Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The New Scientist looks forward

The magazine New Scientist recently celebrated its 50th Anniversary. While some might question its scientific rigour, there's no doubt that it generally does a decent job of bringing science to the public in an accessible fashion, whilst also flagging up to professional scientists the occasional article that might otherwise have gone unseen.

In the most recent issue, the editors asked a collection of the "smartest brains on the planet" to predict the most significant scientific advance of the next 50 years. While some are understandably reluctant
to set themselves up for a fall, most play along with the game.

It's interesting to note how many of the predictions seem to come at the intersection of information/computer science and biology. Lewis Wolpert talks of "computable embryos", Erik Horvitz gives a wide-ranging description of computation as the "fire in our modern-day caves", Paul Nurse anticipates an understanding of the cell as a "chemical and computational machine", Jaron Lanier argues for a restructuring of computer architecture(s) along "bio-mimetic" principles, while Peter Atkins believes that computer technology will allow us to observe and eventually control natural processes to construct "synthetic life".

No comments: