artificial intelligence (AI).

Futurologist Kurzweil said that the rapid rate of progress in science and technology would lead to AI surpassing the power of the human mind and to nanotechnology allowing this to be incorporated in machines that could fight disease and reverse the ageing process, according to a report in the Times, a British newspaper.

However, none of the challenges could be met without economic and political will, the experts said.

'We chose engineering challenges that we feel can, through creativity and commitment, be realistically met, most of them early in this century,' said committee chair and former US secretary of defence William Perry. 'Some can be, and should be, achieved as soon as possible,' he added.


The committee decided not to rank the challenges but the NAE is asking the public to vote for the most important at their website: www.engineeringchallenges.org

Tags: critical thinking
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