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16 ways to change the world…

An attention-grabbing Royal Institute conference in London last week. Yes, we are entering another era of exponential science-driven change: the curve keeps going up and up, as the more we discover, the more we can discover. But are all changes for the better?

flying_car_credit_AeroMobil

Some great stuff, some fun stuff and some scary stuff:

The great: The future of Human Health is looking rosy on a number of fronts:

- Personal nutrition management: combining of all your unique variables (incl. your very own microbial makeup) means personal, accurate predictions to food responses. Pizza and ice-cream could be good for you (but not for you...)!

-The astonishing world of nanotechnology... Things behave differently at nano-level, and it seems we will be able to tackle illness and dysfunction at cell level.

- Mobile Health, (though not well communicated here) will contribute to this rosy future for each of us...who can access and afford it.

The fun: Future toys - Flying cars, Hybrid Air Vehicles, Smart Robots are in the air. City planning and predictions involving autopilot cars gave us visions of children playing safely in car-free streets. Great optimism. This recalls the story of an earlier team of scientists (from The Royal Institute?), in early Victorian times, who modeled the future of London and its infrastructural needs. After months of deliberation, they concluded that any cities maximum size was 2.5 million inhabitants. The crucial limiting factor? Transport emissions, in the form of horse manure.

The scary: Geo-engineering. Has human technology screwed up the environment? Let us fix it...with more technology! The side effects of science 'changing the world' have not always been benign (Atom splitting, plastics, DDT, CFC)... Who knows what the fallout may be from 'intervening' with the environment on a planetary scale? As Danish scientist Niels Bohr memorably said, "Prediction is very difficult, especially if its about the future".

Beyond the honeymoon excitement, what are the potential dangers of the new super-material, graphene? And the threats from cyber security? Even the minefield of nanotechnology? Scientists by their very training tend to think and work within their own tight constructs. Maybe, like any good commercial innovation projects, they should build teams with multiple perspectives. Include the projective, the empathetic, lateral and poetic thinkers, the multi-visionaries.

On that note, we look forward optimistically to a healthy 2015!

 
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