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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


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
19th Feb, 2008 14:35 (UTC)
Not VERY critical thinking but just some opinions.
Challenge no.1 [making solar energy affordable]
Im quite sure that this is one of the alternative energy that mankind has went through a great deal with a long history of research into. If solar energy can be made cheap(perhaps cheaper panels and stuff), it would definitely be a great help in reducing carbon emission.
Without the high carbon emission, the air we breathe would be fresher and the sun wouldnt kill us that easily, of course that would make life better for man.

Challenge no 2. [develop methods to capture carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuels and tackle global warming]
This is pretty much the first point but the reason why i chosen the above are because they are the challenges to mankind's survival. I think that man should worry about its basic survival before going into water,medicine,science,brain-reversing etc. No life means game over, so the others are quite useless if we cant even survive.

Challenge no 9. [reverse engineering the brain]
this sounds cool but sometimes human has done so much alterations to nature i wonder if we are still 'human' afew more years down the road. This would make life better for man as man would be holding the immunity necklace. However if one day, man are to be capable of granting himself all sorts of immunity through technology etc, would people take life for granted and lose the value of cherishing due to thier new-found invulnerability?

[sidetrack: Did you know that there is such technology that the brain can be linked to the computer for the disabled. so the guy can move the cursor and check emails just by thinking. I think its somewhat related to the technology of biomechanical arms linking to body.]
24th Feb, 2008 10:59 (UTC)
hmm. challenges.
challenge no. 5
well. this is one important challenge that has to be overcomed. well, you see,take for example, India. i have heard that the water supply there is not exactly clean or safe for consumption. therefore, the consequence would be poisoning or other heath-related risks. of course, it will make the life of mankind better.

challenge no. 12
almost everything in the 21st century is technology-based. hasn't the issue of technology having certain flaws been discussed? i agree that technology makes life much more efficient but it doesn't work ALL the time. anyway, i would welcome this idea if it actually helps to improve the lives of mankind.

challenge no. 13
well, this is inter-related to the previous one. however, i am of the opinion that it is kinda cool. i have heard of schools using PCs to conduct lessons. as in each student has their own computer and they are to respond or do exercises in the computer.
24th Feb, 2008 14:36 (UTC)
Challenges for the future...
Challenge 1: Make solar energy affordable

Personally, I feel that making solar energy affordable would be one good alternative in tackling the problem of using too much fuel as energy source. This could also help alleviate the problem of global warming and lack of fossil fuel. However we cannot dismiss the possibility of having problems, like lack of funds, surfacing when solar energy is made affordable. As funds are need for the research made to make this possible. The government would thus have to carry the burden when opportunity cost is incurred. Some form of compensation, e.g. Taxing has to be done in order to carry this cost.

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

This is yet another critical problem. I'm sure most have seen the rising effect of global warming due to the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Humans now are desperate to find ways to tackle this problem directly. However, if these methods are finally discovered and develop by us, would we then continue to take measures in reducing the amount of fossil fuel use? Would we strive even harder to tackle global warming? Or would we just take these "methods" for granted? If so, how would the government plan to get all the people to take responsibility in using the amount of energy?

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

This would be efficient in enhancing the learning ability of the individual and increase the rate of recovery for the patients. However, if we rely to much on this virtual reality, would we humans then one day find ourselves caught in the situation where we cannot distinguish between the real and virtual world? Can the scientist guarantee that there is no possibility to this? Personally, I feel one can never be 100% sure when it could to technology and science. We must not forget that there are also possibilities to alternative outcome no matter how small the percentage is.
3rd Aug, 2008 21:54 (UTC)
Just wanted to say
It's amazing
24th Sep, 2008 20:52 (UTC)
thank you
thats it, man
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )