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Edge World Question 2009: What will change everything?

by PhilipJ on 1 January 2009

The 2009 Edge World Question is What game-changing scientific ideas and developments do you expect to live to see?. It seems like a lot of people ignored the question, but most were still an interesting read. As per previous years, here are a few of my favourites.

Alun Andersen thinks simple, engineered organisms that can soak up energy in a vat in any sunny spot and turn that sunlight straight into a precursor for fuel, preferably a precursor that can go straight into an existing oil refinery that can turn out gasoline are the solution to our energy problems.

Jesse Bering thinks we’ll come to realize that God needn’t actually exist to have evolved.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi argues that it is more important to understand events, objects, and processes in their relationship with each other than in their singular structure, which I would argue has been obvious for a long time already.

Keith Devlin thinks the mobile phone will reach nearly 100% of the human popluation.

Freeman Dyson, because he is already 85, changes the timescale of the question, and concludes radiotelepathy.

David Eagleman thinks we’ll give computers our consciousness.

Kenneth W. Ford thinks we’ll be able to read your mind.

Richard Foreman, quite sensibly, thinks everything won’t change.

James Geary agrees with Eagleman that we’ll see brain-machine interfacing.

Sam Harris thinks we’ll have a true lie detector, some kind of mind-reading device.

Roger Highfield thinks we’ll finally build fusion reactors.

Eric Kandel hopes we’ll achieve a biological understanding of mental illness.

Stuart Kauffman thinks that much of the universe stands partially free of physical law.

Andrian Kreye is also big into synthetic fuels.

Clifford A. Pickover things we’ll see a proof of the Reimann hypothesis.

Ed Regis brings up the (thanks to things like synthetic biology) now-passé idea of nanotechnology.

Carlo Rovelli, being open-minded, imagines no big changes coming.

Gino Segre thinks we’ll find additional space-time dimensions.

And while neither André nor I are part of the Edge crowd, I might imagine both our answers would be along the lines of The Most Exciting Future Biophysics Tool, as the implications of such an instrument go far beyond biophysics.

Happy New Year everyone!

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