h+ Magazine

Summer 2009

Issue link: http://cp.revolio.com/i/1161

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AI BIO eNHANCeD NANO NeurO HumOr FOreVer YOuNG 58 summer 2009 BIO eNHANCeD NANO NeurO HumOr FOreVer YOuNG it's a big mistake to overlook mid-range Dangers MIKE TREDER But if too many people are looking for short term exaggerated change, while at the same time, they aren't fully comprehending the extreme changes that can occur over the long term, there could yet be another reason for worry. The middle range may be badly underrated and might catch us by surprise — especially when it comes to the impacts of advanced nanotechnology. Let's define the short term as the next five years. It's almost certain we won't have flying cars by then, or a colony on mars, or a pill we can take to cure all diseases. Of course, we might be well on the way to having online access everywhere all the time, and that could be quite useful, but it's unlikely that people will see anything within the next five years that will knock their socks off. What about the long term — say from 50 to 100 years? How much technological, social, and political change should we expect to see in that time frame? Given the vast differences in the world today — in all three of those realms — as compared to the lives of people from early in the last century, it seems beyond argument that enormous changes are in store. By the end of this century, if not before, many millions or even billions of people will spend much of their lives in nearly indistinguishable virtual realities. Fully developed biotechnology and genetic engineering will allow the creation of tailored plants, animals, chimeras, and whole biomes. Advanced nanotechnology, well beyond early generations of molecular manufacturing, will completely revolutionize our infrastructures for living, working, traveling, and creating energy on earth and in space. All of that is predicated, however, on our ability to get safely past the formidable barrier of the mid- range — the period around five to twenty years from today. What happens during the mid-range is very likely to determine whether the remainder of this century will be one of unparalleled abundance, devastating war e ver hear the saying that most people anticipate too much change in the short term and too little in the long term? On the one hand, you'll hear complaints about "No flying cars yet!" from those who've bought into silly hype. And on the other hand, history is littered with definitive quotes from so-called experts who promised that one advance or another was "impossible" or would never happen. "The abdomen, the chest, and the brain will forever be shut from the intrusion of the wise and humane surgeon." – sir John eric ericksen, British surgeon, appointed surgeon-extraordinary to Queen Victoria, 1873 "There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will." – Albert einstein, 1932 "Landing and moving around on the moon offer so many serious problems for human beings that it may take science another 200 years to lick them." – science Digest, August 1948

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