29th September 2006 - The Next Fifty Years

While on vacation in Greece I made it through "The Next Fifty Years: Science in the First Half of the Twenty-first Century" by John Brockman (Editor). It has been quite a while since I have read a book as dense in inspiration such as this one; in fact I can not remember any other book just of the top of my mind…

This book is a compilation of 25 essays by some of the World’s leading scientists in their fields, and each elaborate over what they would anticipate happening in their field over the next 50 years. To me "The Next Fifty Years" provided inspirational insight into fields that I knew little or nothing about while at the same time it was very dense in areas of interest to me such as artificial intelligence, neuroscience, chaos theory and psychology.

Overall the book also gave a great overview about previous scientific development in the 20th century since progression of this development was often used to guess what would come during the next decades. Although there was far too much stuff to recap in short here, some of the things that intrigued me the most were:

- The discovery of order in chaotic systems by Enrico Fermi in 1954. While visiting Los Alomos he test-drove MANIAC, the supercomputer of the time, and found a surprising order in a simulation of multiple particles that thermodynamics and mathematics at the time was well as and today do not account for. Perhaps in the next fifty years synergies with computers will help us understand more of this phenomenon…

- Will we be able to understand our minds better by 2050? Contemporary Artificial Intelligence does still not stand a chance against human intellect; perhaps wet analogue wiring of computers as an alternative to digital circuitry will help us learn more about ourselves as well as leverage computing to another level. "It is not merely as interesting that Deep Blue can beat a human being in chess, as it is fascinating that a human being can play chess at the level of Deep Blue!"

- The potential of DNA based psychiatry as well as psychology. The merger of these three fields could spur new ways of treating stress, depression and schizophrenia. In general the potential of personal DNA profiling in practically any disease prevention and treatment will have a huge potential.

- The idea that perhaps more types of diseases that we think of are based on infection. We may find that some cancers, Alzheimer’s syndrome, schizophrenia, depression etc. are in fact caused by infection rather than genetically encoded in us. In general a lot of new findings in the true origin of diseases based on more sophisticated medical research may come to life.

- More understanding of life itself may come to us from the exploration of space as well as the exploration of Earth’s rocks, glaciers and oceans. Judith Rich Harris suggests that we may even find that Homo sapiens in fact saw Neanderthals as a source of food and clothing! "We did not get here by being nice…" And such a perception would explain why Neanderthals disappeared so suddenly some 60.000 years ago.

All in all a very interesting book that would most likely interest anyone that would like to learn more about the potential future ahead of us…

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Updated 2006-09-29

 
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The official homepage of Morten Middelfart and CALM. Computer Aided Leadership and Management (CALM) is an inspirational speculation on where mankind may be heading in the quest to leverage computer potentials for helping individuals and organizations to self-actualize their symbiotic potentials.

The time frame for this well-informed and provocative speculation on relatively near-term and more distant potentials is clearly within mankind's grasp. Dr. Middelfart argues persuasively that within the next one or two decades, symbiotic links with "intelligent machines" will surely leverage people's potentials, far beyond all human progress to date!

Altogether, a tour de force of well-informed contemporary insights and maturely reasoned speculation; affording possible stepping stones and a creative springboard for what may lie ahead. As has been said: "Man's reach should exceed his grasp; else what's a heaven for?”

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