2030: Technology That Will Change the World

2030: Technology That Will Change the World

2030: Technology That Will Change the World

2030: Technology That Will Change the World

Synopsis

Imagine living in 1958, and knowing that the integrated circuit - the microchip - was about to be invented, and would revolutionize the world. Or imagine 1992, when the Internet was about to transform virtually every aspect of our lives. Incredibly, this book argues that we stand at such a moment right now - and not just in one field, but in many. A fascinating look at the leading edge of modern technology, 2030 brings together the most exciting work of more than two dozen world-renownedexperts, addressing problems as varied as infectious disease, financial instability, and climate change. The ideas the authors describe are sometimes breathtakingly unexpected. One authority on chemical processes intends to radically decentralize and miniaturize operations now conducted by vast chemical plants. "Imagine a washing machine that could make its own detergent," he says, "or a computer that produces hydrogen to generate its own power." Miniaturization has already reached astonishinglevels, such as microsensors and micropumps etched onto chips. The book reveals that medicine offers some of the most remarkable advances, such as nanocapsules that can be triggered remotely to release their medicinal payload. Along the way, the authors move beyond the various individual technologies to highlight the unexpected connections between fields, connections that may yield new insights into such disparate events as the financial crisis, the failure of micro-electronics, and the outbreakof a flu pandemic. 2030 ranges across the technological landscape, presenting the latest thinking by such authorities as Craig Venter, the decoder of the human genome, and Simon Haykin, an expert on wireless communication. Written in clear, jargon-free language by two scientists and an experienced science writer, this book offers an enthralling and authoritative look at the future.

Excerpt

There was no shortage of unprecedented events as we were writing this book. Oil and food prices rocketed and then fell back to Earth; there was a devastating earthquake in Haiti; banks failed; and a new flu virus sparked a worldwide pandemic alert. None of these developments was predicted a year in advance—or at least, not loudly enough to be heard. For all our technological and forecasting skills, we proved unable to take appropriate measures in advance.

Technology has been helping us satisfy our material needs since prehistoric times. We learned how to till the soil, how to communicate with one another, and how to stay healthy. Almost everyone in the Western world now has enough to eat, a roof over their heads, and clean water. A great many basic needs have therefore been met—so much so that some observers now claim that the need for further technological advances is diminishing. Recent events argue against such a view. Humanity is increasingly confronted with crises that, for the first time in our history, are global in scope. The food shortages we saw in 2007 occurred simultaneously in Asia, Africa, and South America; the recession that took hold in 2008 did so simultaneously worldwide; and when the flu pandemic broke out in 2009, germs were able to cross between continents in a matter of days. Climate change and oil depletion, meanwhile, are no less global challenges that we will face in the decades ahead. The globalization of disaster is itself rooted in our technology. Generations of engineers have steadily woven an international web of industries, communications, and markets that has resulted in planetary interdependence. These global networks are now so tightly knit that we share a common fate. We will now survive together or quite possibly perish together.

The authors of this book are concerned about the new scale on which many of these pressing problems are now manifesting themselves. Because technology has been a key factor in triggering these issues in the first place, we believe it should also be part of solving . . .

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