Speculist Survey: The Next Twenty

By | October 31, 2010

UPDATE: Christian has posted the answers he received from Aaron Saenz, David Pearce, Michael Anissimov, some other blogger, and George Dvorsky over at I Look Forward To. Interesting mix of viewpoints!

From our friend Christian Henrik Nesheim comes this question:

If you had to guess, what will be the single most significant technological development in the coming 20 years, and why?

timelines.jpgThis is a fun one. We’ll be touching on this question on both this week’s and next week’s podcasts. I have submitted my answer to Christian.

Meanwhile, what do you think? The survey asks for the general category from which you believe the biggest breakthrough will come over the next two decades. Use the blog comments to get more specific.

Results here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Thanks for the link, Glenn and welcome Instapundit readers. If you enjoy surveys, you might like the following:

Future Habitats
Why Go to the Stars?
Alien Motivations

  • Phil

    I chose Artificial Intelligence. My “long answer” is as follows:

    The most significant technological development that we can expect to see over the next 20 years represents the completion of a process which has been several decades in the making. It can be viewed one of two ways:

    1. The migration of human intelligence to a new substrate, accompanied by a massive increase in the speed and power of human intelligence

    2. The emergence of a new entity, a hybrid of machine and human intelligence, which will replace human intelligence as the primary power on the planet

    The principal driver of this shift will be the emergence of a conversational user interface between human beings and computers. Natural language interaction will set of an explosion of new capabilities that will ultimately transform all aspects of society: education, industry, government, the arts, science, entertainment, and — because of the ubiquity and ever-increasing importance of social networks — the very fabric of society itself, the fundamental interactions and relationships between people.

  • stephentg

    This is a similar question to one that Phil asked a while back on FastForward Radio. “If you had to choose one superpower, what would it be?”

    My answer: “Super-intelligence.” Why? With sufficient super-intelligence you can invent everything else.

  • https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawlKTZ4gBnylLKmu68Wt8iinoUrv1bBbW1c

    Biggest breakthrough? Public education that actually works.

  • bmcusick

    I’m going with genetic research. I think big breakthroughs in our understanding and manipulation of biology will have all sorts of impacts. New algae that produces fuel; new cures for all sorts of diseases; regenerative medicine; new products and pills; etc.

    I don’t think energy will have the big impact. Even if we get fusion, it’ll just be a different source of energy which won’t effect life that much.

    There will be advances in space in the new 20 years, but it won’t be mass market within 20 years.

    I don’t see AI happening in the next 20 years.

  • standingpat

    I say nanotechnology. It can impact every other area, from AI (vastly more powerful computers), Energy (better batteries, solar power, artificial photosynthesis), genetic research (nano-machines to manipulate DNA), space (better technology across the board), and transportation (lighter, stronger materials, better batteries).

  • blwang

    I picked energy. Specifically nuclear fusion of some kind for commercial energy. there are a few leading candidates. Lawrenceville Plasma physics, EMC2 (IEC) fusion, general fusion, tri-alpha energy and potentially a dark horse from the cold fusion category (I am in corresondence with a researcher in stealth mode). I also expect advances with superconductors (possibly high volume room temperature) and lasers and both those areas will help nuclear fusion research and development. With nuclear fusion at commercial level that also gives us space with space rockets.

    AI will get help from zettaflop class machines as we near 2030. there will be progress but I doubt greater than human level AGI before 2030.

    I see advances in nanotech and with really good 3D printing but not the full deal diamondoid molecular nanotech.

  • richard.stilson

    Computer vision enabled robotics. Coming soon to a home, business, car, and entertainment facility near you

  • dickersons

    I am the CEO of a s&p 500 energy firm: time scale of energy changes are far beyond 20 years. Space: what exactly has happened since the ’69 moon landing? AI and nano are the only choices, and nano has physical constrains not present with computers. AI by 15 lengths.

  • https://me.yahoo.com/a/.YgZn3lxx4ODVdhWnAIs3XKijZLJFyct9Xg-#12208

    Genetics. If human life expectancy is extended by 20-40 years (a seemingly attainable goal) in first world countries, the societal impacts would be huge. Population issues, retirement age, benefits, reproductive rights, food supplies, water supplies and on and on all become front burner problems. Not to mention medical ethics as the potential for life extension increases. I believe this will open a huge can of worms.

    And what of the more remote possibility that life expectancies could reach unheard of numbers if disease and cellular damage are conquered. What of a world with 200 or 500 year lifespans? Not saying it is likely, but I don’t think it’s entirely improbable.

  • markusgalfalk

    The continued, exponential improvement in nearly all metrics of computing power(flops, flops/$, RAM memory speed, RAM memory size, storage capacity). It’s a perennial freaking miracle and has been going on in earnest for more than half a century.

  • kevin.perrott

    I voted for artificial intelligence as I am hoping that some computing power will help us out in understanding the incomprehensible volume of data produced by biological research and accelerate cures for degenerative disease. If that fails, I would have to say that a close second will be the design of straitjackets, drool napkins and adult diapers will likely see quantum leaps in technological development to cope with global aging.