Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Big Question 2009: What Will Change Everything

Beginning several years ago, John Brockman, the digital impresario and creator of the website, has started off each New Year by posing what he calls “the World Question.” Respondents run the gamut from physicist Freeman Dyson to novelist Ian McEwan. This year’s question is, “What will change everything? What game-changing scientific ideas and developments do you expect to live to see?”

Many responses focus on breakthroughs in the life sciences. Psychologist Steven Pinker, for example, after saying that predicting the future is impossible, suggests that personal genomics will transform medicine, as it expands beyond physiology to explain “temperament and cognition.” Neuroscientists talk about developments from direct, brain-to-brain communication of feelings and thoughts, to electrical brain stimulation to manage mood disorders, to cryonic suspension of brains.

Not surprisingly, one of the grandest ideas comes from J. Craig Venter, who writes: “We can start with digitised genetic information and four bottles of chemicals and write new software of life to direct organisms to do processes that are desperately needed, like create renewable biofuels and recycle carbon dioxide. As we learn from 3.5 billion years of evolution we will convert billions of years into decades and change not only conceptually how we view life but life itself.”

The contributors are alphabetized. To browse through them, or find a particular person, click here.

CHI-Advancing California biomedical research and innovation

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