Kevin Jacobson

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What do you think is the biggest technological challenge the human race will face in the next 30 years?

I see a lot of things wrong with humanity and I just want another persons input.

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    Jun 30 2012: One challenge will be to deal with a world population heading towards 9 billion. The problem is not just the numbers, but numbers + expectations of lifestyle 'quality', and the (often illusory) imperative of technology to support it.

    There is a certain point at which quality of life actually starts to become degraded by technology - for instance where it becomes too 'labour-saving' to the point of making human endeavour redundant.

    Why should technology be labour-saving, rather than labour enhancing? What's wrong with good honest labour, and the use of mind and body? Have we not evolved to enjoy - and to take pride in - working to survive?

    The biggest challenge might be to rid ourselves of the kind of technology that detracts from the enjoyment of our own existence.
    • Jul 13 2012: Nice post Allan. I agree and I think you can link a number of other issues with this. If technology reduces our the amount of physical activity then that is bad for our health and contributes to issues like the growing diabetes problem.

      The problem with combating the issue is that the vast majority of businesses that make decisions about the use of technology are owned by a few and are driven both personally, or externally by shareholders, to maximise their profit.

      In the current economic model I therefore can't see how they will stop making the decision to invest and purchase labour saving technology when it shows an increased profit.

      Maybe one answer is a new wave of 'non-profit' business growing that aren't focused on profit but rather as you say "good honest labour, and the use of the mind and body". Hopefully these businesses would be focused on what they add to society and providing meaningful and enjoyable work for fair pay.

      Unfortunately these will be slow growers as they will have to grow organically due to external investors expecting a profit on their investment.
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        Jul 14 2012: Thanks Simon.

        Great points about the maximising of profits and the well-being of shareholders - as opposed to a moral presumption towards the common good.

        It's a shame that it has taken off-the-scale outrageous behaviour of our financial institutions for the agents of change to recognise that something might have gone horribly wrong.
    • Jul 13 2012: Caddyshack said it best, "The world needs ditch diggers, too."
    • Jul 14 2012: Thank you Mr Macdougall! As a Chinese I constantly feel the drawbacks of a large population. And I guess our planet has already been saturated with the number of creatures living on it.

      However, the problem does not lie with whether the future technology should be "labor-saving" or not. Actually, if the future technology calls for more human labor, then we should have a good reason to give birth to even more lives in order to improve our well-beings. (Note that population aging will be more severe in the future.)

      As an engineering student, I deeply feel the trend of technology developments is going to be smarter and increasingly "labor-saving". There are way too much merits of automation and it's beyond the scope of the topic I'm talking about here.

      Maybe there's one possible solution to the potential problem with the 9 billion or even more population - mitigate to other planet such as Mars. But I guess I'm gonna stay on the Earth.
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        Jul 14 2012: Hi Anthony. Thank you for your response.

        A few questions:

        Does the proliferation of technology conform to laws of thermodynamics/equilibrium? What would happen to technology after the depletion of its own power source, and what would replace that source?

        What are the advantages of having technology so labour saving as to make body and mind redundant?

        Is what we create more valuable than who we are?

        I see your point about more human labour = increases in population, especially in the light of what we now know about healthcare and medicine. However, I tentatively put to you that the more humans move towards what it sees as technological nirvana, the less we are in touch with our own biological/psychological evolution.

        If we can't learn to live within our own means on the planet we have, then we do not deserve to contaminate another. I'm staying right here too!
        • Jul 14 2012: Hi Allan. Your questions seem very big and are not easy to answer in short. I'll try to express some of my thoughts.

          1 Because I have been strictly trained in science since middle school, I don't believe anything, or any technology derived from it, on this planet can go against the law of conservation of energy or zero~third law of thermodynamics - they are the fundamental of all our theory and technology. Therefore, I don't think there would exist any technology without certain amount input of energy (power source).

          2 I think you wrongly relate the effect of labor-saving technology with the redundance of body and mind of human here. From my perspective, the future technology will free human from working heavily in factories or in dangerous places by means of advanced level of automation and remote and precise control. Researchers around the world have put enormous amounts of energy in such areas, but unfortunately, we are still in the middle of it. And many other fields such as energy need further development too. So I think there will never be redundance of "human body and mind", present or future. They just shift from a low-level (well I think so), physical way to a high-level, intellectual way.

          3 As a technology optimist, I think we are able to do that. But I wouldn't say we've been that far already. Whenever it comes true, it's going to be another significant revolution of human history.

          I get your point that some people feel less in touch with their inner core when technology moves forward. That's another interesting topic which I would love to discuss with you later.
  • Jul 5 2012: I think it's restructuring our financial system. I think at the most fundamental level, our current distribution of wealth and currency system gives incentives to people to only think about making money rather than encouraging us to actually make contributions to our world. I am not a communisit or socialist by any means, but if we can figure out a way to motivate each individual by rewarding them in a fair manner, this will undoubtedly solve all the existing and future problems of our world. We have to devise a way to maintain socio-economic equity while keeping everyone motivated.

    At the core of every problem that we are currently facing, money is the culpirt. There are millions of gifted minds across the globe who possess the intellect to surpass many notable professors and researchers; yet those gifted individuals are not striving to make a positive difference in our world but are encouraged by our monetary system to conspire against the public. It is not because they are bad people but our monetary system encourages them to do so. People need to be given a different incentive.

    The field of science has made a tremendous leap over the last hundred years but our financial systems are much the same. I mean afterall, we should be fueled by a nobler incentive rather than primitive bags of coins and wampuns right?

    As forementioned, the biggest technological challenge for the human race in the next 30 years would be figuring out a new incentive system geared towards maintaining ecnomic equity.
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      Jul 5 2012: i don't understand the following statements:

      "people to only think about making money rather than encouraging us to actually make contributions to our world"

      you get money for contributing something to the world, don't you? we all contribute 8 hours a day.

      "rewarding them in a fair manner"

      today we are not rewarded in a fair manner? how is it unfair? every contribution you make, sold on the market to the highest bidder. what could be more fair than that?

      "gifted individuals [...] are encouraged by our monetary system to conspire against the public"

      for example bill gates did not deliver a popular operating system? or owners of walmart did not deliver cheap products and good service to many millions? or ford did not make the automobile available? or rockefeller did not make petroleum affordable for the masses? how are these a "conspiracy against public"?
      • Jul 5 2012: I find it distubring that one guy gets paid million dollars a year just because he started a company while the worker at a factory gets paid not even one thousandth of the employer's salary. I mean, perhaps three folds or even up to ten folds sounds much more reasonable as opposed to a thousand times.

        Philanthropists like Bill Gates is a rare example. I guess he was enlightened enough to realize that we are all the same. Company executives very well know that their company can charge significantly less for their products and still reap a fair margin yet they choose not to do so. By monopolizing the market, they conspire against the public. (and if you want to talk about how competition is abundant in the market, price fixing is everywhere.. companies love playing that game) It has been like this for thousands of years. It's nothing new.

        That's why we have to change our financial system. We need to evolve.
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          Jul 5 2012: so you decided not to think about these issues, but repeat the shallow statements you picked up somewhere. second round, more questions. this time maybe you are willing to think for yourself.

          "I find it distubring that one guy gets paid million dollars"

          why? do you have any reason other than envy?

          "company can charge significantly less for their products"

          what determines price on a free market?

          "reap a fair margin"

          what is a fair margin? imagine yourself in their boots. you have a company. you sell stuff. what is a fair margin?

          "monopolizing the market"

          how can a company monopolize the market? don't just pull a stock answer. think about it.

          "price fixing is everywhere"

          what does price fixing means? how can a company fix the price of its competition? how can they fix the price of competing alternative solutions? again, don't try to ger rid of me. it is easy, but don't make you any more informed. think.

          " for thousands of years"

          thousands of years of price fixing? please try to imagine the economy in 1200. imagine the life of an ordinary person at that time, say, somewhere in europe. what kind of price fixing there are? what kind of companies? what kind of trade? what kind of monopolies? better don't even answer these. if i see a reply from you within two days, i will immediately know that you refused to think, and just throw random answers to get rid of the questions you don't like. these are very interesting questions if you indeed seek for answers.
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          Jul 5 2012: Well, considering the employer is the reason they have a high salary or low salary job at all, the employer deserves to be a sort of "alpha of the pack". Whether you like it or not, these millionaires are the reasons many have a job at all. Think of Walmart. They could charge a hell of a lot less for certain products and the CEO is rich as can be, but Walmart employes a lot of people. So, if these business owners make a fortune, let them. They deserve it for causing many jobs to be made.
      • Jul 5 2012: "so you decided not to think about these issues, but repeat the shallow statements you picked up somewhere"...ooohhh wow...ouch.. you have the nerves to make statements like these? I assume that you thought I was some Occupy Wall street guy set out to preach our beloved Michael Moore's snake oil lectures right??? okay.. i give up. You are smarter than me by multiple folds. You got me here man. As an ignoramous, I should just shut up and listen.
        I really thought TED was about express and sharing ideas not receiving these personal vendetta like comments. It seems that as a translator, you made some great contributions to TED...I think comments like these are far too below you.

        here are some tips for your future replies:
        1. be polite
        2. do not express personal anger towards the commentor (whether they are right or wrong..even perhaps misguided)

        just stick to these simple rules and you will be fine. Maybe you are not so bitter everyday but for today...I just refuse to banter with you due to your lack of etiquette. You just can't treat people like that whether online or offline; even if you are indeed correct. Take a deep breath and dont ever post stuff like this again. You are an embarassment to anyone who is affiliated with TED.
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          Jul 5 2012: "you thought I was some Occupy Wall street guy set out to preach our beloved Michael Moore's snake oil lectures right???"

          in fact yes. these ideas come from there.
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          Josh S

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          Jul 10 2012: Sean,
          What a way to avoid the questions because you either found you were wrong or simply cant find the answers on other websites. He was being polite but tough, i think you need to relax and be more open minded to the possibility of you being wrong. If anyone was being rude it was you, sarcastically rebuttling Krisztian. He simply picked apart your argument in a logical manner that was easy to follow, this doesnt make it rude, but it does make it a good counter to you.

          This was a interesting debate to read, dont ruin it by saying childish stuff along the lines of 'youre mean so im not gonna talk to you' when you were losing the argument. Come on now.
      • Jul 8 2012: you deserve a nobel prize. i'll see what i can do about it.(just joking)
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    Jun 26 2012: good tasting desalinated water and alternative/innovative forms of food production in inner cities and the surrounds
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      Jun 27 2012: Yes, that will be useful ! Especially if people continue to gather in big cities where there's nothing to do, to eat or to drink. But I can't help thinking that the cites should become things of the past, and/or temporary entities constructed around a temporary project.

      People should be able to move where life is easier, a political leap is needed for that..

      We already know simple desalination technics (a plastic bag), and simple vertical garden (another plastic bag). That's what some people already use in shantytowns. Learning those technics in schools would cost nothing.
    • Gu E

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      Jun 30 2012: I was reading the comments and hadn't seen anyone directly mention much in regards to the pressures we are facing in food production and access to water. These are definitely important pressures that are and will need to be addressed.
      I think you are right in that we will need technological innovations in food production- especially when you have companies and countries buying/renting land all over (e.g. China in Africa) as a current response to those pressures.
      As the world population continues to grow, demand will increase, usable land will decrease, and food prices will continue to skyrocket.
      Technological innovations in agriculture is needed and will be part of the focus going forward.
      I will add that as usual technological innovations will focus (across sectors): on improving efficiency, quality, speed, and the lowering of costs
  • Jun 21 2012: I will come back to this thread in 2030 at the age of 40 and laugh at all the "1950s-future-will-hold-flying-cars" type predictions.... and then soak myself with sadness when I see an accurate but nevertheless unfixed prediction.
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    Jun 16 2012: What is the biggest technological challenge that the human race will face in the next 30 years?
    In a word, the problem is egocentrism. We badly need a technology paradigm shift.
    We are addicted to hedonistic technologies that ignore the real cost to the rest of humanity and our future. (Examples such as growth economies and consumerism running on fossil fuel come to mind.) We have the capability to run everything in a sustainable way. I'm talking about zero carbon emissions and recapturing agriculture and water systems. That's not really the hard part. The hard part is committing to life-sustaining planet-enriching technologies and understanding that that is the point of life on this planet. We are about 7 billion in number and we are mostly ignoring each other's needs.

    Bucky Fuller and many others have shown that just by being conservative (doing more with less), we can build a sustainable world. That's a technology design problem, but the problem is not so much a technology failure but a failure of responsible intent in the design and use of the technology.

    CO2 in the atmosphere, currently 396 ppm and rising, is a sort of gauge of our global technological situation. Before changes in education or politics can become effective, we need to rethink our priorities about what needs to change in this decade and the next, just so human civilization can survive this century.

    • Jun 21 2012: There is some reason for optimism. You're right about the hedonism, but that appears to be a natural result of the Judeo-Christian-Newtonian world view, which ignores the Environment , just as it ignores relationships (with people, not God or the World) But this whole phillosphy seems to be in its death throes. The leaders of the world economy can't seem tofigure out why it's not working , in spite of the fact that they keep on repeating policies that didn''t work before, either. Maybe Ayn Rand was wrong. If you celebrate Selfishness, naturally you are going get "Gaming the System". Without "Shame" who will obey the Law?, Especially when the Gamers Make the Law. It's not sustainable.
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    Jun 15 2012: Not creating piles of eWaste. People have gone device-mad. It's all a bit ridiculous.
  • Jul 10 2012: The question asks for "technological challenge" so I'll say "find and use cleaner (or even better, sustainable) sources of energy".
  • Jul 5 2012: Not technological, although would be caused due to technology-disconnect between the younger and older generations. Even though there has been some disconnect between past generations, the one in the future will be more drastic.

    The kids will be able to access the internet, and therefore, information, at a much younger age which could cause them to rely more on technology than their guardians. When they will need to know the meaning of something, they will simply do voice searches on google to find out the answer. The idea is a stretch, I agree. But it is very much possible for something like that to happen if things aren't moderated-something most parents don't think of with internet/gadgets/technology (unless they've had first hand experience), or simply don't know how to.
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      Jul 10 2012: Other than the excessive dependents on technology, I don't see much wrong with that. If information could be that easily accessed, just think of how smart the future generations could be if it was utilized in the educational system.
      • Jul 11 2012: Hmm.. well there isn't anything wrong with that, I agree (well, primarily because I'm a kid myself :) )
        Having resources like KhanAcademy and the likes just a click away has been truly beneficial for my studies.

        But, I have a feeling that this might turn out deleterious in the future-primarily because of the young age of the kids. Becoming independent is great, and a crucial step forward in life. However, technology might create that barrier between the parents and the kids. They will be smart, but they will become their own bosses, doing what they think is right, and what google thinks is right-which is not always correct.
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          Jul 11 2012: I don't think it would encourage them to be their own bosses but rather give their minds a greater boost than what our generation get's now. I'm only an 8th grader and I wish we had technology like this. I have to read books in order to get a higher education in order to rise above school education. It is so pleasant to think that, if I was born just 10, maybe even 5, years ahead of now, all I would have to do is ask my search engine to look something up and then have it read it to me then presto! In 10 minutes I got a half hours worth of reading in.
      • Jul 12 2012: I don't know if you got the reply (seems that the system only allows for a max of 3 replies;yes I'm new here). I'll try to condense whatever I said.

        You seem to be basing the future thinking that there will be more people like you, who are smart and grasp things much quicker than their peers. But, you must also take into consideration the fact that there will be people who are a complete polar opposite to your image of kids in the future (in most real life cases, there seems to be an abundance of people like these for reasons, unexplained). The amount of distractions the avg student faces now is 100x what was before, and the likelihood of that number going higher is inevitable. Not every person is going to be interested in what you think they might be (this is where the disconnect comes in). You'd want your son to be watching videos on quantum mechanics, but (and let's hope not), maybe they'll end up being fanatics of Justin Bieber's son, and watch youtube videos of them on "hovering" telescreens.
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    Jun 29 2012: Whether or not to become cyborgs ..
    • Jun 29 2012: Bingo!!!

      (I was going to say, "How to win the right-to-breathe back from Mac-Roth-Mart Pharmilitary")
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    Jun 27 2012: Kevin,

    The biggest technological challenge the human race faces is transcending the effects of planned obsolescence and/or the unintended consequences of human's over-investments (both literal and figurative) in technology.

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      Jun 28 2012: i couldn't agree more, greed is the killer app, and most people can agree to work together in a less greedy fashion but the world seems to be in a stronghold held by a few - the wealthy 1% - 3%. i hate to hear politicians talking about going green but then they do nothing to move the country closer - solar, wind, wave, etc. and once we all have free renewable power electric cars can proliferate, and they can be smaller, or they can run on an automated circuit that any citizen can use to get around and cut down on the amount of cars, and i won't even start on on the wonderful bots/machines that could be built that would run on this free energy that could produce/manafacture almost anything we need - and free humans to work on much more challenging and complex tasks.
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    Jun 26 2012: i see no need in new technologies, only the urgent need to use what we already use in a right way.
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      Jun 26 2012: Your kidding right? We need new technologies in certain categories for safer and efficient usage.
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        Jun 27 2012: For certain categories you are right, but globaly, i am : what earth needs now is a better humanity.

        No technological leap can help when only a few will use it.. for exemple, no medical technology can make a human willing to live, which is mandatory for any body to be healthy. That's why I see no need in new technology in a world where the global trend is dept, war, depression, austerity, and so on.. We first need to share what we already have, for free, before trying to invent another technology that will probably be military in the first place.
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          Jun 28 2012: i read in the Tao De Ching, that the people don't value their lives because they are not free to enjoy it, i'm paraphrasing of course, but if i were free to live my life and not tied to a job for a 3rd of everyday of my life + commute time and fuel, and recurring bills like electricity i could actually have more free money and more free time to enjoy my life, and would not feel like what is the use of trying, people have to be able to love living before they can really value their lives and the lives of others. if you had all your basic needs provided for and had more free time to enjoy it, would you be busy robbing and killing people?
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    Jun 22 2012: 1) Finding new raw materials to produce the circuits, storage and power needed for all the new tech.
    2) Controlling the fallout from the widespread "instant information" available to all.
    3) Having proper laws put in place to manage the many breaches in privacy that are expected.
    4) More social unrest as people will now have access to a wealth of information and knowledge and not have the proper wisdom and understanding to effectively use it.
  • Jun 19 2012: 30 years is a long time.

    In 30 years machine intelligence may have progressed beyond human levels. It's neither very likely nor very unlikely. It just may happen, judging from Moore's law and the complexity of the human brain (presently, as of 2012, if I recall correctly the record for this kind of computation is the simulation of a fraction of a second's activity in half a rat brain, performed a very much less than real time).

    If that happens, then that will make a serious impacts on just about every human endeavor. But in particular, I expect it to make an impact on warfare, because that's historically the fate of every new powerful technology. And then, smarts in the hands of the military means that seriously dumb things will be done in seriously unbeatable intelligent ways.

    Autonomous weapons will surely be deployed on battlefields within this time frame. Likewise, smart terrorist and assassination weapons will be used. Economic, psychological and political (!) warfare, which all depend critically on smarts, will be vastly more effective.

    Cheap smartness probably also means that privacy will only exist for the very powerful.

    Somewhat compensating for that, machine intelligence, if we get it in that time frame, means that research that so far has been too complex to do, will be done, for example, in genetics and epi-genetics.

    I guess that ethical issues will just force themselves after the fact, that they will not be taken seriously until they force themselves.

    But I think one can perhaps prepare a bit for the "edge" that machine intelligence confers on the military.

    It's not unreasonable to believe that only a few big actors will have this capability at the start. Perhaps the US + England, Russia, France and China, maybe Germany. Whoever gets it first will be much in the same position as the US was after having developed atomic weapons, but a big differerence will be that such a nation can then USE its new capability, which was difficult with the A-bomb.
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      Jun 28 2012: all you really need is good engineers and good programmers, the tech is already in existence.

      if i were so inclined i could easily build or outsource a very basic motion detector and or laser sensor,
      that could detect movement by radar, by using a camera and comparing the amount difference in two successive photos, or thelaser path beign boken, and attach this almost primitive/trivial technology to
      an actuator that would fire a trigger on a hidden machine gun or sniper rifle, setup an array of these
      and they could protect my home, in a fileld they could protect the location of each unit while taking out enemies, etc - this is not very sophisticated technology - in fact you can download freeware that will use your webcam for motion detection now, you'd only have to modify how it reacts - it could email me a photo and ask me if i want it to neutralize the threat(doesn't have to kill them) and also notify the police
      • Jun 28 2012: Michael (and Kevin since it was in regard to that comment),
        In response too:
        "agree with kevin here, it's important to forget and make mistakes..."

        I agree that we can find good in these things, but we can find good in just about anything, if we want to. Many of the things we might find good in, like forgetting things, we actual find good because of our limitations (ie: we forget because we don't have the capacity to hold everything, or the mental system to make it happen). And, in fact they really aren't that good, because they don't have to be exploited to occur. They are inherent flaws, they happen whether you like it or not. Is it really that great that we make mistakes when it costs people their lives (like in a faulty design in a car, or even a car accident)?

        The challenge is surviving with them, and overcoming problems with them, since they do limit us greatly-- to the point where we have to rely on advancements in technology to progress and continue solving many of the world’s problems (because our brains can't do it without them).

        (I put the reply here, because the other reply was put WAY down the line lol, probably too far to see)
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    Jul 14 2012: I am impressed with Michael Picucci's contribution. Consumer based economies have devastated our planet. And he is right in suggesting that resource based economy will support a healthier planet. Our resources need to be respected rather than frittered away on stuff that continues to age out at alarming rates.
    Technology needs to advance in partnership with our planet - who is cleaning up the debris from the Fukishima tsunami (no one to blame, but still needs attention)? I read of oceanic drifts of plastics miles long collecting in our oceans that has been noted but no news of how this is being remediated (it isn't about who to blame, it is about polluting the waters we depend upon to provide our sustenance) . Our challenge is managing our own waste in all its forms.
    We need sustainable power and clean water. I can not believe we faced power issues in the 70s and petroleum has remained the primary relied upon resource. Wind and solar power research seems to have been in park until only recently.
    As I glean the research it appears more motivated on how to get the biggest buck for the least change yet touted (erroneously) as major change to improve use of our resources.
    Guess I'm saying the greatest technological challenge is a higher moral compass for the goods and services humanity needs (not wants) to operate effectively.
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    Jul 14 2012: Technology is not just a machine or contraption that we make. I would equally relate it to applied knowledge for a specific purpose. With that...

    The biggest technological challenge our race is already encountering is the technology of social change.
  • Jul 14 2012: It is a challenge of leadership. Once leadership accepts that a strictly "finance-based economy" is doomed, we may adopt a "resource-based economy" that focuses on natural resources and how to best use for all. This would have to include additional forms of currency (as is already being done in several cultures). When leadership moves in this direction technology will be redirected toward these new intentions.
  • Jul 8 2012: For me it will be controlling and effectively legislating technology and its use. To understand what i mean, imagine Al-Queda with nuclear weapons or hackers getting uncontrolled access to classified information. Or to use a more common example blatant copying of other peoples designs and intellectual property. In the end global warming is a joke compared to what unregulated technology would cost us.
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      Jul 8 2012: All true except for the global warming part. You see, if the greenhouse effect continues, obviously the world gets warmer, but, it will also release the thousands of tons of methane from the southern and northern tundras of the world. Methane is a much worse greenhouse gas and would further speed up global warming. When the temperature rises that much the north pole will completely melt, literally wiping the coasts of certain countries of the map, which would damage the global economy. There would also be increased tensions in the middle east and that could lead to nuclear war. Especially between Iran and India which both have nuclear weapons that are only 1st generation atomic bombs, meaning that their bombs are extremely dirty and release high amounts of radioactive material. The U.S. and Russia have 3rd generation bombs which are "clean bombs". Global warming could also cause a sort of 21st century Permian extinction with increasing desertification and rising temperatures. During the Permian extinction, 90% of earths species died out. Imagine that repeating it self. On top of all that, the global climate would be much drier, reducing crop growth when you have a still growing population. Natural disasters would also be much more common, costing billions of dollars a year. So, global warming is a lethal chain reaction that would end up being much more dangerous than hackers, terrorists and theifs.
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        Josh S

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        Jul 10 2012: In your argument you try to make global warming seem much worse then it is by linking it to nuclear warfare, thought there is no correlation and no causation.

        The Permian extinction had essentially 2 phases. in the 1st phase, it is 'proposed' that gradual climate change occured. But the true damage, what truly killed so much 'has been argued to be due to a catastrophic event'. This could be a nuclear war in our situation, but a nuclear war is not caused or even linked to global warming.
        From wikipedia talking about artic methan release: "while methane release is indeed likely to amplify global warming to an unknown level, fears that it could lead to catastrophe are possibly overblown."

        You say the rate of occurence of natural disasters would increase, im assuming youre talking about hurricanes, flooding, and tornadoes for the most part, because global warming doesnt affect earthquakes and thus dont affect tsunamis. But earlier you said there would be less rain and it would be much drier, so wouldnt the rate of floods and hurricanes decrease?
        Temperature increases are much more overblown then they actually are. Im sure you are aware of temperature cycles of hotter and cooler. But even if we take that out and look at the facts and the numbers, temperatures are .1 degrees hotter then they should be, and .4 degrees hotter on the most radical scale. Is this really more dangerous then terrorists with nuclear weapons pointed to our largest cities? hackers distorting shipping and manufacturing throughout the world?

        siting graph:
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          Jul 10 2012: I don't think your making a connection here. Nuclear war would be possible in the middle east because of increasingly crowded conditions. The middle eastern countries are already crowded and would try to claim more land for their countries in this situation. There would indeed be more tropical storms because if the increased amount of water vapor in the atmosphere. This means that there would be more fuel for storms to occur. These temperature changes seem slight, but the planets temperature was it's original way for a reason. Because the climate is very sensitive. Even slight temperature changes have already caused the north poles glaciers to melt significantly. The cycles that the earth go through happen over millennium, not all of a sudden after the industrial revolution. The methane release would be extremely significant since the tundras around the world would thaw, thus causing tens of thousands of years of animals to rot, thus causing tens of thousands of years of methane release. Oh, and I wouldn't use Wikipedia for this situation since anybody with an opinion on the subject could edit the article.
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        Josh S

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        Jul 10 2012: 'increasingly crowded conditions'
        Middle eastern countries, with the exception of israel, are some of the least crowded countries on earth. Most middle eastern countries ie. iraq, afghanistan, iran, saudi arabia have under 200 people per square mile. When looking at a list, these countries have some of the smallest population densities.

        'increased amount of water vapor in the atmosphere'
        thats what i thought, but didnt you also say this:
        ' the global climate would be much drier, reducing crop growth when you have a still growing population'

        speel about methane:
        This is a new field of study, all scientists agree that this does add to the affect of global warming. However, many believe that it may take decades to make a substantial impact. And again, since the question focuses on the immediate 30 years, the theory on arctic methane release does not apply.

        'even slight temperature changes have already caused the north poles glaciers to melt significantly'
        yes the sea level has risen, on average 1 mm each year. in the context of this question, this would equate to 3 cm. ( 1mm x 30 years) 3 cm of added sea level posts relatively small consequences when compared to other dangers posted above.
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          Jul 10 2012: I'm talking about the long term, not just 30 years, so the methane problem does indeed apply. And while I realize the middle east isn't majorly populated, before even 30 years comes along, their numbers will rise dramatically, causing thousands of refugees to flee from the ever rising shores and concentrate the population to a high degree. Remember, you can't use today's population stats to fight this argument, you have to predict what the population in those areas will be like by mid century. On top of that, because of global economic damage, the growing population will be under stress, causing more reckless countries to solve such problems with violence and war. Remember, this problem will only be in full swing by mid century, so, we have 40 years to switch to a cleaner life style. Once again, I'm talking about the long term. But it doesn't hurt to acct on these problems now. Oh, and as you stated, Israel is the only country it takes to trigger the entire middle east to go up in flames.
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        Josh S

        • 0
        Jul 11 2012: If you're basing all your arguments off POSSIBLE events happening in over 30 years, we're debating different things. I wasn't arguing with your points by trying to say they're wrong, other then your view on the middle east, but just saying that they don't pertain to the question being asked.

        To restate the question if you happened to forget: What do you think is the biggest technological challenge the human race will face in the next 30 years?

        3 key words being next 30 years. My arguments have been based off of the next 30 years, not the long term (over 30 years).
        now to your single point that still applies to this question:

        ' before even 30 years comes along, their numbers will rise dramatically, causing thousands of refugees to flee from the ever rising shores and concentrate the population to a high degree'
        i hate to give a geography lesson, but you do understand that these middle eastern countries are high above sea level, and even with population increases, which are on average 2% throughout the middle east. so in 30 years time, the population density is estimated to still be under 280 people per square mile, which is not crowded at all. Also, this 'ever rising shore line' is a grand total of 3cm, not exactly geographically devastating for the middle east.

        'global economic damage, the growing population will be under stress, causing more reckless countries to solve such problems with violence and war'
        What global economic damage? and please keep your response to events that can actually occur in the next 30 years, not falling back to global warming or other environmental issues.

        But please keep in mind the actual question, which refers to the next 30 years.
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          Jul 11 2012: Most of the issues I've stated are not indeed a threat in a 30 year time period, however, climate change is one of the major threats in a 30 year time frame. As I've said, desertification, frequent tropical storms, extinction, and lower crop production is a extremely likely threat, in fact, many of these issues are being witnessed now. Desertification being the biggest one. For example, in south America, deforestation causes land to be exposed and dried out. This land is cleared for agriculture, but you can't grow anything on dry land.
  • MR T

    • +1
    Jul 7 2012: Boredom, when the aliens steal our smart phones.
  • Jun 29 2012: Three major fields:

    1. Geotechnology - including GIS, GPS and remote sensing technologies. They will allow us to understand the Earth's systems, make early warning systems for environmental change, analyze traffic, demographic and hopefully as many complex systems of the biophysical and the socioeconomic dimensions.

    2. Nanotechnology - May applications here, mainly is the ability of building micro robots that can for example eat through oil molecules but more importantly enter the human body to do exploratory and repair work.

    3. Biotechnology - the ability to manipulate genomes, combine characteristics of certain species, create improved crop varieties, and maybe even create cells, organs, and even organisms.
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      Jun 29 2012: All those technologies already exist, but only a few of us are allowed to use them : only those who "own" the idea of using it.

      This is called intellectuel property, or patent, or license. This is what plague our world(s) : we act as if the world was imaginary. We act as if a hammer won't work if it's not ours.

      Don't believe the hype !!

      Any human body is constantly using nanotechnology : Any enzym is a mechanical molecule, our body makes his own. What we need NOW is good food, that's all. For that, we must be able to move where food is. If we don't open-source the raw material earth is, I see no possible human progress.

      Instead, it all looks like the slow motion suicide of a specie..

      Remember life is good, not goods!

      ps.GPS : Sun, moon, stars.
      ps.GIS : Human memory, in or out of his own body (writings, buildings).
      ps.NanoTechno : Food
      ps.BioTechno : Sexuality, breeding.
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    Jun 28 2012: personally i think we already have the technology to fulfill my dream, but building machines and/or programming them may be a slight sticking point, along with human fears of automation.

    my dream is to see the whole world having free energy from renewal resources, this would allow us to create bots/machines, they don't have to be humanoid just specialized at what they were created to do.

    think about having the ability to run your a/c, heater, electric stove, electric car, or a trane air filtration and condition sytem to keep your home at a decent temp and cleansingthe air, think about having bots that plant and harvest fruits and veggies and materials needed for producing clothing, think about machines creating clothing from the materials produced by the machines, all mostly or fully automated, think about modular units that can be mix and matched to custom build your home - where i'm going is free food, clothing, shelter and power for all. I'm not advocating overpopulating the earth, just providing the basics to all.

    when we all have free renewable power, we can do and automate so many things, and when we all have free food, clothing and shelter - then we can stop worrying about basic necessities and easily throw 1000 people onto much more important projects like curing cancer or aids, and many other things that will take a long time for bots/machines to master or be programmed to do. i think humans will always have jobs because many things are too complicated for machines - and as i said they don't even have to be human-like machines, they just need to be able to do a few things exceptionally well.

    you could probably envision buying a set of bots that do only what you need, while someone else can buy a different set of bots to handle their project - instead of focusing on trying to build one in our own image, you'll have plenty of time to do that when we can automate many of the fundamental needs.
  • Jun 26 2012: I ThinK
    Since We are consuming the resources at a faster rate than the production...
    and using them to get maximize the profit; in this blind process of making money
    we are failing to comprehend the intensity of the problems which are being caused out of this
    blind chase. so when there is less and less to grow around and making money money
    means the margin between the rich and poor are increasing until only some will have a satisfactory
    means of living and this will cause an economic boom.....
    A revolution...

    So what i would say is important to prevent is that
    we have a better system of values....
    and if we go hand in hand there will be plenty to go around....
    if we stop running after money and pleasure and start going after some spiritual knowledge...
    if we stop thinking what i can get from the world to thinking what i can give to the World...

    We have Done Something Marvelous....
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    Jun 22 2012: Maybe water and other issues related to increasing population and per capita consumption.

    I also worry about the proliferation of WMD.
  • Jun 21 2012: That is a simple one. Our civilised life depends on cheap energy, and the oil , and other carbon based fuels are running out as we speak. Even if we find more, we cannot afford to use them, and still go on breathing.
    There is even a simple answer to this problem, but the educated world doesn't seem to be able to pull itself together enough to even talk about using it., except dismissively. I mean the non-polluting, unlimited, carbon free Thorium Liquid Fueled nuclear Reactor. (LFTR). This power system, invented and demnstrated to power airplanes 50 years ago, has already been demonstrated empigjt to show not only that it works, but enough work was done to answer many of the obvious questions about just how to do that.
    Our educational system, unfortunately, combined with a remarkablyshort sighted political and economic sytem, have combined to confuse the ussue . The combination of some "democracy" or at least poplulism, along with the experience of frequent and dysfunctional lying by the "powers that be" have together convinced the half-educated public that the issue might possibly be solved with "renewable energy" if we only tried harder. Unfortunately, this is not true in a practical sense, unless we are willing to regress to an energy level of say a hundred years ago (or more). So I guess one could say that the real problem is the poorly educated citizenry, including those at the top of it. It would be ironic, although clearly possible, that it could be those evil Chinese "Communists" who finally demonstrate the practicality of LFTRs. and then we could folllow along . But cheer up: that is History repeating itself, slightly differently: The Chinese many years ago, originated the basic inventions that enable Europe to take over the World, including China, much later. So it really wouldn't be unfair; it might even stimulate thought.
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      Jun 21 2012: Most of what you said is already known and, quite frankly, talked about a lot.
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        Jun 28 2012: i agree with both posts, the tipping point is coming though, one way or the other, we'll die of pollution and/or global warming, won't be able to afford fossil fuels, or we'll actually use all the ubiquitous ways of communicating in the 21st century to speak directly to each other about the facts, right now we could probably organize a campaign to cut way back on fossil fuels for one full month to hit them where it hurts and force the to lower the price - i mean c'mon, oil is still oil, it is harder to mine in some cases, but should that really drive the cost up so much? it's a monopoly plain and simple, and the car makers are simultaeneously dragging their feet to produce electric cars, we need a company dedicated to producing electric cars and dedicated to setiing up renewable energy.

        i can see 'petrol stations' using solar/wind energy to charge batteries, you'd pull up and swap out
        your low batteries for a fresh set, pay the fee, and pull off, you would not own any specific batteries, we'd all be swapping them out to be recharged. there are companies now that have fleets of public cars that any member of the company can use for a small monthly fee, i think zipcar is one such company.

        we need to use technology to keep each other in the loop on the facts, and take what comes through the news an entertainment channels with a grain of salt.
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    Jun 21 2012: Conceptualize this question in the reverse: how far have we come since 1982? I was born in 1986 and I remember the dawn of the DVD, the internet, social media...the list goes on.

    The current technological challenges are to make instruments perform faster, exist in a smaller space, and use less battery. I'd say 2042 will include:

    - A better battery or powersource
    - Wireless adaptation for most technology
    - Integrated communication between all devices
    - Universal access to internet, education, news, and culture
    - Through GPS and social media, I believe locating yourself (or somebody) will be easy
    - Better communication devices

    and last but not least,

    - Hoverboards are long overdue :)
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      Jun 21 2012: All of those changes are required to achieve better efficiency, which I'm sure you have already figured out.
      One challenge I don't think will be tackled however is global access to internet, education, news and culture. I'm referring to third world countries. With the ever increasing progress, third world countries will collapse because of the progress of developed countries.
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        Aja B.

        • 0
        Jun 21 2012: That's interesting, Kevin... are you saying you think that developed countries are going to overtake the less-developed countries? How would you see that playing out?
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          Jun 22 2012: I just think we have reached a point of no return for third world countries(sadly). I t could have been helped maybe ten to thirty years ago, but now development has really kicked in.
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          Jun 28 2012: contrary to kevin's opinion, i think that even if 3rd world countries come to naught, that 1st world citizens will re-populate them as they will eventuall run out of space from over population. so they'd either have to control population or upgrade the 3rd world countries to their standard of living so they don't overpopulate their countries and still have the luxury of living in any first world country since they'd all be upgraded to first world standard sooner or later - even if later happens because they run our of living space and have to move elsewhere.
  • Jun 21 2012: Feeding the poor (some things will never change) in the face of ever increasing desert. The difference is more people will fall in the poor group.

    Oil will be $300 a barrel, gas will be still be under $5. Mainly due to compressed methane collected under white tarps (to replace the reflective effect of the long gone snow) Water will be somewhere in between.

    The interest rate will be 20%.. America will be either involved in a war with someone or a recession. If we can learn anything from 200 years of history...
  • Jun 20 2012: I think the most important challenges are not technological ones, they're cultural ones. Because the world is being improved and modernized. If we (our culture, language, nationality, etc.) keep in step with the modern world, we will be one of the winners. If we don't do it, then we'll only have a chance to watch the developing ones. So let's join the challenge, don't be an observer.
  • Jun 19 2012: Hello kevin
    I see the biggest technological challenge in the next 30 years is to replace our dwindling resources with materials outside our planet. From mining the moon to asteroids to Mars and tranporting the needed materials at a reasonable cost. Sooner or later we will no choice but to go off planet for the resourses we need. Our survival depends on our creativity and resourcefullness. Its a no brainer my young friend. And maybe you could help make it happen.
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      Jun 19 2012: "At reasonable costs" is an important constraint, considering that the Apollo project cost 11 Billion at the value of the 1961 dollar, and it brought back a few kilograms of moon rock. I do not think people will pay 100,000 dollars for an iPad just because it contains a few milligrams of rare-earths from an asteroid.

      Perhaps there is a simpler, non-technological approach: lower footprint per person, fewer people, changed life-style.
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        Jun 19 2012: Actually, for every 1 dollar spent on Apollo, 14 dollars were made, so, the Apollo program paid for it self.
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          Jun 19 2012: Since the discussion was about retrieving minerals from outside the earth and not about long range returns on research investments, I only referred to Apollo to show how costly the retrieval of anything from space is.

          On reflection, the costs are not really relevant. The real question is: can I retrieve more resources from space than I spend collecting them.
      • Jun 19 2012: Mister Kroll
        As a after thought maybe I should not have put ( at reasonable cost ) in my comment but as I was typing my comment in I was also working out how to do it in a cost effective way. With most projects initial costs are usually high but if you need something bad enough the cost is not even a factor in the equasion. In example if you are dying of thirst would you question what the cost of getting water was to survive? Bottom line is most of our resources here a finite so no matter how much money it takes for the effort in the long run it will be money well spent. Our future is out there Not just here. Thank you
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          Jun 19 2012: I agree to get the last drop of available water no price is to high. But to be able to pay this high price I must have something to offer. And if all other resources are as scare as water, I won't.

          In addition, all ideas that require the use of resource we do not have will also be worthless.
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        Jun 19 2012: to cross the atlantic, columbus had to go to the queen for financial support. it was preventively expensive for any other persons or organizations at the time. your argument at that time would be that nobody is willing to pay 10 gold coins for a piece of clothing made on the other corner of the world.

        in retrospect, you are dead wrong. today, carrier ships bring millions of tons of clothes, toys, computer parts, raw materials from china to europe from brazil to china from japan to the US and so on.

        and the reason for that is progress. what costs billions at a certain time, might cost hundred thousand a century later. and might cost a thousand another century later.
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          Jun 19 2012: Since Columbus the boundary conditions have changed. We are approaching the time when we can no longer "steal" resources from the orderly warehouses created in the course of the earths evolution.
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        Jun 19 2012: so your argument only holds if human development came to an end. but there are no signs of that at all. we see no hard barriers in our foreseeable future. what boundary conditions? energy? we have thorium, we have methane clathrates, we have solar. rare earth? we have huge amount of them in somewhat less available forms. land? we can increase crop yields 3 times with genetic engineering, and we have also can increase farm space at will. we also can develop new technologies to grow meat or stuff or manufacture artificial nutrients or things like that. there is nothing within our sight that could stop us expanding.
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          Jun 19 2012: As you know (I read your profile) all closed systems come to equilibrium. Aside from sunlight our earth is a closed system. All the suggestions you made involve the use of non-renewable resources. Things like wooden water wheels, on the other hand, are great!

          I am curious. Why such complicated expensive solutions when simple free ones are available: population and consumption reduction and changed life styles,
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        Jun 19 2012: the earth is not a closed system if we are talking about mining the solar system, so your argument became circular.

        but even if we dismiss that, just because the earth is considered closed, the equilibrium can be thousands of years ahead. you need to show why would that be imminent.

        i for one don't want to reduce my consumption. in fact i would like to increase. i would like to have MRI scans instead of ultrasound. i would like to fly to australia in 2 hours. i want a faster computer and faster internet. i'm not interested in your solution unless it is absolutely necessary.
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          Jun 19 2012: Your honest answer puts us on opposite sides of this issue, probably because I have children and you do not. This fact I see more and more as the main cause of political differences, not age, education or income.
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          Jun 21 2012: I think We have to save as much resources as possible and use what ever we have to or wish to use and keeping looking for alternate affordable source or resources, We don't need to sacrifice our lives for the lives of those who are going to come after decades or centuries.

          One day or the other the life on earth as we know it has to come to an end as it did for the dinosaurs. There is no escape from that. What we can do is do good and if possible do more good and keep moving until that dino day comes.
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        Jun 19 2012: and you don't want MRI scans for your children? or better computers? or faster travel?
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          Jun 20 2012: Yes I want MRI scans for my children. Since they are very energy intensive I want lower population levels. MRI_per_person = (Total_Energy_available_for MRIs) / Number_of_People.
          I would like to see more pentaflops/megawatt only if the populations start to take computer models seriously. I wish my children a world where bicycles and efficient public transportation make private automobiles superfluous..
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        Jun 20 2012: ah, i see. that this might be interesting for you:
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          Jun 28 2012: i got to check this site later, hope it's not a parody site, lol. but seriously i agree with both of you on this issue, on the one hand we know matter can only be converted from one form to the next and not completely destroyed, and we also know that it takes a tremendous amount of power to leave the earths gravity, so most of the heavy stuff has always been here and more gets adeed in small amount as meteors and other objects get pulled in.

          so on one hand we can either find a way to recycle our limited resources and on the other hand be more proactive about not overpopulting the earth, i also don't see any immediate need to mine stuff from elsewhere, who knows we might even import some strange undetected virus back to earth.

          i do think we need to seriously consider building an asteroid deflector so we don't go the way of the dinosaur, and at the same time try to populate another planet if only for backup purposes.
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    Jun 16 2012: Survival
  • Jun 16 2012: I'll go with: development of a competitive, safe energy storage alternative to petroleum, for personal, on-demand use.

    There seem to be a lot of energy sources. I think the real issue is efficient storage, for on-demand use, which is what petroleum currently provides.
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      Jun 16 2012: Hmmm. Are you suggesting that the reason the petro energy age has not given way is that nothing beats it for efficient storability?
      • Jun 16 2012: Yes, I believe that's one of the biggest reasons. Another is relative safety. Hopefully we can one day find its replacement.
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          Jun 17 2012: I disagree that gasoline storage is easy and safe. Look at all the government measures and regulations that must be met. Look how terribly dangerous it is to work with gasoline not in an approved container. Look at the horrific results of cars, boats and airplanes bursting into flames at the slightest random spark. Safe and easy? I don't think so. You cannot say "relatively safe" because there is nothing to which it can be compared. Petroleum reigns supreme because it is the ONLY energy source able to meet the demands of today's runaway consumption as typified by "personal, on-demand use". There may "seem to be a lot of energy sources", but there is in current reality only one and it is petro.
      • Jun 17 2012: Edward,

        I did not say that gasoline storage is "easy and safe". Certainly gasoline has it's safety issues. So will any means of energy storage. If we require absolute safety, then we might as well forget it, because there simply is no solution. However, everyday, many hundreds of millions of people decide that gasoline is sufficiently safe so that they take their cars on the road.
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          Jun 18 2012: We choose petro for the same reason we choose to pay taxes. . . there is no alternative which allows continuation of the lifestyle to which we have grown accustomed. Petro is harmful from the first drilling to spewing the hydrocarbons out the exhaust pipe into the atmosphere. Both of those statements are true. Petro is bad , but we use it. Taxes are bad, but we pay them. This line is moot anyway. Please see my comment below regarding the posted question. We've got bigger fish to fry than energy related techno-babble.
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    Jun 15 2012: Security and safety at the individual/family level when bankrupt governments cause decline into chaos and anarchy. Organized human predators will prevail. Seek ye the LORD while He may be found.
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      Jun 22 2012: Hey Edward. You may think you're the guy on the left, but I feel like the one on the right:
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        Jun 22 2012: It is trendy right now to be among those who say the end is near. If you buck the trend you may be a wacko! I wonder why is the thought of the end being near a bad thing? Everything is a mess and we are circling the drain, so why is the end something to be dreaded or denied? Like the Holy Bible says, "Come soon, LORD Jesus!"
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    Jun 15 2012: The exponential increase in the effectiveness of the marketing machine to which we will be plugged in 24/7. Our ability to resist over-spending and over-consuming will be compromised so badly that we will even have to borrow to pay for credit repair. At that point, it will be a return to the absurdities of serfdom at a level not seen since the middle ages.
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    R H

    • +1
    Jun 15 2012: Figuring out a gadget that will help us have patience and get along with each other world-wide.
  • Jul 14 2012: Enviromental issues, the earth, clean water, clean air and resources have build/developed over the last 4,5 billion years.Humans have now almost used up all that stored energy e.g. in less that 150 years .... congratulations!Guess "agent Smith" was right in his clasification of humans in the Matrix.
  • Jul 14 2012: Finding the solution to fusion energy, it will give us emissions free limitless energy and solve the problem of global warming which is now a global menace and which could soon wipe out billions.
  • Jul 14 2012: the biggest challenge of technology is through it that humanity can make a common global task.
    are many tasks that have accumulated underdevelopment energetic matrix that is another discussion wars etc
    My language is Spanish and this has been translated by the pc
    el mayor desafio de la tecnologia es que a traves de ella la humanidad pueda realizar una tarea global comun.
    son muchas las tareas que se han acumulado matriz energetica subdesarrollo guerras esa es otra discusion etc
    Mi idioma es el español y esto ha sido traducido por el pc
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    Jul 14 2012: I think it will be managing the ramifications of the connection between biotechnology and nanotechnology. We can't even imagine the implications of what's coming in the next 20 years...
  • Jul 14 2012: HAARP (High Frequency Active Auroral Research Project) the largest electro-magnetic broadcast system currently in the hands of the Navy and Air Force. Located 30 miles from Fairbanks Alaska. Because it is operating in complete secrecy in the hands of the United States military we can instantly recognize the military application of weaponry and destruction. While they attempt to harness and direct energy through frequency manipulation and amplification into the earths ionosphere all life forms on the planet are at risk. There is an international treaty to not tamper with naturally occurring weather systems. I seriously doubt the military will be forthcoming on their capability of altering the weather. Nor will we ever be officially advised when they modulate the frequency and begin implementing mental imagery or mind control. These mad men operate uneducated and unrestricted under full US authority. There are very sound and valuable uses for such technology. Were our military not so interested in hiding what they're doing from the people they were sworn to protect I might not have been so worried. As it stands, historically speaking anyway, there is absolutely no accountability with the military or the government. I am gravely concerned but without a plausible solution all I can do is speak up and hope that there is something better waiting for us.
  • Jul 13 2012: The problem of making money on website's by ad's and suggestions on the web. For big companies like Google depend largely on profiling on what you search. Including other websites doing the same thing. Then term's and services agreements (for no one ever reads the whole thing) having hidden terms.
    This will push companies and some developers to go into other area's in technological area's. This will challenge the human race to go into other markets. Or just update to more extreme data collections terms by governments or companies. So when it gets to the stage of when governments stamp down on the companies or the people do it will be a massive challenge to complete it. And fill the market and make sure that in closing it down people don't use the data for worse.
  • Jul 13 2012: The biggest technical challange will be to have the technology to technically disable the threat of nuclear weapons in the hands of madmen !
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    Jul 11 2012: Sustainable urbanization and power capture/ utilization without fossil fuels. On the other hand, there may be a devastating biological event, or an asteroid strike, or massive volcanic eruption that would make all such striving mute.
  • Jul 10 2012: What i mean is '' do we have the resources to predict future weather conditions to a reasonable degree?''
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      Jul 10 2012: Yes. We can track differentiating areas of temperature and pressure, measure their build up or demise, and predict where and when all these properties will come together to make a storm or not. Any other questions?
  • Jul 10 2012: Alright, it appears i finally have someone to argue this global warming thing with. One question. At the current level of technology, is it possible to predict weather conditions for say 8.30am tommorrow?
    • Jul 14 2012: It is possible to create a weather system at 8:30 am tomorrow anywhere in the world. HAARP. spread the word
  • Jul 7 2012: The U.S. is draining all of their sources of fresh water and in the future, probably by the middle of the century, they will be in desperate need of water. Some towns in the dry south west are already running out of water. So what do we do?

    We could cut back on the amount of water we use, but as cynical as this sounds I don't think the majority of Americans are capable of doing that. We could import fresh water from countries, like Canada, who have it in abundance, but this doesn't solve the problem it is just a temporary fix. Or we could find a new way of getting fresh water, like desalinating water from the ocean. Unfortunantly desalination harms coastal ecosystems.

    This is a trend that I am seeing in nearly all aspects of human growth going forwards, we are going to have to choose between development and the enviroment. The human population on Earth has very little boundaries now, Vertical farming removes the boundary of not having enough food to support the population. Water desalination makes the all of the oceans avaliable as a water source. Diseases are being cured at a rate that has never before been seen in human history. And so the biggest technological challenge the human race will face is the moral decision of whether to tame the enviroment to permit our growth or to somehow limit the growth of the human race to allow nature to remain wild.
  • Jul 5 2012: The problems caused to society are changes in weather patterns, intense storms, changes in food supply, availability of potable water, increased pollution, inundation of coastal cities.....
  • Jul 5 2012: The population explosion plus the atmosphere warming and the interaction betweenn the two.
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    Jul 5 2012: Overcoming ignorance. There can be no technology without education. There can be no real education without stimulating the imagination. In the most "literate" country in the world, the U.S., 51% of American adults can barely read, write and think well enough to add up a check and follow instructions. 96% of American adults have varying degrees of problem synthesizing information.( ) As our machines get "smarter" ignorant people become increasingly leery of them, and politics which drive funding for advanced technology turn their back on it as the practice of the less-controllable "elites." Until we can find a way to harness technology to overcome ignorance, rather than entertain, amuse and distract us, there is a clash awaiting the technocrats with a population increasing fearful of what it brings to their limited world views.
  • Jul 5 2012: Without a doubt it is the basic need for potable (drinkable) water for everyone and the technology improvements needed to address the coming water shortages. Climate change has had little impact so far on the policy makers and the people we trust to lead the world in the area of water sources and upgraded treatment technologies. In the US we see massive drought areas, climate change that has the majority of the states in record heat. Crop production and quality of crop production is being impacted. Water is the answer.

    The water SOURCES are a major part of the problem, especially lakes and smaller rivers. Underground acquirers have dropped and shifted. The underground rivers also contain more pollution than in the past (in some areas). These next few years are critical in man's survival. If we invest in new technologies and address the causes of climate change we may have a legitimate chance of feeling no pain. Keep doing what we are doing and we will run out of potable water. iPADs, computers, cameras, Big Screen LED TVs are meaningless if we do not have the water we need. If you want proof...look at the star levels in you local lakes and reservoirs.

    WE CAN MAKE THE CHANGES NEEDED...we simply need to choose to make it happen.
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    Jul 5 2012: I think the big challenge today is how to move conventional business into the online world. Walk the streets of almost any city and you will see empty shops and buildings for lease - because the old retail model is dying. People not only want the best price these days, but they also want products and services available at the click of a button - it's the instant gratification syndrome that we have become used to.
    Mobile devices are improving rapidly and eventually we will be able to have one gadget that does everything from being a communication device to being our bank access and TV - size and functionality are the issues with that.
    In less than a month, there will be general public access to a totally new e-commerce platform available - one that is devoid of all the negative issues with typical web e-commerce sites - because it is not web based. This is a completely new platform that has been designed to be a secure global marketplace - well worth a quick look because I believe this is the sort of technology the world needs today to facilitate conventional businesses participating on the internet.
  • Jul 4 2012: Bio-medical CANCER treatment. Billion dollar industry, why would they want a cure? -this can't be true, or is it

    I would like to propose a hypothetical question, can researchers/technologists create issues to ultimately profit from them? -I don't think so
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    Jul 4 2012:

    In the link above, I talk about this question. Technology is becoming more part of our lives every single day. It is growing more rapidly than ever. We wake up and check our phones, as well as we check our phones through out the day and before going to bed. It is like we have a piece of our brain that we keep in our pocket. If we go with out this device for just a day, it is very easy to feel emotions of emptiness. However, some may find it very liberating. But as humans, we need connection to other human beings. Technology just lets us do that faster and easier than ever.

    I believe that this is only going to get worse. We live alone together each day. I know we can't get rid of this device. However, I think there needs to be a device that lets us live our lives as we did before. We stay more connected than ever, yet we are not distracted from our daily lives in the real world with people. I believe the google glass project is tackling this well. However, it may hurt us more than help us. We will need to decide that soon.
  • Jun 30 2012: Realizing that information policy IS energy policy and beginning to finally reform to a true Information Age modality of human progress instead of continuing to think of energy and utility as something by themselves. Where does that start? IMO it starts right here with that equation--does information policy equate to energy policy? I think it totally does. Everything we do or don't do or whether we do it right or poorly depends upon what our command is of every problem. If information policy remains lax and unsophisticated, energy policy will be loose, flabby and continue to justify waste and duplicated effort. There are trillions of dollars and the fate of the world in this idea. You won't see it though if you look through 20th Century eyes and minds.
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    Jun 30 2012: The biggest technological challenge for the human race in the next 30 years will be not to let technology control our everyday lives and to some point, our humanity.

    It has already turned so many people into perceived idiots. The misuse of simple words like "there, their, they're" or "your, you're", etc. has derived (in my opinion) from the use of technology.

    There seems to be a lot of people getting their education from Wikipedia or Google.

    For example...25 years ago if you wanted to get someplace that you were not familiar with, you used a map. Today, we use the internet to find the route and print it out, or we use a GPS device. Now, Im not saying that we should not use technology to make our lives easier. But, I have personally witnessed people who have no idea how to read a map and rely on a "voice in the box" to tell them where to go, when to turn, etc. Another issue this raises is that I have also witnessed a lot of people who have no clue what direction north, south, east, or west is.

    If you think about it for just a moment, Im sure you can find examples of how and/or when technology has made something obsolete.

    Not to go too much into the extemist view, but I often think about what would happen if we lost all power and hence, lost a lot (not all) of technology. (There are several books/movies on this subject) I think we would be in a little bit of trouble as a lot of people would not have the knowledge needed for some pretty basic things.

    Going down the path we are now, and this scenario not happening for 30 years...I shudder to think of the consequences.
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    Jun 29 2012: Not to make ourselves isolationists by relying on technology to handle all our indvidual needs to the point it excludes human interaction.
  • Jun 29 2012: The full impact of this problem has yet to be felt. It takes years for diabetes to fiully manafest itself. When left untreated, the disease will destroy the human body. The impact that low socio-economic people will have on the healthcare system will be nothing short of devistating. The health care aspect coupled with the financial burden of the care will destroy insurance companies and will bankrupt hospitals. Modern societies will all be subject to financial impications of diabetes type 2.
  • Jun 29 2012: The biggest technological challenge we will face in the next 30 years will be medical. Our whole world will have to take a step back and re-invent the health care systems that will be crushed under the weight (pun intended) of the obesity and metabolic syndrome epidemic that is just beginning to spiral out of our control. We have been killing ourselves on over processed diets and lack of exercise. Type 2 diabetes continues to grow at an alarming rate amongst our children. We will have to deal with this as a species as it threatens to kill us all.
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      Jun 29 2012: Already now there are many different and effective drugs to deal with diabetes, and youth generation are aware of the importance of sports to keep fit and healthy. Why you think this issue is so important to be the most challenge of humankind in future decade!?
  • Jun 29 2012: Transitioning to clean, renewable energy sources across all industries. This means not only developing cleaner energy, but replacing old infrastructure on almost everything in order to make use of a new energy form.
  • Jun 29 2012: we can make a machine that help us understand each other better.For eg,a translator.
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    Jun 29 2012: 1. National security.
    2. Application to education reform
    3. Privacy issues
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      Jun 29 2012: you people there in the US are unbelievable. you sit on the world's biggest army, in fact an army that is bigger than all other armies of the earth combined. and your first "problem" to solve is national security. what would satisfy you?
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        Jun 29 2012: (What do you expect us to do?)

        I am speaking as a world citizen who happens to live in the US. At present there is a major shift taking place in the world paradigm and it is a dangerous time for the world. We need to technology applied to help protect civilization (in fact, it is already). And facilitate change in education. And preserve our privacy. Add to that improve the human health issues that span obesity to starvation.
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        Jul 7 2012: Having a big army is kind of like talking about having a larger surface area—a 2-dimensional problem in what has now become an n-dimensional solution space.
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    Jun 28 2012: @Michael Hal,l I think the whole point of birth control is exactly reducing the population. I don't think that would be a problem and if you think about your children's future the resources would be more than enough for a decreasingly lower population. To my thinking, it's sort of a brutal measure, but it makes a lot of sense, even though I would love to have a second kid.
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      Jun 28 2012: Dear Victor
      The problem of birth control is not kind of easy technical problem which can be tackled effortlessly. Indeed it is an intricate problem which is related to culture, politics and strategic issues. In third world countries people tend to have a dozen children because they think of a child as pension insurance. In developed countries governments encourage civilians to have more child due to strategic and politic reasons. In developing countries population explosions recur each 30 years and it is seemingly impossible to avert. So you can see the birth control problem is not an easy one to solve.
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        Jun 28 2012: I agree, it's not easy. But nature is (normally) self-regulating. One of the guys in this thread already mentioned that in big cities it's very common that people do not want children until a very advanced stage in their lives (after 30?) because professional and self-development are considered "more important" in big cities. Recently I noticed there's an area in Santiago (where I live) which is some sort of an industrial complex and you cannot see anything that remembers you of children like parks or children-oriented stores. I believe this affects your way of thinking after spending most of your day working in this area. I believe this is very sad, because children truly give sense to everything you do, but I also think less crowded places means a better quality of life. I think a good challenge is to balance whatever we do today so our species will have a better tomorrow. Isn't this the whole point of the discussion?
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          Jun 28 2012: As I mentioned in developed countries and big cities the general trend is towards having a very small family in middle age. But it is not whole the picture and governments of this countries strive to compensate through immigration. In the other parts of the world people deal with more serious economic and social problems and don't pay attention to population growth adequately.
          Briefly we cannot be very optimistic about have less population in the future.
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        Jun 28 2012: And yeah, all problems are difficult to solve. I think solving difficult stuff it's the purpose of studying and working. I take it as "very motivational".
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    Jun 28 2012: Putting into usage a replacement for oil without incurring the wrath of the Arab Oil producers and those politicians under their control.
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    Jun 28 2012: depends what space one occupies within the human race, it is not homogenous in its challenges, developing technologies for clean drinking water and food for all seems a good place to start
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    Jun 28 2012: 30 years is not sufficient time for some lofty goals such as retrieving resources from space, colonizing other planets or breaking human’s brain codes. In my view, our most important task is the development of emerging technologies such as micro technology, robotics, artificial intelligence and biotechnology to reach more efficient and low-consuming devices. For example, having a car with more than 100 Hp and 200 Km/h speed in metropolitan cities with severe traffic congestion seems absurd. Developing smart cars and intelligent network navigation systems can reduce the energy consuming in this field dramatically. Examples of this abound everywhere around us. Promotion of austere lifestyle and reduction in goods production lead to massive unemployment and regression to hundred years ago lifestyle is very far-fetched. Hence, the best solution is utilization of recent developed technologies to manufacture environmentally friendly, low-consuming and high-tech products which encourage creativity, scientific research and economy, besides protection of natural resources and high living standards.
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      Jun 28 2012: Correct, one of the most challenging tasks will be to wean our societies off cars, inadequate cars. The addiction to cars will probably only be cured once the world has to go cold turkey because of the shortage of affordable fuels. The idea of making them more efficient needs to be extended to their use.
      There will be a time where people will have to make the choice between either a regular supply of electric power or individualised passenger transport. Electricity is what made humans modern, cars are merely stagecoaches on steroids and without the horses.
  • Jun 25 2012: Kevin Nothing to do with humans is exact, you should know that. Could be next week, but definitely within 30 years.
  • Jun 24 2012: Finding a balance.

    Obviously, the world only has limited resource, in regards to fuel, food, even space and many other things. Yet the population rate of the human race is growing exponentially.

    I dunno how we're going to do it, but we need to think of a way to balance the ever growing need for more resource on the planet.

    On a side note, maybe something about Global Warming too. I'm not an expert on it and I'm sure in 30 years not much will have changed in the grand scheme of things, but you know, better sooner than later. Maybe not to combat global warming because it's happening and going to get worse, but maybe finding a solution for the duration of the worst times or the aftermath.
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    Jun 24 2012: We will run out of clean water.
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      Jun 24 2012: where does the water go?
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      Jun 28 2012: this is not a really big problem to solve, we just need to create home-based water filtration systems, nowadays you can actually buy a water cooler that does not need you to load water into it, it condenses
      the water right out of the air and collects it and chills it for you. and of course you can distill water, many you tube videos show you how to build home units or even solar stills. but you have to add minerals back into the water, 100% pure water will actually leech minerals from your body so i've read, but that may not be factual.
      and if air pollution is really bad we'll probably die from breathing in the air before running out of water, i mean the earth is almost covered with water, there is no shortage, it just needs practical ways of purifying it. why can't the governments each build several large water processing plants especially where clean water is needed, or build giant solar stills that you can load with salt water straight from the sea? it's entirely possible, but like developing prototype to detect and deflect an asteroid from hitting the earth, nobody seems to be willing to act until it is too late or until their is overwhelming demand. it boggles my mind that politicians would spend a million or more each on campaigning when taking the same million and building a giant solar still could be usefull for turning salt water into fresh water.

      and the water does not go anywhere, chemistry 101 - matter can't be created or destroyed only changed from one state into another, the same oxygen and hydrogen that tunrs into water has been here and has probably combined to form liquid water hundreds of times, scientists think that many of us have consumed water molecules made of hydrogen and oxygen that may have passed through shakespeare years ago.
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    Jun 24 2012: The Last Question if I'm not mistaken
  • Jun 23 2012: Kevin
    Its me again with some input.I have been reading some of the comments and I would like to ask one question. Why all the negativity? There are to many variables to predict the future accuractly. All things are subject to change at any given time. I Love because it allows people from all walks in life to share their ideas with everyone and hopefully get positive feedback in a respectfull way. I try to remain positive about the future and life. I still hold out hope for all of us. I tell people that the past has already happened. The future has to many variables. So in reality all that any of us has is right now. And its what you are doing right now that does matter because it in some ways does shape your future. People working together, sharing ideas and technologies. Not for profit. Not for fame. Doing it because its for the good of all. You, me and everyone reading this has the ability to make the world a better place. But remember all you have is right now so you better get going.
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      Jun 23 2012: If you want to know some of the reasons I'm negative about the future, Look up:Impossible Physics-Dr. Michio Kaku- Coast to Coast AM. It's on Youtube. It's about two hours long, but when you're done listening to it, you will have a new perspective about the world. BTW, I'm not entirely negative about the future. I see a lot of amazing things coming for us, but it's better to focus on problems now than future success.
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        Jun 23 2012: if you want to be a little less depressed, i recommend to follow the blog of matt ridley.

        as a starter, you can check his ted talk:

        then move on to his blog:
      • Jun 24 2012: Kevin
        The negativity question was not meant for you. It was for others who have commented on this site. If I gave you the impression that it was directed at you than I am truly sorry for that. If you look at the first comment that I made to your question, you defended my comment and I gave you a thumbs up. I believe this site is for sharing ideas and theories and solutions in a positive respectfull way. But I have noticed that some people are just venting with their comments. That in my opinion is counter productive. If everybody in the world was a pessimist nothing would ever get done. There are alot of good people in this world doing really good things. The sad part is most of the good gets overshadowed by the bad.
  • Jun 22 2012: Kevin You can't give up what was never there. Am a Nam vet class of 68, but knew what was coming long before that. Is not a downer, just a fact. The universe is vast and our passing will have no effect on it. To quote Elton John " The circle of life".
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      Jun 22 2012: When exactly do you plan on this happening? What, December 21st? p.s. I read your profile. Complete respect towards you for serving our country.
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    Jun 22 2012: Water desalination in arid and over populated areas - many parts of the world are over dependent on ancient aquifers that will soon run dry. Currently, desalination is very energy hungry.
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    Jun 22 2012: Since you limited your question to "technological challenge" faced by humans, I would name the possible occurrence of an EMP over any developed country in the world.
    I would point out the breakdown of the Internet for more than a year would be just one of the results of an EMP. We have been increasing our use and dependance on the Internet for decades. The flow of information has increased exponentially. The major players are moving to 'the cloud' which simply means to huge server farms which make the information more easily stored and retrieved.

    As the power of the web has increased, so have the attacks upon it. first, viruses and spam, then mal-ware of many types, then 'phishing' and data thievery. Less well known is the monitoring and censorship being carried on by many national governments.
    The term cyber war moved from science fiction to fact. The 'Great Firewall of China' went up. The US government is spending billions of dollars to monitor both the net and cell phone transmissions. Super computer 'farms' are being build to decode anything and everything that is transmitted electronically over wire or airwaves.
    An attack with a $300 explosive parked in a van in the Word Trade Center parking garage cause $500,000,000 in damages. Several hijacked planes were crashed into two buildings and cost multiple uncounted billions in damages.
    Several national governments are experimenting with small nuclear bombs that are designed to enhance the EMP effect of high altitude nuclear explosions. A sci-fi novel "One Second After" by American author William R. Forstchen details the devastation of an EMP attack on a modern highly developed county. Probably 200 million Americans would die because of the failure to prepare for such an attack.
    If such an 'event' were to occur, either accidentally of purposefully, the Internet would go down. It would stay down for an unknown period of time.
    The technology to create a short range EMP is becoming more common and inexpensive.
  • Jun 22 2012: Kevin I'm not saying end of the "world". The planet in a few billion years will recover, I'm talking about so called humanity. Open your eyes and you will know.
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      Jun 22 2012: I realize what your saying now, but you can't just give up all hope like that. We can survive if humanity opens it's eyes and tries to make it.
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    Jun 22 2012: I feel handling data that is getting generated would be the toughest of the technological challenges we humans have to face in the years to come.With increasing exposure to internet, technical advancement we see today, digitized contents are getting generated at such a pace which might just trouble with its security in the years to come.Data is literally exploding across the internet.I think handling data in years to come would be the toughest of all technological challenge we might have to face.
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      Jun 22 2012: Hi Akshay ,
      I don't think handling data is such a big technological challenge .

      But the challenge is for us human beings to handle the enormous amount information we receive. So we need to be selective about the information we choose to listen.

      Simply because all the information we receive about a particular topic of our interest is always good and as you mentioned the information is vast !!.

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        Jun 28 2012: i agree with this comment, handling data is not that big of a problem, and in fact is probably one of the driving reasons that makes the government monitor us, how else can they tell if something evil is being spread around? would people *really* prefer the government *not* to scan sites and listen in on phone calls? a lot of this is done with automated tools that scan for specific words and phrases, and some scan the closed caption of video and tv for keywords, another using speech to text and OCR to convert audio and images into text that can be scanned as well.

        it is rather easy for me to program a site that would monitor various RSS feeds and email me an alert with the title and url of the page, and any person can hop over to 'google alerts' and setup automated google searches that can notify you by email or rss.

        this has many good uses for example if you were a chiropractor you can monitor specific kewords, phrases and questions that you could use to keep up to date on your industry and also to find questions being asked - often you can also provide a brief answer and leave your website or contact info for more details and easily tunr them into new clients, but it could also be used to monitor
        for evil purposes.

        want to know what people love rightnow or just watched? hop over to twitter or facebook and type in "i love my new" or "i just watched" and you'll see realtime comments! you could friend them and gently suggest other items they may like or get them to join a site/group/local meetup on the topic, etc
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      Jun 23 2012: I think the challenge is to put all this data into something useful and powerful enough to drive possitive change.
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    Jun 22 2012: in preserving nature maybe....
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    Jun 22 2012: I think the biggest issue we will have to face is developing clean and efficient energy. And eventually finding ways to make this technology available to the world.

    Honestly I think improving nuclear fusion technology would be a logical path, and has a lot of potential.
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    Jun 22 2012: I see several;

    How will we find jobs for people when computers and machines are doing many of them? We are replacing humans with artificial intelligence.

    How will we venture out into space since that is where it seems we are headed?

    How will we provide food for all people when we are turning food sources into energy now?

    Will we create a genetic disease by accident through genetic engineering, and how will we deal with it?

    How potent will illegal drugs become and what will the drug problem look like in 30 years?
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      Jun 22 2012: Hi Roy
      Nice to see another interesting comment from you.

      Re jobs. The main problem is not robots, it is cheap labor in China and India and soon, Africa. "Other people" are replacing "our people" and "our people" are experiencing a lot of pain and suffering when their entire industry move to not only cheaper labor, but a more 'law-less' governmental structure..

      The loss of food sources will not be because land will be turned to fuel production. Loss of food sources will occur because the aquifers under the Great Plains are being used up by pumping water out faster than it is being replenished by Spring run-off. With no water, you can grow neither food nor fuel.

      Genetic problems caused by the creation of new life forms will far exceed those caused by a new disease. Under the umbrella of progress we will create an organism so invasive that the whole world will be put under extreme medical surveillance bordering on permanent quarantine.

      Many drugs now illegal will become legal. The 'Great Compromise of 2053' will legalize most 'natural' drugs such as marijuana and mushrooms, while illegal drug sales will result in either the death penalty or banishment from the community. The community will have replaced the State as the primary enforcer of the Law. Strict borders will be enforced by Communities to protect themselves and their resources from all manner of possible attacks, see above regarding genetic encroachment. If you don't believe this could happen, just imagine the situation if 'Africanized killer bees' which are actually only slightly more dangerous than normal bees, were actually 100% killers, and their hives were located just over the next hillside or between your town and the next town. Would your community call in the Army? No, you would protect your community, and you would be very strict. Substitute any genetic threat for 'killer bees.'

      Thanks for the nice array of idea generators!
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      Jun 28 2012: mechanization/automation replace some jobs, but there will always be jobs to complex or complicated for machines, and very important jobs that *really* need large groups of people working on them like curing cancer/aids or buidling life sustaining infrastructure in poor countries. in fact i believe that if we embraced renewable energy on a grand scale like solar/wind/wave, we could have a significantly better life, you could run your a/c or heater, you can drive an electric car, you can use an electric stove top, etc, and best of all you could finally build bots/machines that run of free electricity to handle the production and distribution of food clothing and shelter to all for free or cheaply. we could all have free or cheap power, food, clothing shelter. there are hundreds of other ways to make money like working together doing research and development for dangerous diseases, deflecting an asteroid, working on world peace, rebuilding all the wasteful buildings for example to make them more efficient. paying for fossil fuels and electricity is backward thinking when we could have free energy and electric cars. there will always be jobs. heck if you can use free energy to produce very smart machines that could manafacture or farm you could actually export the products and produce an income for much less.

      we will never get to space since the budget for R & D is almost nil.

      we are not using all the food sources to produce energy only a portion, we'd need to plant more if we go that route versus solar/wind/wave that doesn't require inputs, and we can use this free energy to automate the production and even automate distribution of the food produced.

      creating a genetic disease is not very easy to do, at least not by accident, but we can possibly mess up our dna and make us more susceptable to a certain disease, but ofcourse that won't be a very big deal since we still have to reproduce to pass ont he bad gene.

      refer to jon miner's answer on drugs
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    Jun 22 2012: I think the really disturbing part is at the end, when he starts talking about deadlines and "if's". Shocking.
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      Jun 22 2012: I never knew some of the things he talked about. It really makes me think about the future of this planet and just climate change as a whole.
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    Jun 21 2012: Kevin: please take a look at this,

    What do you think of it?
    • Jun 22 2012: The first 6min of that video was particularly disturbing.
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    Jun 21 2012: decision making made and relied on to artificial intelligence
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      Jun 23 2012: I can remember a few books from Asimov related to Multivac. Nice one!
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    Jun 21 2012: Thanks for a challenging question! I think it might be the issue of cloning because it will not be stopped- it will come - because someone will not be able to exercise self control in the face of a challenge and we are not ready for it because we have not decided what it means or how we can benefit humanity by it.
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        Jul 10 2012: Griffin, so nice to hear from you. Are you still fighting your good fight for better health? I am rooting for you.My comment was my guess (as are most of my comments outside of the areas of my own expertise- I am just delighted to be allowed to play!) Your seems more informed. Thanks.
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    Jun 21 2012: Consider, for example, the International Energy Agency’s forecast of business-as-usual leading to a 6 C warmer planet by 2035. Malcolm Light, writing for the Arctic Methane Emergency Group, considers one of the many positive feedbacks we’ve triggered in one planetary region and reaches this conclusion: “This process of methane release will accelerate exponentially, release huge quantities of methane into the atmosphere and lead to the demise of all life on earth before the middle of this century.”
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      Jun 21 2012: Specifically, the Siberian tundra will be a major problem. When the greenhouse effect gets bad enough, the tundra will heat of and release thousands of years worth of methane.
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        Jun 21 2012: If it warms we may be able to farm it. The same will be true of central Canada. Even so methane is only a short term problem as it is lighter than air so gradually drifts into the upper atmosphere. CO2 lasts for ever as it is so heavy.
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          Jun 22 2012: It's a good idea since the soil would have about 10,000 years worth of nutrients in it, but that doesn't solve the methane crisis that will likely occur.
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          Jun 28 2012: i think the co2 is more of a problem, but on the flip side the nutrients and extra co2 would also cause plants to proliferate which turn the co2 back into safe forms, worse case scenario we may need to start collecting the co2 and methane and exporting it to the moon, lol, you never know we may need it later, good time to put more effort into the space elevator concept to lift stuff into space and eventually to the moon. gotta stay optimistic. i've heard that scientists have also found ways to convert carbon back into solid forms that can be buried back into the earth where it came from, becasue it's really the carbon gas that contributes to gloabl warming by letting heat and light in, but not letting the heat back out, an hence the global warming.

          if we can safely convert the co2 gas into solid form and bury it, then we could just burn the excess methane to create more co2 that we could then convert to solid as well and bury it.
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    Jun 21 2012: Trying to put the genie back in the bottle. I believe by the time humans figure it out well look at or track record we are always looking at the wrong end of the gun when we do.
  • Jun 21 2012: Technology solves one problem and creates two more. It's basically a full employment plan for engineers.
  • Jun 20 2012: We haven't got 30 years so why worry.
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      Jun 20 2012: Your not rambling about "the end of the world" are you?
  • Jun 20 2012: It might be how to free our ideas or mind from our physical body. Or whether we can live without our physical body? This is the chance we can stop our desire for pleasure and entertainment, and this is the few chances we have to save this planet before we destroy it completely.
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      Jun 28 2012: you talking about transcendence? i think that freeing our ideas are exactly what is happening right here on TED, then we can collaborate on possible solutions and then raise funding from other like minded people to put our solutions into action - but people are to concerned with getting rich and don't seem to want to share their ideas, or rather, don't seemto want to share the realization of their idea, they want to own the real world devices that their intangible devices turned into with patents and such so they get as rich as possible,
      and this makes it easy for the evil groups to keep dominating the world as they are already a team with all kinds of system hidden in plain sight that constantly undermind the tiny groups that are forming before they can get too big or have any real impact on their systems
  • Jun 19 2012: Dear Mister Jacobson. Its a dark prospect you describe but I think its realistic.
  • Jun 19 2012: There are so many big challenges for us to face: doomed economic models, cultural wars, the limitations of the human brain, etc...

    But I think some of the challenges we are currently attempting to concur through tech. growth programs like the X Prize are really cool:
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      Jun 20 2012: What do you refer to when you talk about human brain limitations?
      • Jun 20 2012: The brain is our number one decision making tool. Among all of our information gathering tools, the human brain generally has the final say in everything-- even though we know other tools can do many jobs better. It’s not common practice for us to think of ourselves as limited, and we spend our lives being told that we can do anything we put our minds to. But the truth is; we accomplish so much in our lives because we have developed the tools to help us accomplish tasks that our brains cannot. The human’s brain’s strongest quality is its ability to get outside of its self.

        Our brains hold limited amounts of information, short term and long term. Of the information it can hold, it can only process a fraction of it at a time. And, the information it contains isn’t even always accurate.

        Can you conceive 5 pennies? How about 5 trillion pennies? When you concentrate really hard on something do you notice everything else “tuning out”? Can you remember everything you ever did in your life? Can you even remember everything you did in the last month?

        Not only can we not remember everything, but often we think we can. We constantly compromise information for perceptual interpretations of the events, and we can’t always believe what we perceive or the interpretations that follow. Our eyes may record actual events, but we don’t know that we “saw” anything until our brains have had a chance to interpret information. And, for what our eyes didn’t see, or brains just make things up to fill in the blanks. The human brain gets it wrong more often than we might like to admit.
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          Jun 20 2012: While I understand what your saying, it's a good thing that our brain works this way, so I don't see this being a major problem.
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          Jun 28 2012: agree with kevin here, it's important to forget and make mistakes, and use our unique human traits like imagination, and not always act completely from logic, the downside is that other humans often exploit these flaws with our brain for their own advantage - like suicide bombers acting on religious motivation, or companies that exploit unpaid volunteers because they would like to help them 'do the right thing', etc.

          very soon our tablets won't be tablets they'll be voice or even thought controlled devices that keep track of all the info we need to keep track of and prompt us as needed, i mean your miniturized device will be able to monitor your cupboard and alert you when you need to go shopping and even allow you to take the list with you digitally, it could read the list to you with voice and then remove the items fromthe list as you go along, it could easily add a birthday or photo with name so when you hear a name you could quickly see the face, etc.

          i use my samsung galaxy tablet in so many ways, i also bookmark andor email sites to myself for later consumption, somtimes 20 times in a day or more, i have automated google alerts and rss feeds to notify me of things i need to keep track of, so my brain doesn't have to be super technology makes up for a lot of what my brain can't do yet.
      • Jun 20 2012: *continued

        Consider the Ebbinghaus illusion: our eyes see the circles as the same size, but our brains change the size of the circles and in turn alter reality. Many magic tricks work because our brains don’t have the ability to process all of the information our senses are collecting, so it focuses its attention on common areas. Even though our eyes may have seen the actual “trick”, our brains didn’t notice it. We can convince our brains that we didn’t see something that we really did see, as can we convince our brains that we did see something that really we did not see.

        Our minds play tricks on us to such a degree, that however much we may think we know something, we may only know a lie. Reality and what we perceive are two different things. Yet the human brain is the tool that we (including our world’s leaders) use to make every major decision in the world today.

        This problem is approached through the tools we develop (like computers) and the education (like college and other training) that we receive. Still, none of this has yet to change the actual amount of information the brain can analyze at one time. Nor has it changed the fact that we base all of our decisions around belief systems that are merely summations of what we have perceived throughout our lives. And, whether we would like to admit it or not, our decisions are heavily influenced through chemical responses we call emotions.

        It is these decisions that we make with this limited decision making tool that are responsible for our history and our current world situations. We will only ever make better decisions with better external tools and systems (like computer algorithms and the scientific method) that help us deal with the limitations of the human brain.
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          Jun 28 2012: if i recall correctly we recieve something quite a few gigs i think around 400 or more gigs per second, but only process about 10% of that, and we really don't know a lot about reality 'out of the box' i.e. using just our 5 senses, their is a whole range of light and sound waves that we are not able to detect without using can't know reality, you can only know about reality, an example i like to use involves 3 beings - a man, a dog, and a mosquito. the dog is sitting under the table and can sense the banana on the table by his sense of smell, and if he were to stand up on his hind legs it would indeed see a banana but it would be in black and white, the mosquito would know that the banana had been refridgerated or warmed up a bit in a microwave because it sees in infra red from blue(cold) to red(hot), but not yellow, the human would see a yellow banana but have no idea of its temperature, and would not even know it was on the table if he was looking in another direction and depending on his sense of smell. the funny thing though is if the human and dog could talk they could point at a yellow mug and back to the yellow banana and both agree that they are both yellow, because they look like each other, but the dog would actually be seeing the same the same shade of gray when it looks at the mug and banana, while the human is seeing the same shade of yellow, so they could actually agree on the color of the itmes but in fact be seeing two different things. but we can actually measure the wavelength of the light bouncing off the cup and the banana with our tools and know that they were similar.i'm not so sure if the leaders use their whole brains, they may only be using the financial part of the brain.

          and if people can't realize that we filter our experience based on past experience and indoctination, we really have a problem, as we seem to not care about logic and facts, and will cling to silly ideas that make us feel safe regardless of facts/evidence
      • Jun 20 2012: In all honesty, this is probably the largest problem we will ever face.
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          Jun 20 2012: I might sound like a sci-fi junkie when I say this, but there are already computers that can interact with your brain with astonishing performance. Maybe in the future, we will be able to expand on our brain and become a sort of super brained species.
      • Jun 21 2012: lol not sci-fi at all (EMP issues aside :-P), wouldn't it be awesome to have an increased memory storage installed, or a program that auto corrected when your mind made a mistake in perception, or just have your cellphone directly interfaced with your brain so you could just speak "telepathically" with your friends and family. But, until then we live in a world where people die every day because of an inability which generally boils down to a limitation of the human brain.

        What could we accomplish if we didn’t have to spend so much time learning information in school because we could just download years worth of education in hours or days? Economies fail because of economic models that we created but have not fixed. Wars happen because of cultural views and resource needs that we have not yet overcome. Poverty, disease, violence, education, you name it; all these things are waiting to be addressed by tools and systems we have yet to develop because our brains aren’t good enough to solve these problems faster.
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          Jun 21 2012: Or you could use it for school:)
        • Jun 21 2012: Additional storage of information in our brains or increased processing speeds will do very little to restore the lost art of critical thinking. Perhaps technological dependence will be another one of the many "greatest" challenges we will have to overcome. I think the limitations of the human brain are growing as the balance between what is virtual and what is real continues to tip.
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          Jun 28 2012: we are a good ways there, we can't upload or download from our brains but we can certainly do a lot with external tools like PCs, laptops, smart phones, and tablets, and the internet.

          some amazing things we can do now with technology is recognize words from images, read words from paper with optical recognition, convert text or even a text file into a playable mp3 audio file in mere seconds.

          now a deaf person can sit at a keyboard in one country and type in 'hi michael' and somewhere else in the world michael who is blind will hear the message read to him outloud, and he can either use a braile keyboard or just speak to his PC and voice recognition technology will convert his speech to text and ask him to confirm it before sending it back to the deaf person, who will read it and respond, you can easily add in a 3rd person that is not deaf or blind, and the 3 can converse without any of them realizing that one of them is blind, deaf or 'normal' - now that is the power of technology.

          i've even had a person call my work that was deaf, the person on the phone said they were from a certain company that assisted deaf people, she explained that she and our mutual client were using a chat program because the client was deaf, so i should ask the
          security questions and she then types them to the client, the client then types back and she reads it to me verbally - pretty cool, if she had not told me what was going on i could have been led to believe that i was speaking directly to my client and not going through her as a proxy.

          this tech will get smaller and more user friendly as time goes by.
      • Jun 21 2012: I agree Chris,

        The majority of our world’s population does not seem to have very strong critical thinking skills (which is why it is so refreshing to have places like TED conversations). Many people seem to have replaced these skills with emotions and cultural beliefs which, in some cases, work well for morals and proliferation, but not as well for discovering the truth in a situation beyond their own beliefs.

        No matter how much data we can store and review, if we can’t draw sound conclusions, it won’t make a bit of difference. Still, maybe one day we will understand the process of critical thinking (often done with the scientific method) well enough to design algorithms to complete this process (A.I.).

        *as a side note, I’m not sure I fully understand your point about virtual vs. real tipping when relating it to the limitations of the human brain.
        • Jun 21 2012: Virtual VS. Real tipping contributing to limitations of our brain... A few examples.

          I asked my son the other day what was the name of the video game he was playing, he replied "I'm not playing, I am watching a 'walk through' of this level." Just one more step from experiencing reality for himself. (When I was a kid I had to discover on my own how to beat a video game)

          This conversation is an example of moving further from real to virtual. In a real conversation I would share a thought with you right off the top of my mind and your response would come from a similar place for you. But here I can type what I think I want to say, then re-read it, then erase and type it again. With the primary forms of communication gravitating towards texts, instant messaging, social media forums and blogs, the art of real communication is giving way to this virtual form. I remember when I traveled with my parents as a kid we would often sit in hotel lobbies and talk with the most interesting people. Now hotel lobbies are empty and the bar is the only place you will find conversation, and the conversation rarely extends beyond sports, or current events.

          (Does that make sense? I don't really take the time to type, erase, repeat, lol)
      • Jun 21 2012: Chris, The message I’m receiving from this is:
        The “virtual collective conscious” (represented by your son’s interaction with the video game walkthrough) and its leniency toward the development of ideas (represented by the ability to review and rewrite a thought) is applying a different kind of strain on our cognitive abilities.

        This might be intended to suggest that the human brain is being made to process information in a conceptually different way, the effect of which being an increase in a person’s effectiveness per time when applying one’s self to a previously unknown environment (like the level in the video game), and a decrease in the average human’s need to process much of this information on their own (lost from not solving the puzzle for one's self)?

        If I am understanding this correctly, it is a deep insight into what I was saying. I believe this shows the fundamental relationship between how inherently entwined and indivisible the human brain is from all that we know.

        This is a major part of the problem and the solution because:
        The human brain is limited. In turn we have to shift the ways we apply our brains, and develop greater tools to help our brains make more informed and accurate decisions-- by doing this we may change the role we play in decision making. This is exactly why I consider this a major challenge, because we have to do all of this with our limited tool, the human brain.

        Very thought inspiring, thank you :-)


        It just clicked that we are viewing this particular limitation in two different ways. I was viewing it from the stand point of a brain that has met its physical potential leaving us only manipulating the way we apply our capabilities. And, you are talking about the angle of "use it or lose it". But, this misunderstanding caused me to have a really cool thought cascade :-)
      • Jun 28 2012: Michael (and Kevin since it was in regard to that comment),

        I agree that we can find good in these things, but we can find good in just about anything, if we want to. Many of the things we might find good in, like forgetting things, we actual find good because of our limitations (ie: we forget because we don't have the capacity to hold everything, or the mental system to make it happen). And, in fact they really aren't that good, because they don't have to be exploited to occur. They are inherent flaws, they happen whether you like it or not. Is it really that great that we make mistakes when it costs people their lives (like in a faulty design in a car, or even a car accident)?

        The challenge is surviving with them, and overcoming problems with them, since they do limit us greatly-- to the point where we have to rely on advancements in technology to progress and continue solving many of the world’s problems (because our brains can't do it without them, since they are so limited).
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    Jun 19 2012: In my opinion it will not be one challenge but several of them. Amongo the most importants, I think they could be to solve problems like these: To have enough energy (clean and sustainable); to know what's the dark matter and the dark energy; to know how many "people" is there outdoor, how they are and what are they thinking about; to solve the dramatic trouble of hungry and illness of millions people; and why we are here and the reason for it; and finally, how did started all this bussiness and how it will end.
  • Jun 18 2012: Dear mister Jacobson.Thank you for your reply .The groups I am reffering to are groups like illeterated people, (mentaly)handicaped people and not integrated immigrants people. They are not or weak respresented in the dialogue with providers and developers of technology, commercialy not really interesting and they don't have the resources to get free access to technology they could use to improve their lives and become less dependent . Or make independent choices in the technology they want to achieve or understand.These groups are yet largely excluded in developed countries.
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      Jun 18 2012: As much as many don't want to believe it, things are likely going to stay that way for at least several more decade or more. As we progress, development gets faster and these people are only going to get more disconnected, likely to the point were there won't even be food pantries or organizations for ending poverty any more.
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    Jun 18 2012: For me the greatest challenge (technological, social, or political) is how to move the closed earth system "gracefully" to the non-growth, steady-state economies which are in our future. The most important sub-challenge of this program will be convincing the world that multiple generations of one-child families are beneficial and necessary.

    I have no problem with those who would reverse the order and "sub" assignment.
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      Jun 20 2012: Hi Richard. I find your point of view very interesting. However, I still believe the key here is always "resources".
      I believe the biggest challenge for the future is to change the mindset of man.
      I have a PS3, which I enjoy using, I have an iPhone, which makes my job easier and also gives me fun, a 40-inch TV, 2 computers at home, broadband internet, hot water, the clothing I want, the food I want, an apartment to put all this stuff in and some fun sometimes, all of which I think I deserve because I work hard and get paid for it. There must be some people that have much more than this and still tink they deserve it, and probably, at some points in life, I have thought I want those things too and wake up everyday hoping to see that happening some time in the future.
      Now, I think true happiness and comfort is beyond all this. I think man itself has become a bottomless pit of resource waste and we have come to a time where we have to create the most intricate ways to support our lifestyle and the lifestyle of our children, the same lifestyle we have tought to them. I believe the power of one person is pointless and unnecessary and we must start thinking as the big community we are.
      When we reach the point of (truly) knowing each one's own role in this society, I believe we as a whole will find the way to make this world enough for everyone. In the meantime, we can invent very smart ways to save the "little" we have left.
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        Jun 20 2012: Victor,
        resources are very much in the center of the non-growth, overpopulation discussion. All three are related in a chicken-egg sort of way. Resource availability per person depends on how fast growth and overpopulation eat them up. Abundant resources in the past gave us the feeling that growth and population have no constraints.
        An expression that I like which relates to your thinking is "long established luxuries" (stove, refrigerator etc) which are related to "saving time" unlike iTrash which are related to "killing time".
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        Jul 4 2012: The challenge is simple: to accept the fact that we live in a closed system controlled by the laws of thermodynamics, and thereafter to admit that the survival of the human race requires reduction of BOTH the number of people and the resources used per person.
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      Jun 20 2012: (to Richard Kroll)I should have responded sooner considering the crowd of reply's. When you were talking about retrieving resources from space, I think eventually we will be forced to collect materials from space no matter the cost. Our cities and population will only grow and certain resources will become expensive to mine or will be stretched very thin. So, no matter what, cost may be ruled out to a certain degree many decades from now, which isn't very long in the over all scheme of things.
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        Jun 20 2012: Don't you think living in another planet (Earth II) would be more sustainable?
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          Jun 20 2012: Even if we were to colonize an Earth II as you stated, we would still likely mine resources from space.
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        Jun 20 2012: Sorry, your comment didn't imply to me that "mining" also meant "living in another planet".

        Anyway, as things go, I think interaction with outer space may become more frequent and cheap in the next 30 years. I think the challenge is to put that into good use.
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          Jun 20 2012: Our interactions are going to have to become more frequent with space in order for the human race to obtain the resources it needs.
        • Jun 21 2012: Kevin, don't you mean "for the human race to obtain the resources it" WANTS... Our needs could be easily met with current technology and resources, given better design unconstrained by current political will.

          Even still, there is very little we would want from space yet. It is a serious folly of non-technically oriented people to fantasize about space mining and acquisition. Yet how can people dream if not for the absurd?

          Why not solve the issues of poverty and hunger before dreaming of space cookies?
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        Jun 21 2012: I see someone has been playing Starcraft lately. I mentioned before as a response to Richard Kroll that the word that keeps coming out is "resource" and Enrico is right in saying that they're enough on Earth, at least for a good while.

        I think the answer to the main question of this topic is quite clear, the biggest challenge is change. Change of what we are used to do with what we already have.
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          Jun 21 2012: What I don't think you guy's are taking into consideration, is that as the populace becomes denser and cities grow, consumption grows and becomes faster. In 30 years, are consumption of natural resources could be double of what it is to day.
        • Jun 21 2012: Kevin: What makes you so sure that the population will continue to grow? No doubt it did on Easter Island, at one time. So What? The tendencies of modern ("civilised") life are obviously anti populaltion growth. Just look at the Yuppies (of all coutnries).. There is even speculation that immigrantion of the poor from third world sources is necessary for our very "survuival". As one of my friends said many years ago, children would interefere with th ski trips. Children are not as compatible with modern life as they were on classical farms, either. Inf act, they are a largre drain, economically. Modern women are making the choice, and they are choosing cats.
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          Jun 21 2012: Victor Donoso, what I've been talking about is centralized around change, so your argument isn't entirely valid. BTW, I don't play Starcraft. If you made an assumption like that, then it seems you play "Starcraft".
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          Jun 28 2012: @Kevin Jacobson, if each family resticts itself, or the government imposes some form of birth control or sterilization and i think the magic number would be 2 children instead of 1 child, unless you guys are tryig to halve the continuosly halve the population.

          so if each couple only has 2 kids it would replace their 2 lives when they die, if they all only had one, and they all had one we'd cut the population in half every 70 years or so - if we could get enough people to buy into this proactive scenario, as for me i already have 4 kids, but we are using industrial strength natural contraception now - i.e. a coil, lol. i know they are not fool proof but they don't come with chemical side effects
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        Jun 21 2012: Is that model considering a change in the use of resources or it's just 30 years using everything the same way?
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          Jun 21 2012: All I'm saying is that consumption will grow an extreme amount and we cant sustain ourselves to the end of the century at this rate.
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        Jun 21 2012: It's a very pessimistic and lazy statement. I'm very sure, as an engineer can be, that we can do something about all this by stopping to live the day, and developing sustainability. I think we must do our homework and argue with facts. I have found some really interesting articles about this. (look at India's position, which has been an example to everyone these last years, do a search on "ghandian engineering").
        There are some radical ideas as well...
        Going to space seems expensive compared to that. I think cheaper is better and normally cheaper means "adjusting needs". We cannot live the same way in the future.
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          Jun 21 2012: You said we cannot live the same way in the future. That is what I have been inferring through out the whole conversation, so I think you need to make a few more connections here. It is also not a "lazy statement" because it is inevitable that no matter how efficient we get, resources on our planet will run dry, no matter what level of efficiency we progress to. Your not doing any long term thinking obviously, otherwise you would have picked up on that by now.
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        Jun 21 2012: Kevin, I used to play Starcraft, now I have no time, sadly, but it was funny how you kept pushing the "let's go mining in space" idea, I was just being silly about it. I believe it's impractical and completely avoidable.
        I just think mining another planet is not a viable solution, or otherwise is not addressing the main problem which is "we're using too much" and "we're generating too much waste", or isn't at all what I would think as a "challenge for human race in the next 30 years". The challenges we're facing now are quite enough for the next 50 years or so.
        One-child families, as Richard Kroll mentioned, are a trend, but I don't know if that level of consciousness can reach every corner of earth, as it's a trend in more crowded places and "developed" societies.

        To your other comment:
        I believe resources are renewable as long as we can keep the balance. I tend to be more optimistic about this. The Earth will die, for sure, but only if we keep exploiting every bit of it as we do now.

        You used the phrase "at this rate" which is exactly what I'm trying to say. There are ways to use less fossil fuels, there are ways to reach carbon balance, there are ways to save water and there are ways to control overgrowth and overpopulation. This is long term, it's real, and it's happening now. It started yesterday, it's notorious now and will change in the next 10 to 50 years.

        Please explain how you think the Earth will run dry in 30 years, because you seem so sure it's frightening.
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          Jun 22 2012: I'm don't mean to say the earth will die in 30 years, I was talking about the long term. Sorry I confused you. Though I disagree with you on one thing. So I make this perfectly clear, I will make an example. Think of a concrete building in a growing city. The only way your ever going to get the materials, time and money back put into the building is if you destroyed it. So, essentially, the materials are lost forever or at least a good amount of time. This example can apply to a lot of things.
  • Jun 18 2012: I think the biggest social, economic, and technological struggle we, as a species, will ever face is how to deal with overpopulation
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    Jun 18 2012: I'm not really answering the question here but regarding the energy side of the debate, I can't help but feel we wouldn't be talking about CO2 if the Manhattan project didn't happen. Imagine how far nuclear energy technology would have progressed by now if it had never been used for weapons.
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      Jun 20 2012: I agree with you for the most part, but the development of nuclear and thermonuclear weapons helped us understand the limitless potential for atomic energy. For example, scientists expect the ITER fusion reactor to go online by 2030, but if our study of nuclear energy started later into the 20th century, the could have been postponed to 2050 and so on. Nuclear weapons were just the first step in understanding nuclear energy.
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        Jun 20 2012: Actually Szilard and Fermi had already patented the concept of a nuclear reactor for energy production before the concept of nuclear weapons was described. (Also by Szilard) He only alerted the US military as he was concerned the Germans might think of it too. This all occured before the war even began.
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          Jun 20 2012: Yes, but it wasn't until research after the war that nuclear reactors were considered for commercial use. I simply made this connection on the spot since Szilard and Fermi, as you stated, didn't want the Germans to gain any intel on such topics. So, you can only infer that true research into commercial applications for nuclear energy had to have taken place after the defeat of the Nazis.
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        Jun 20 2012: Fermi and Szilard built the first nuclear pile (controlled reaction designed for energy production) on a racketball court in 1942. They got sidetracked by the military. If not for the war the first commercial nuclear power plant would have been built in theUS in the late forties rather than in Russia in the mid fifties.
    • Jun 21 2012: Peter: How ironic that you should mention nuclear power . Though an engineer, I had never heard until last year that there has ALREADY been invented and demonstrated, a failsafe. practical, nuclear fission plant which has NONE of the dramatic drawbacks of our present LWR plants. I mean the Thorium Liquid Fueled Reactor (LFTR) . And yes, the reason we have never heard of this is the fact that it doesn't produce bomb material, just power.
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        Jun 22 2012: I am very aware of LFTR tech and also marvel at the lack of progress in that area. Part of my intention with the original post was that we may have had LFTR in the 60's had weapons production not pushed the need for uranium basd reactors. I also can't understand why environmentalists aren't pushing for LFTRs as a method of destroying current nuclear waste stockpiles. They seem to solve so many problems but people can't get past the "NUCLEAR" label. :-P
  • Jun 18 2012: The establishment of an agricultural system that is capable of meeting our needs while also reducing its impact on the environment will be one of the biggest challenges we face. We as a society, with the aid of large corporations, are quickly depleting biodiversity, increasing susceptibility to crop diseases, and polluting heavily with the use of ag-petrol chemicals/fuel.

    Biodiversity is what keeps an eco-system thriving and if we learn to work with it instead of against, its easy to see nature is capable of completing the same tasks as the chemicals we use. The organic/sustainable movement is working diligently to show us that local and seasonal can be much more rewarding than a mass transit ag system. The integration of buffer crops, green cover manure crops, crop rotation and selective pest management can offer gardeners and farmers alike a system that does not increase soil toxicity, kill wild plant species/ insects, or deplete organic matter from the soil. This can lead to higher yields and higher quality products with less chemical input.

    Our increase in susceptibility to crop diseases is two fold, one being the method of growing large mono-cultures and two being the heavy use of chemicals to treat disease, which leads to increased resistance. With the advent of chemical ready crops and BT crops, we are creating more resistant diseases. With proper implementation bio-diverse farming could help alleviate some of the dependence on such draconian techniques while helping the bottom line of the farmer.

    Finally there is the issue of fuel and how the agriculture system moves. There should be a push to get off of fossil fuel products for propulsion and chemical bases. Rather it is conversion over to CNG, bio diesels or some other source removing foreign, dirty fuels from farming would make it cheaper and cleaner for farmers. This has many added benefits and with soon to be 10 billion mouths to feed, we need to start addressing these issues if we are to succeed.
    • Jun 21 2012: You sir - have just described Permaculture, in part.
  • Jun 17 2012: The biggest challenge will be to integrate technology in daily life without excluding people because they don't have the knowledge, the skills or the wealth to get access to benefits the technology can give them. And if they have no alternatives the risk is that they will be excluded from the social and cultural networks in society where technology is a driving force for creation, information, mobility and participation. This can lead to segregation and isolation of large groups. It doesnt mean governments should make laws or control the spread of technology. A possible solution starts with a continuing dialogue between developers, providers and users about the access, the limits and alternatives of the present technology, the technology of tomorrow and choices that have to be made in the whole society.
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      Jun 17 2012: To much of the population has access to conventional technologies for something that severe to happen. The only thing I can see happening is the fall of terrorism(since terrorists have little advanced technology) and the collapse of third world countries that don't help out the world in the first place. As mean as that sounds, it's the cold hard truth.
  • Jun 17 2012: In the next 30 years, I believe the problem of over population will emerge as a very important technological, environmental and political challenge.
    If we analyze the earth currently, we find at least two countries where a big phenomena is occurring. Every year, millions and millions of chinese and indian people are leaving poverty, immigrating from the country side to the city, starting a job in a factory and becoming urban consumers just like their occidental fellows. And they have the same wrights as everybody else to aspire this change in their lives. On top of that, we know that India does not have a population control program and China as just begun a few years ago with some policies but we do not know yet their effectiveness.
    I mentioned these 2 countries as the most important examples, but we also have the same phenomena in a lot of other very populated countries, like Brazil, Pakistan or Indonesia, to just refer some.
    Assuming the current world population stagnant, we know that the earth resources cannot cope for much many decades with this fast wellness and consumption increasing. The big problem is that the world population is not stagnant meaning it is increasing very fast and also getting older. Each 12 years we add one more billion people to the world population and people are lasting more years alive because of healthcare improvements around the globe.
    We are accelerating as never before the consumption of our natural and vital resources.
    This problem will only have a peaceful solution if the UN and the nations with more political influence globally, start to put this problem in their agendas, start to talk frequently about it and start to take strong commitments to find solutions.
    We can have all the green policies that we want and all the technological developments that we wish, but if we do not control the population growth, in my modest opinion, we will face a resources collapse in a few decades.
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    Jun 17 2012: I’m not sure but it seems that this question implicitly states that there is a technological fix for the challenges that we as a human race are facing. I’m, however, not so sure. We face challenges as population increases, energy demand growths and people are beginning to adapt to western food patterns all over the world. Can we continue with current mental models (abundance of natural resources), economic growth models in which environment has no value and the assumption that technology will solve all problems, cheap unsustainable power generation? We need multiple paradigm shifts not only in technology (technology still plays an important role). The question is: are we able to achieve these paradigm shifts soon, or are we going to wait until climate change really kicks in? I feel that the challenges humans are facing are currently overshadowed by the financial crisis.
  • Jun 17 2012: It is likely that in the next thirty years technology will become sentient. How will this affect our landscape?. I doubt that we're in for a Terminator scenario but commerce and development will be organized at machine speed which has the potential to change our world the same way the internet has.
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    Gord G

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    Jun 16 2012: Unplugging. ;-)
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    Jun 16 2012: Necessity is the Mother of Invention. If it become essential it will become available. Having said that, I do not feel that technology is the issue. The two factors that will either lead us or fail us are EDUCATION and POLITICS.

    I see that you are 13 with many interests congratulations. First lets speak to education. The system is not broken it is doing what it was designed to do in the 1940's. The current trend is to go to on-line education. I think that is wrong. We need brick and mortor schools with lots of interface. We need the ability of student to advance academically while maintaining with their peers for social development. Current administrators are milking the golden cow and developing nest egg environment while ignoring the need to revise the system. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan stated that he is working to Nationalize education. He desires to have the Feds write all text books, develop all curriculum, develop and grade all tests. That march to socalism brings us to the second factor. Politics will become the major driver in both education and technical development. It was national pride that got us into space not education. The Russians did it and we could not. We went into an engineering frenzy to duplicate and surpass the Russians. If the government runs education the party will decide what you study and how it is applied for the good of the party. The reason we, the US, got here so fast is the capatist system inspires rennovation and free thought for finanical gain. Without our intellectual freedom and for profit possibalities we would never have reached for the stars.

    Kevin I wish you the best ... I also admonish you to see that the correct answer is not the goal but rather when application occurs have you mastered the problem. There are always consequences and rewards ... weigh each.

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      Jun 16 2012: Unfortunately, education is just a political football, so it will be politics that success or failure lies with.

      I hear talk about how our education system is still mired in an industrial model that is now obsolete. I say that politics is even worse.

      Everywhere in politics, I see no visionaries, only bureaucrats ticking the same old boxes.
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      Jun 16 2012: Robert, quite inspirational words if you ask me.
    • Jun 17 2012: Let us not forget that money is an imaginary human construction. 'for profit' does not need to pertain to money. There are more satisfying means of 'profit' such as respect. Respect creates personal strength which is far more important and powerful for motivation than money, especially when even mild creativity is involved:

      The biggest technological challenge that the human race will face in the next 30yrs is the same one that it will always face:

      How and when is technology optimally useful?

      Maybe it sounds a bit broad, yet with ANY technological item that currently exists (and those that will exist) we must ask ourselves what problems using that form of technology creates, as well as which ones are actually solved. If we fail ourselves and humanity by not implementing the most appropriate technology where due and by emphasizing technologies of mere distraction, then culture, empathy, and justice will be marginalised.

      It is certainly true that politics has the power to choose a default technology-base for society, yet we hold in our own hands the options not to exist merely as a default commodity and can rise to be a creative individual.
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    Jun 16 2012: Well, by 2030, it is expected that the first fusion generator will come online so I don't think energy will be a long term problem but, never the less, we need to clean up are source of energy. Might as well start now.
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    Jun 16 2012: I think that one of the very big challenges lying ahead of us is to design a new government structure that is capable of addressing problems caused by our increasingly more interconnected world.

    In other words: our world will change a lot the next 30 years. Our government will have to match that change.
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    Jun 16 2012: Information Processing Power ... computers have reached their full potential in terms of speed as transistors can not be created smaller than atoms that we already build and 3.0 GHZ or so is the maximum processing speed we get from a single cpu. cloud computing and network does not actually solve this problem and new medium of information transfer in processing units shall be used like light. a cpu made of crystals and glass ...
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      Jun 16 2012: I understand your concern. Transistors can't be made smaller than atoms. But as far as i know CPU's are build in 2 dimensions. There is only one or a few layers.
      When we get to the point where our transistors will be the size of an atom we cant make it smaller. This is a given. But we can add layers. We can go from 2D cpu's to 3D cpu's.
      At least thats my understanding of it. I'm not an expert :)
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        Jun 16 2012: Thank you Lennart for bringing that to my attention , yes it is called stacked architecture and as you said we are now adding layers of transistors to create 3d circuitary. but even that willnot solve the problem , since we are already building transistors the size of an atom and the sizeof the cpu does count toward speed, we can not build cpus bigger than the size they already are and that limits the number of transistors.the need for fast computing increases everyday, the amount of information to be processed is astronomical and we are bound by the limited processing power.
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          Jun 19 2012: ess than 5 minutes ago: Thank you for informing me about that.

          Do I understand your claims right? You are saying that:
          - We are ALREADY adding layers to the processor.
          - These layers and the transistors are only a few atoms big.
          - We will not be able to add more layers, because the cpu has reached its max dimensions.
          - This limits the number of transistors overall to a fixed amount. (which is the real problem).'

          If I understood this correct, then please share your documentation for it. Some years ago I heard people make the claim that some day we will be able to make transistors the size of atoms. So it comes as quite a shock for me if we have already done so, without me noticing :)
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        Jun 19 2012: Dear Lennart,

        Thank you for following up:
        here are some documentaions:

        1- 7 Atom transitors manufactured (2010)

        2-Single Atom transistors created

        3- Intel SandyBridge getting close to atom scale

        you are not wrong, we are not manufatcuring single atom cpus in large scale but we have the technology and that is as far as we can go. the "power wall" will not let us be any faster.
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    Jun 16 2012: Clean energy production, energy that is environmental-friendly.
    It is even more important to, first of all, be successful in making all nations committed to the idea in word and deed.
  • Jun 16 2012: Finding the newest energy.
  • Jun 15 2012: The greatest technological hurdle in 30 years will be the same as it is today, I believe. Ever diminishing supply of cheap energy will drive us to figure out new ways to keep economies rolling. There will be somewhere between 8-10 billion people on the planet then. Minds will have to change, but technology will have to overcome oil as the lynchpin of the world economy.

    Humanity is what it will be, exaggerated even. I would aliken it a pyramid drawing, with those with the most control over resources at the top, but it looks more like a sideview of the Eiffle Tower, with a much broader base. But in 30 years, not much will change. 3000 years, the change will be noticed. Humanity itself will be fundamentally different, subtly noticed in DNA, but largely noticed in cultural evolution. Who of thes era will be remembered?