How Advanced Will Technology be in 2050?

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Solving cancer, energy, and other pressing issues


Throughout
elementary and middle school, I was captivated by my science classes, eager to
understand the complex mechanisms of the world surrounding me.  Scientific principles led me to be
rational and to question everything.  I embraced the fact that there
is much I do not know and was in turn excited to explore the universe. 

As I moved on to high
school, I found that there is still much that science does not know.  Day in and day out, researchers continue to
push the boundaries of the quantum and galactic levels. 

Humanity is still so
young.  We cannot even conceive how
technology will change our species over the next million years – a melancholy
thought for those, like me, who want to be there to experience it. 

I was instantly drawn
into the scientific community by its commitment to truth, rich history, and
open-mindedness.  However, by surrounding
myself with the scientifically-minded, I found myself bubbled-in.  I was blind to a different view of science –
one that often did not understand it and was sometimes frightened by it.  Not everyone saw science the way I did, a
vital undertaking that has brought us the comforts of the 21st
century.  Science was not receiving the
support I knew it deserved. 

In fact, some even sought
to replace science in science classrooms and succeeded.  I was unaware that my state legislators had
been passing backwards legislation that was crippling the education of students
who will one day take on the responsibilities of our future.

During my senior year at
Baton Rouge Magnet High School a close friend, Zack Kopplin, pulled me into the
fight against creationists in Louisiana.  I testified before the Louisiana
Senate Education Committee, illustrating how the misnamed Louisiana Science
Education Act, our state’s Orwellian creationism law, would stifle future
innovation in Louisiana and my fellow students’ future.

Louisiana legislators
continue to stubbornly uphold this creationism law.  I watched shocked as
creationists rambled incoherently about how evolution was “made up” and was helpless as our
elected officials, who were supposed to help our students, attacked them instead.  As
our fight progressed in Louisiana, the battle ground expanded.  Tennessee
passed a creationism law.  My new home, Texas, is trying to throw out
evolution.  Simultaneously, voucher programs continue to bring public
money into creationist schools across the country.  

We will continue to fight
science denial in America, but we also must look forward.  Science needs a
larger presence in the political dialogue and in the minds of the public. 
Reaching back to humanity’s crowning achievement, we must have a Second Giant
Leap for Mankind.

Science and technology is
what drives America – and humanity – forward. 
Our near future holds some serious issues that have the potential to
drastically affect the story of the human race.  Cardiovascular disease,
cancer, and AIDS continue to take the lives of hundreds of thousands of people
every year.  Even after so many years, fossil fuels are still our primary
energy source.  Climate change maintains its threat to ecological
stability, and we are still not prepared for future asteroids that may threaten our
very existence.

In this technological
age, science cannot be ignored.  The internet has given us unprecedented
global communication, exponentially accelerating the development of our
exciting future.  However, public involvement is necessary for the
infrastructure revolution that needs to take place.  Too many unnecessary
deaths can be avoided if we automate
vehicles
;
imagine a world without drivers.  Evacuated Tube Transportation (ETT)
technology
offers
a modern solution to transportation that would send passengers from New York to
Beijing in two hours for a fraction of the cost of a plane ticket.  

But none of this can be
possible without the public support of science and a change in the politics of science
and science funding.  A member of the U.S. House of Representatives
Science Committee recently called evolution “embryology” and the Big Bang
theory “lies straight from the pit of hell.”  But he’s not just
one bad egg.  The former Chairman of this same science committee claimed
that the evidence supporting climate change is only a conspiracy to garner more
funding for science.  These Congressmen introduce legislation that
threatens our invaluable intellectual resources.  How can the U.S. attempt
to continue to be leader in this more progressive world?  

We need to tap into our
scientific resources, not stifle them with outdated thinking.  We need to
be a leader in the international evolution into the modern world.  

So call your
Congressman.  Send a letter.  Show up at his or her door.  Be
loud.  Science has brought us social networking; use it to demand a
contemporary world and nation that is long overdue.  This is the most
promising time for our advancement in science so give it a new voice. 
Remember our past success, and call on America for a Second Giant Leap for
Mankind.

Written By: Ben Simpson
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29 COMMENTS

  1. Well put Ben.Why not email this to every atheist, skeptic and science club, group, company etc and ask for their help?

    Maybe someone should make a project to maintain a database of every state and federal politician’s and senators email addresses that can be accessed easily when our community wants to petition them. (not just when large petitions are run as campaigns but any time a US citizen wants to lobby a politician is also a petition)

    The easier we make it fo write petitions and access politicians the more success we can expect. Our efforts need to be far better co-ordinated and not left up to just the few strongest individuals,

  2. Compassion fatigue. I was considering writing a discussion piece on the subject relating it to the seemingly never ending battle freethinkers wage against irrationality and its consequences. And then, I found and read this letter of yours Ben.

    Thank you. Your optimism is a fatigue-buster and was seridipitously timed if I may say so. I do hope that when 2050 rolls around, you and your generation, because of your efforts, will have much to be thankful for. I hope to be around too.

    Mike

  3. If you look over the world in the past, in the present, and look to the future, there are probably going to continue to be centres of scientific excellence, both locally and globally, while the back-waters of ignorance plod on in their usual sorts of rut – full of know-it-all god-did-it ignorance as usual.

    Because of US military power and trade connections sucking in resources, they can buy in technologies and expertise – even in the “thicky states” – for the present!

    There could well be a greater dichotomy, separating the educated from the uneducated in the future.

    There is very likely to be a great deal of automated systems, probably with a very limited number of people actually knowing how they work.

  4. In 2050 the global population is likely to be ten times sustainable levels. Much as I love the idea of faster intercontinental transport (we Australians do!) this isn’t the issue. Survival is the issue. Of course it still comes back to politics. We could change to a global renewable hydrogen based economy and bring the population down. If we wanted to.

    Michael

  5. In reply to #1 by GoldenRule rules!:

    Maybe someone should make a project to maintain a database of every state and federal politician’s and senators email addresses that can be accessed easily when our community wants to petition them. (not just when large petitions are run as campaigns but any time a US citizen wants to lobby a politician is also a petition)

    The easier we make it fo write petitions and access politicians the more success we can expect. Our efforts need to be far better co-ordinated and not left up to just the few strongest individuals,

    There is a database of current senate members, with contact information, here: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

  6. China. That’s where the torch of scientific and engineering advances will pass, unless the tide of anti-science in the USA is reversed, dramatically and soon. While it matters very much to scientists in the USA, it’s hardly so important to the rest of the world. As long as the science is being done somewhere, humanity will continue to advance, and may even find ways to address the pressing (if deniable) issues of climate and population.

    What is important, is how the USA reacts in its decline. How much will it harm the rest of the world, before it loses the power to do so? The first decade of this century doesn’t bode well.

  7. There’s not a good chance of anything resembling civilization to look forward to in 2050. Ocean acidification and warming is going to cause global fish stocks to collapse, which is going to force massive (and probably tragic) relocation of tens of millions of impoverished refugees. At the same time glacial retreat will cause water stress in countries like India and Pakistan who will gladly fight each other for the ability to irrigate their crops. Persistent and worsening drought will sap the breadbaskets of the world of their ability to feed even advanced countries. All the while the arctic and coastal zones will be unleashing their methane clathrates into the air, catapulting us into runaway warming which will make Dante’s Inferno look like a beach vacation.

  8. “My new home, Texas, is trying to throw out evolution.” That just about says it all in the popular consciousness I think … They should just say “Charles, your law just doesn’t apply here” and then let entropy do the rest.

  9. In reply to #5 by mmurray:

    In 2050 the global population is likely to be ten times sustainable levels. Much as I love the idea of faster intercontinental transport (we Australians do!) this isn’t the issue. Survival is the issue. Of course it still comes back to politics. We could change to a global renewable hydrogen based economy and bring the population down. If we wanted to.

    Michael

    Well said, M

    Humanity will exceed all expectations in surviving the next 100 yrs unless radical change is forced upon us- and it must be FORCED, cos we ain’t gonna do anything at all willingly. Just ask any Republican!

  10. This article provoked some interesting thoughts over breakfast. As a combined effort , we came up with the following predictions.
    1. Explosion of efficient technologies in the field of medical science. (Self interest is always a winner).
    2. The demise of the call center. All problems will expect to be solved online as the older generation dies out and is replaced by younger, more tech savvy populace.
    3. Renewable energy sources embraced with greater enthusiasm as the sad reality of climate change hits home.
    4.perhaps the wrist watch will re-emerge as a source of information & may be equipped with Bluetooth, to alert us of important emails etc..
    5. Innovations with come out of left field , to fill some niche that has not as yet, been noticed.

    There will be many more non- tangible , philosophical changes to the way we think and interact. Perhaps a war in the Middle East. But these are not technological changes, and that was the brief.

    Really don’t agree with the watch thing.

  11. In reply to #5 by mmurray:

    In 2050 the global population is likely to be ten times sustainable levels. Much as I love the idea of faster intercontinental transport (we Australians do!) this isn’t the issue. Survival is the issue. Of course it still comes back to politics. We could change to a global renewable hydrogen based economy and bring the population down. If we wanted to.

    Michael

    I understand the sentiment, but I’m not sure this is evidence based. Hans Rosling makes a nice case (on TED) that population will flatten out around 10Bn. Though that will certainly create stress, and widen pockets of inequity, we are nowhere near capacity for global food or energy production. Other issues, I believe, including climate change, can be mitigated with advances in technology. Consider the recent discovery regarding the nickel nanoparticles.

    I’m no Kurzweil-ite. I don’t believe the polyhedra of cancer will be solved any time soon. Nor will we have colonized the solar system in the near term. But it’s unfortunate that people are so fearful of the future, when technological advancement offers so much promise. The only difference between science-based doomsaying and religious prophecy is that the former might be disproved in advance of the predicted event…

  12. In reply to #13 by pzkrakz:

    In reply to #5 by mmurray:

    I understand the sentiment, but I’m not sure this is evidence based. Hans Rosling makes a nice case (on TED) that population will flatten out around 10Bn.

    Sure that’s what I am assuming. Ten is ten times one and many people estimate that a sustainable population is 1 Bn. By sustainable population I mean one where we can theoretically go on for ever without resource loss and maintain something like current first world living standards and political freedoms for the whole world. I also would like it to include not forcing too many more animals and plants extinct. Even if I never see a great ape in the wild I find the idea of my grand children living in a world without them extremely sad.

    Though that will certainly create stress, and widen pockets of inequity, we are nowhere near capacity for global food or energy production.

    Are you sure ? Could we give the whole world first world living standards with the current population in a sustainable way ?

    Other issues, I believe, including climate change, can be mitigated with advances in technology.

    Sure that’s possible. But so are some nightmare scenarios. Even if they only remotely possible we should be working a lot bloody harder to avoid them. For example maybe the permafrost will melt and or the methane hydrates in the sea release enough methane to cause a mass extinction on a par with the great ones of the past. Maybe it won’t be a “The Road” scenario but there are lesser horrors I wouldn’t want my children or grand children living through. Including degrading the environment to the extent that there are serious pandemics, nuclear exchanges and for survival we all resort to extreme totalitarian governments.

    it’s unfortunate that people are so fearful of the future, when technological advancement offers so much promise.

    I disagree. What is “unfortunate” is that so many people want to drive the global bus towards a cliff without slowing down on the assumption that somewhere along the way some scientist is going to invent wings.

    The only difference between science-based doomsaying and religious prophecy is that the former might be disproved in advance of the predicted event…

    Doomsaying as you want to call it is not a prediction of the future it’s a warning to be cautious. Like spending money on tracking extinction sized asteroids just in case.

    Faith that science will always pull a rabbit out of the hat and save us is the faith that worries me.

    Michael

  13. In reply to #13 by pzkrakz:

    I understand the sentiment, but I’m not sure this is evidence based. Hans Rosling makes a nice case (on TED) that population will flatten out around 10Bn. Though that will certainly create stress, and widen pockets of inequity, we are nowhere near capacity for global food or energy production.

    It is true we could continue to destroy the future of humans and destroy whole eco-systems of wildlife to temporarily support an increased human population, but biologists’ studies of population levels show over-expansion is followed by severe population crashes to below previously sustainable numbers.

    Other issues, I believe, including climate change, can be mitigated with advances in technology.

    There has been a lot of wishful thinking from engineers who do not understand climatology or planetary science. This has been energetically promoted by the global-warming denial lobby, sponsored by the carbon industry vested interests.

    There are many valuable new technologies which need to be put in place rapidly in energy management.
    Some of them have been discussed here earlier.

    http://old.richarddawkins.net/discussions/632627-harness-the-sea-national-geographic-june-2011-tidal-wave-power-generation

    http://old.richarddawkins.net/discussions/643310-water-cooled-nuclear-power-plants-aren-t-the-only-option

    But it’s unfortunate that people are so fearful of the future, when technological advancement offers so much promise.

    Future technologies have much to offer, but that should not be used as a reason to ignore other “big picture” issues. It is wise to use technical expertise to get out of difficulties, rather than to push deeper into problem situations.

    The only difference between science-based doomsaying and religious prophecy is that the former might be disproved in advance of the predicted event…

    Hardly!! – The science based doom-saying frequently has substantial evidence and historical evidence to support it. Religious doom-saying has none. It is very foolish to ignore scientific predictions of disaster until they are confirmed after the event. (This has often been done with prototype vehicles, Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, nuclear plants, oil drilling – storage – transport-facilities etc) NASA lost two space shuttles because people with “faith” in their systems, ignored expert warnings!

    It is of course our new research technologies, which allow us to make accurate scientific predictions and calculations, warning of future potential disasters.

  14. Just yesterday, I brought up this topic with my family. I wondered if we would, sometime in the future, be able to predict weather accurately a month in advance. Immediately, my brother started yelling at me that weather isn’t predictable, it’s god’s doing! How dare I suggest that we might be able to predict the weather so far in advance: what if god wanted to bury someone in a massive, unscheduled snowstorm?

    So, if people like my extended family become the world majority, science will go nowhere. Scientists would be killed as heretics. Unfortunately, this is a real possibility- fanatic communities do not practice birth control, and will become the world majority some day. (I have more than 100 first cousins, more than 300 once removed. Sounds unreal when I write it. But boy, is my grandmother proud of her religious brood.)

  15. Is there a listing/website that allows someone to click on their state/district to see a listing of politicians that are either pro or anti-science? This would be useful come election time.

  16. I hope I will be alive to see what happens. I’ll be an old lady of 87. I think environmental doom and gloom will be part of this reality. My guess is that we will all be running scared because of our loss in economic prosperity while ignoring our water polluted with chemicals, medications…We are already doing this, but it will become more obvious in about twenty years or less. China and other countries will be running the show while we here in the US have a big wake up call coming. The uneducated factory worker will no longer be able to rely on unions to give them a decent living wage. If they do not have skills they will be totally unemployable and require massive government assistance which will probably come from my heavily taxed retirement account unless it’s sucked dry before then. The US will see poverty like it hasn’t seen since the Depression era. The wise will become self reliant making good use of their land and tech savvy knowledge.

    Education and innovation needs to be started yesterday. We cannot afford “slackers.” We are at a tipping point in history. Which way will it fall. But I also see potential for some incredible medical advances, none of which the average person will be able to afford.

  17. In reply to #7 by OHooligan:

    China. That’s where the torch of scientific and engineering advances will pass, unless the tide of anti-science in the USA is reversed, dramatically and soon. While it matters very much to scientists in the USA, it’s hardly so important to the rest of the world. As long as the science is being done somewhere, humanity will continue to advance, and may even find ways to address the pressing (if deniable) issues of climate and population.

    That’s a very good point!
    Some politician should make a statement to the effect ; that unless science is embraced and God is dumped the Chinese will rise above America.
    Not even the most stupid people could possibly believe anything else other than the benefits that science and engineering provides.
    Hence belief in sky fairies is for the mentally deficient.

    What is important, is how the USA reacts in its decline. How much will it harm the rest of the world, before it loses the power to do so? The first decade of this century doesn’t bode well.

  18. In reply to #19 by hellosnackbar:

    That’s a very good point!
    Some politician should make a statement to the effect ; that unless science is embraced and God is dumped the Chinese will rise above America.
    Not even the most stupid people could possibly believe anything else other than the benefits that science and engineering provides.
    Hence belief in sky fairies is for the mentally deficient.

    What is important, is how the USA reacts in its decline. How much will it harm the rest of the world, before it loses the power to do so? The first decade of this century doesn’t bode well.

    I’ve heard Neil deGrasse Tyson say that the line he takes with politicians is that teaching creationism in schools will lead to the economic decline of the US for exactly this reason.

    Michael

  19. How advanced will technology be in 2050? Hmmm… thanks to medical science the average human lifespan in the developed world would probably have increased by about 2-3 years. We will have better and more intelligent computers, certainly. Can’t imagine what smartphones will be like. What else… electric cars a little more common? Gigabit broadband speed at home? First human (a woman) on Mars?

  20. Why don’t you create that data base?In reply to #1 by GoldenRule rules!:

    Well put Ben.Why not email this to every atheist, skeptic and science club, group, company etc and ask for their help?

    Maybe someone should make a project to maintain a database of every state and federal politician’s and senators email addresses that can be accessed easily when our community wants to petition them. (not just when large petitions are run as campaigns but any time a US citizen wants to lobby a politician is also a petition)

    The easier we make it fo write petitions and access politicians the more success we can expect. Our efforts need to be far better co-ordinated and not left up to just the few strongest individuals,

  21. In reply to #16 Sadly you are right about the rampant breeding of fanantical communities. Our days are numbered and no doubt the human race will become extinct long before our planet is enveloped by our Star.by astrophysics:

    Just yesterday, I brought up this topic with my family. I wondered if we would, sometime in the future, be able to predict weather accurately a month in advance. Immediately, my brother started yelling at me that weather isn’t predictable, it’s god’s doing! How dare I suggest that we might be able to predict the weather so far in advance: what if god wanted to bury someone in a massive, unscheduled snowstorm?

    So, if people like my extended family become the world majority, science will go nowhere. Scientists would be killed as heretics. Unfortunately, this is a real possibility- fanatic communities do not practice birth control, and will become the world majority some day. (I have more than 100 first cousins, more than 300 once removed. Sounds unreal when I write it. But boy, is my grandmother proud of her religious brood.)

  22. Your Political process has been hijacked by Religious extremists/conservatives and the likely hood of wrestling back control is bleak. Take Obama for instance, all that bullshit about, “Yes we can”. The reality is no he can’t but good luck with your political campaign.

  23. I am an atheist, and people of faith may argue – a radical one, but I do not see the problem with the Louisiana Science Education Act.
    Granted, my knowledge is limited to results from Googling and may be erroneous.

    What better venue to initiate the debate over evolution and creation than a science class?
    Leaving one out doesn’t make sense to me.

    • In reply to #26 by Thonord:

      I am an atheist, and people of faith may argue – a radical one, but I do not see the problem with the Louisiana Science Education Act.

      The purpose of the act is to open stealthy loopholes for creationist teachers to preach drivel in place of biology, in science classes.
      We don’t teach witches’ spells in chemistry, or astrological fortune-telling in astronomy either. It is anti-science, pseudo-science nonsense, which has no place being given credibility by being included in science classes.

      Science classes for children, do not waste children’s time on every flawed claim that has ever been refuted. They are there to learn about the ones which have been proven to work.

      Granted, my knowledge is limited to results from Googling and may be erroneous.

      What better venue to initiate the debate over evolution and creation than a science class?
      Leaving one out doesn’t make sense to me.

      It’s similar to debating a “Flat Earth” in Astronomy, Geology, or Geography classes.

      Any more than one minute spent on dismissing it as a misconception from an age of ignorance, is wasting valuable time students needed for studying the real subject material in the limited time available.

  24. If the US legislate against the teaching of science then it will be left to the more secular countries to continue its advancement. Scientific advancement cannot be easily stopped but it can be slowed. Great article Ben.

  25. Hopefully there will be another incident in America like the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial that will so humiliate evangelical and fundamentalist Christians that they go back “underground” for another 50 years. By then it will be 2060 or so and maybe we’ll be too far along for their mythology to get so entrenched in politics again.

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