Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Future of Science: Will we have the power of gods?

(excerps from Future of Science article)

An incredible look into the greatest minds of our current age. This article is a great read all the way through. If you would like to skim, I have essentially taken my favorite quotes out. (much of this article is directly taken from the link above)

Welcome to the future: Michio Kaku and a robot

We have unravelled the molecule of life, DNA. And we have created a form of artificial intelligence, the computer. We are making the historic transition from the age of scientific discovery to the age of scientific mastery in which we will be able to manipulate and mould nature almost to our wishes."

Among the technologies he believes will change our lives in the coming decades are cars that drive themselves, lab-grown human organs, 3D television, robots that can perform household tasks, eye glasses that double as home-entertainment centres, the exploitation of genes that alter human ageing and the possibility of invisibility and forms of teleportation.

"We will have the power to animate the inanimate, the power to create life itself," says Prof Kaku. "We will have the power of gods. But will we also have the wisdom of Solomon?"



Prof Anton Zeilinger, University of Vienna

"We achieved quantum teleportation 10 years ago, and we're using it on a regular basis on the information carried by a system. This information is teleported over to another system, which assumes exactly that information; therefore it becomes identical with the original.

"If you dream about teleportation of humans – well, we can dream – then all kinds of questions arise, such as: what does it mean to be me? When someone teleports me and I know that what is being teleported is information – not matter, not the stuff I'm made of – who is it that ends up over there?"

An end to ageing

Prof Leonard Hayflick, University of California, San Francisco

"Our conscious recognition of the finitude of our lives is key to how we live. Virtually every aspect of our lives is governed by our sense of self and our sense of when we will age, and, of course, when we will die. One really has to think seriously about tampering with the ageing process and what its implications might be."

Electricity from Plant life

Dr Andreas Mershin, Centre for Biomedical Engineering, MIT

"Plants have developed this amazing ability to capture sunlight and create chemical energy and store it. Now we can grab the machine – the protein inside the plant called photosystem, which is responsible for generating energy for the plant – and hijack its function to create solar electrical power. Our goal is to provide an alternative to regular silicon-based solar panels. What we're trying to do is produce a material that you can paint on a metallic surface, expose to light and have some electricity."

Nanobot armies

Dr John Alexander, US Joint Special Operations University

"On the battlefield, nanobots are going to do a lot of things; they can seek and destroy specific targets, for instance. You've heard about the 'surgeons' that you can inject into your bloodstream – well, they can go in there to repair a clogged blood vessel, or they might be able to go in and punch holes in the blood vessels to destroy an adversary. The embryonic stages are here today, and a lot of work is being done."

Unbeatable weapons

Dr Nick Bostrom, Oxford University

"With an advanced form of nanotechnology, it would be possible to build different kinds of weapons systems for which it's very difficult to see how an effective defence would be possible. In my view, the advanced form of nanotechnology is arguably the greatest existential risk humanity is likely to confront in this century."


A disease-free world

Ray Kurzweil, inventor and futurist

"We will have the means, within 10 or 15 years, to reprogram biology away from cancer, away from heart disease, to really overcome the major diseases that kill us. We're in the early stages of that now, but our ability to do this is growing exponentially – it's doubling every year."

Control over human evolution

Joel Garreau, author of Radical Evolution

"For the first time, our technologies are not so much aimed outward at modifying our environment in the fashion of agriculture or space travel; increasingly, technologies are aimed inward, at modifying our minds, our memories, our metabolisms, our personalities and our kids. And this is not in some distant, science-fiction future – this is now. What's shocking about this is that if you can do all that, you're talking about humans becoming the first species to take control of their own evolution."

Genetically modified genes

Prof David Farb, Boston University, Massachusetts

"Memory enhancement is certainly within the realm of scientific possibility. And we may be able to alter not just our intellectual but also our physical abilities. If we could pass down these genetically enhanced genes, we could evolve in a different way. We can't afford not to think about this issue and not to be prepared."

Biological robots

Prof Rodney Brooks, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

"As a species, we are starting to put our information-processing technology inside our bodies – we're becoming a little more robotic. At the same time, our technologies are becoming more biological. Over the next 50 years, we'll see robots with more biological components and people with more electronic components.

Artificial intelligence

Eliezer Yudkowsky, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, California

"We have a choice in how we create artificial intelligence. And you've got to be very sure that a created mind is never going to want to self-improve and that it's never going to want to do anything that destroys intelligent life. You've got to treat that gun as if it's loaded."

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