On the Edge: Game-changing discoveries in our lifetime. What will change everything?

Sharon Begley points out that The Edge has unveiled its annual question and replies from some of the best minds working today.

For 2009, the question is "What game-changing scientific ideas and developments do you expect to live to see?" A sampling:

Harvard's Howard Gardner, author of Five Minds for the Future, suggests that through an interdisciplinary approach, the nature of talent might be described.

Rejecting, as some philosophers of science and mind have done, a reductionist approach to knowing, Stuart Kauffman proposes another way of seeing natural developments that are partially free from purely physical explanation.

[T]he evolution of the biosphere, the economy, our human culture and perhaps aspects of the abiotic world, stand partially free of physical law and are not entailed by fundamental physics. The universe is open.

Other responses included a definitive answer to the question of whether life had ever existed - or does exist - on Mars, cross-cultural breakthroughs that will enable accurate language translation, proof of Riemann's Hypothesis, which could open the door to a physics of the future, and an extension of the "flexibility, intelligence and learning" of childhood into our adult years.

I like how Alison Gopnik, Psychologist at UC Berkeley, sets the cognitive table in that last link:

Humans already have a longer period of protected immaturity — a longer childhood — than any other species. Across species, a long childhood is correlated with an evolutionary strategy that depends on flexibility, intelligence and learning. There is a developmental division of labor. Children get to learn freely about their particular environment without worrying about their own survival — caregivers look after that. Adults use what they learn as children to mate, predate, and generally succeed as grown-ups in that environment. Children are the R & D department of the human species. We grown-ups are production and marketing. We start out as brilliantly flexible but helpless and dependent babies, great at learning everything but terrible at doing just about anything. We end up as much less flexible but much more efficient and effective adults, not so good at learning but terrific at planning and acting.

Lastly, check out Steve Nadis' gamechanger: by using a new found understanding of gravitational waves, as opposed to electromagnetic waves (that result in the light with which we've studied the universe to date), we will confirm that we inhabit but one universe in a multi-verse.

There some outstanding and - um - interesting, responses to the question, "What Will Change Everything?" Check them out.

Wayne


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