Last week when I hosted Tangled Bank I was struck by how many submissions were about the future. I hardly think about the future at all! Doing lab work, I can plan for a few weeks in advance, but I’ve learned that if have certain expectations past that time it never works out anyway. I can’t even predict where my own project will be in 6 months, let alone make general predictions about science in the future, but that’s why New Scientist didn’t ask me to contribute to their Special Report on Brilliant Minds Forecast the Next 50 Years.
50 years is a long time! It was only 53 years ago that Watson and Crick published their (and Rosalind Franklin’s, but I digress) breakthrough data on DNA structure. If you had asked any of them to predict the next 50 years, I wonder if they had come up with today’s level of science. I think they just couldn’t possible have imagined that far ahead with no knowledge of how things progress in the mean time.
So what do the brilliant minds predict in the New Scientist special report? They’re all very optimistic! The future will be amazing, people, just wait for it!
- Sexual health will be a fundamental human right! (Beverley Whipple)
- We will have an inexhaustible source of green energy!!! (Bill Joy)
- We will build synthetic life! (Peter Atkins)
- A disaster might wipe out most of the human population, but some of us will survive! (Sydney Brenner)
I think some contributors have confused predictions with wishes, and conveniently skipped over practical implications, but that might also be New Scientist’s editing (I don’t think they would publish negative views in their “Yay, the future of science!” special.)