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On the Future of Science 275

Posted by Zonk
from the in-the-not-too-distant-future dept.
bj8rn writes "Kevin Kelly, the founding executive editor of Wired magazine, speculates about the future of science based on a talk he have gave a few weeks ago. Kelly sees recursion as the essence of science and chronicles the introduction of different recursive devices in science; projecting forward from this, he makes several interesting predictions about what the near future may hold in store. Some highlights: there will be more change in the next 50 years of science than in the last 400 years; the new century will be the century of Biology; new ways of knowing will emerge, with 'Wikiscience' leading to perpetually refined papers with thousands of authors."
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On the Future of Science

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  • by bj8rn (583532) on Sunday March 19, 2006 @03:52PM (#14952993)


    • by Anonymous Coward
      We have had "wiki science" for HUNDREDS of years! It is known as quacks, snake oil salesmen, tabloids, etc.... standard medical journals require some evidence of intelligence, responsibility, and are PEER REVIEWED! And THEY sometimes have WIERD ideas!
      • by Thangodin (177516) <elentar&sympatico,ca> on Sunday March 19, 2006 @06:11PM (#14953601) Homepage
        Actually, Wikipedia has the same level of accuracy of any of the major encyclopedias (Britannica, etc.) And Wikipedia entries are peer reviewed, since it's pretty hard to conceal a bad entry on a public forum. Scientific journals typically have a very small review group, who simply may not have time to properly review them or confirm their validity. The result have been some very embarrassing and truly horrendous articles; in fact, as many of two thirds of all papers related to drug research have later turned out to be false. And there are fairly simple mechanisms for preventing wackos from posting trash on your wiki.
      • ...are PEER REVIEWED! And THEY sometimes have WIERD ideas!

        Like, er, Social Text?

  • NIH funding (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BWJones (18351) * on Sunday March 19, 2006 @03:52PM (#14952994) Homepage Journal
    the new century will be the century of Biology;

    This will be interesting considering that the current administration has for the first time in 30 years, reduced the funding of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and not allowed its budget to keep up with inflation and shows their lack of commitment to bioscience research. I predict this damage will take at least 10 years to repair.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 19, 2006 @04:03PM (#14953042)
      This will be interesting considering that the current administration has for the first time in 30 years, reduced the funding of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and not allowed its budget to keep up with inflation and shows their lack of commitment to bioscience research. I predict this damage will take at least 10 years to repair.

      An honest question: What exactly makes you assume the next century of scientific advancement will happen in America?

      It will be a great and sad loss if America decides to abdicate its position as scientific and technological leader of the world-- which seems to be exactly what is happening, between decreasing public funding; the decreased public perception of the importance of science; the increased difficulty foreign academics are facing under the new and restrictive INS policies of the last four years; and the raft of arbitrary and ignorance-fueled restrictions Congress has placed on bioscience research (while still somehow expecting innovative results).

      But if America does decide to go the route it is currently on and abandon its position as science leader, the rest of the world can move on without us. It will just take a little bit of time to reshuffle things.
      • by BWJones (18351) * on Sunday March 19, 2006 @04:09PM (#14953071) Homepage Journal
        An honest question: What exactly makes you assume the next century of scientific advancement will happen in America?

        This is actually a really, really good question. My answer would be that the NIH has historically been the leading funding source for bioscience in the world. Also, it is important to note that the NIH *does* fund research in other countries as well... However, it is also important to note that other countries are stepping up and the number of published papers in bioscience being published in other countries are on the increase. The next century is difficult to predict, but it would be safe to say that even over the next decade, the US will continue to dominate bioscience work and funding. The question is whether or not we have a commitment to maintain our lead in bioscience past this decade into the rest of the century.

      • "It will be a great and sad loss if America decides to abdicate its position as scientific and technological leader of the world-- which seems to be exactly what is happening,"

        I need to respectfully disagree. This process already happened. in the 1970s published research paper figures were around 30% USA, 19% Europe. This has more or less reversed afaik.
        • by A beautiful mind (821714) on Sunday March 19, 2006 @04:19PM (#14953113)
          I was right on the trend, but not on the numbers. Please see this link [prnewswire.co.uk] for details.
          • by c6gunner (950153) on Sunday March 19, 2006 @04:54PM (#14953259)
            What the hell? For one, you're misinterpreting the statistics. It seems like you made up your mind that scientific research is on the decline in the US, and only then went looking for info to back that claim.

            From the article you linked:

            In 1981, when the company began tracking the data, the United States accounted for 39.7 percent of the total number of papers published in the world (172,132 papers); the EU accounted for 32.3 percent (139,954 papers); and the Asia Pacific region accounted for 13 percent (56,644 papers). By 2004, the EU accounted for 38 percent of the total number of papers (292,067); the United States accounted for 33.3 percent (256,374); and the Asia Pacific region accounted for 25.3 percent of papers (195,001).

            In other words, the total number of papers published in the US increased by 48% during this time period (172,132 to 256,374). A decrease in percentages does not equal a decrease in number. Considering that the EU has about 60% more people than does the US, they SHOULD be putting out a higher number of papers than the US. The reason for the unequal increase in papers published by the US and EU respectively should be clear to anyone who's lived in Europe; the US has always had a fairly effective, and reasonably accessible education system, whereas in many parts of the EU, education was limited, and economic difficulties meant a much higher dropout rate due to the need to begin working at an early age. Similar reasons explain the jump in papers coming out of Asia. If Europe and Asia were producing the same number of papers per capita as the US, the figures should looks something like this:

            US: 256,374
            EU: 401,015
            Asia: 3,197,401

            So obviously, the US is still way ahead of the curve, and Asia is still FAR behind. Europe's doing a decent job of catching up, but I don't expect to see them surpass the US any time soon.
            • by A beautiful mind (821714) on Monday March 20, 2006 @02:32AM (#14955193)
              What the fsck are you talking about?

              "It seems like you made up your mind that scientific research is on the decline in the US, and only then went looking for info to back that claim."

              First of all, I REMEMBERED about the trend in that matter and quite frankly I was right. I didn't remember the exact numbers so I went searching for them. And they backed me up. Now WHY DO YOU mix per capita numbers into the discussion when we were talking about absolute numbers?! Of course the US increased since 1981, well, so did Europe and Asia!

              Please note, I have no problem of you emphasysing that the US is increasing it's number of published scientific papers, but that is NOT what I was talking about so I don't know why do you try to conclude that my statement was false when I was talking about absolute numbers all the way.

              I've never said scientific research is in decline in the USA, I only said it is in decline RELATIVE to the rest of the world!

              Oh btw, I have to correct this: "The reason for the unequal increase in papers published by the US and EU respectively should be clear to anyone who's lived in Europe; the US has always had a fairly effective, and reasonably accessible education system, whereas in many parts of the EU, education was limited, and economic difficulties meant a much higher dropout rate due to the need to begin working at an early age."

              What you're saying is simply doesn't match up to the real situation. Most of Continental Europe has state sponsored university level education for the majority and had for the past 50 years at least. Those countries who had to limit education because of economic difficulties are still not churning out a lot of papers - Albania, Belarus, Ukraine, Yugoslavia come to the mind in the soviet period. The situation of those countries in terms of published papers don't significantly matter to the European total and never did. As for the rest of the countries who practically publish the vast majority of papers - education is mostly better starting from primary school and finishing at universities compared to the USA (If you need to back this up I'm happy to discuss detailed data). So the question arises, why did the EU have a quite lower number of papers for years and why the sudden increase?

              The situation is two fold. Effects of the cold war on the USA and effects of the cold war on Europe. In the USA the 50s had the sputnik-shock education reform which effects lasted for 2-3 decades, but Western Europe had no such thing and was after ww2, partly in ruins and economy problems at least until the 60s. Countries like Poland, Hungary and East-Germany were behind the Iron Curtain and while the situation started to relax starting from the 80s, it certainly wasn't allowing optimal collaboration of scientists Europe-wide.

              Since you've allowed yourself to guess my motivation, allow me to guess yours: When you've been confronted by information rocking your beliefs in regards of scientific leadership of the world, you've been trying to poke holes in that information. The original statement that the USA still retains the world lead in scientific advancement, is not true anymore, which is shown clearly in absolute numbers. Now, you can tell me about per capita numbers and I'll happily argue about them, but they have no relation to the subject.
        • Intuitively I'd agree (as a U.S. citizen, too!) but surprisingly, the data disagree: "America boasts 17 of the world's top 20 universities, according to a widely used global ranking by the Shanghai Jiao Tong University. American universities currently employ 70% of the world's Nobel prize-winners, 30% of the world's output of articles on science and engineering, and 44% of the most frequently cited articles. No wonder developing countries now look to America rather than Europe for a model for higher educati
    • Re:NIH funding (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Otter (3800)
      C'mon -- Bush came into office, threw huge increases at NIH year after year and got nothing but grief from the research community for its trouble. Now the budget gets scaled back to what it was a couple of years ago and everything is going to come to an end?

      The problem with the academic research system is that it's an unsustainable pyramid scheme. Propping it up with budget increases just pushes the problem out another year. That is what needs to be fixed. In the meantime, though, researchers might consider

      • Re:NIH funding (Score:3, Informative)

        by Otter (3800)
        Incidentally, here are the actual numbers [aaas.org] for this "crisis" in funding.
      • Re:NIH funding (Score:3, Informative)

        by BWJones (18351) *
        Hey Otter. Thanks for the response. It would be a mistake to say he threw huge increases in the NIH funding. In reality, he chose to follow the Clinton NIH funding plan for 2002-2003, but then started restricting increases in bioscience funding only to start reducing funding with this years budget in just about every basic science arena in favor of increases in applied research.... in particular weapons research. Obtained from your same reference [aaas.org].

        Nobody has claimed it was a funding crisis however. One
        • Also, the National Science Foundation, which is a major grant awarding institution for graduate students, professors and research projects in all areas of science, saw its budget cut last year. This year the budget is up slightly, but not enough to keep up with inflation, so it's a cut even though the numbers are up. And don't forget that NASA is shelving some of its science missions, while DARPA has been told to move away from pure research.

          This all comes at a time when overall spending has been balloonin

          • Also, the National Science Foundation, which is a major grant awarding institution for graduate students, professors and research projects in all areas of science, saw its budget cut last year.

            See, this is the same thing as BWJones' point. The 2006 NSF budget is a 42% increase over 2001! That's not as lavish as the NIH's expansion but it hardly justifies all the poor-mouthing from scientists. And then it drops down a little, and whoops -- "it drives home just how little use the Bush Administration has for

      • It is also interesting to note that over two thirds of federally funded research agencies [aaas.org] are seeing Presidentially projected decreases in funding through 2011. This is what I am talking about with respect to commitments to science and education.

      • > The problem with the academic research system is that it's an unsustainable pyramid scheme.

        Yeah, 'cause we'd know so much more about life, the universe, and everything, if all those academic scientists spent their time surfing or making hot rods instead.
    • Please note: The article does not say that the USA will dominate this research!
    • A lack of government research should actually open up doors for private research. I think this will take a lot longer than 10 years to repair. As the private research turns out product, they will make more money to fund more private research.

      Not only will it take more than 10 years to repair, but it will also deprive many people of fantastic medicine. That medicine might be in the form of artificial limbs or repair of brain damage. It might be processes that will make an 80 year old body function like a
      • by BWJones (18351) * on Sunday March 19, 2006 @06:11PM (#14953602) Homepage Journal
        A lack of government research should actually open up doors for private research.

        I should point out that when basic research is privatized, there will be much less incentive for rare medical defects to be investigated. If there is not an economic incentive, then the work would not be done. It should also be mentioned that there are many profound discoveries and improvements of understanding of basic science that have been made as a result of the investigation of rare genetic defects. These discoveries have been applicable to other more general problems as a result and would never have been made if the basic science research had not been funded.

        So, you could write off much of our understanding of the molecular biology of genetics which took some years for companies to even understand how to exploit for profit. Where would we be do you think if there were no government funding of basic science research?

    • I see it as far more problematic that we now expect the taxpayer to be the main source of funding for basic research.

      -jcr
      • I see it as far more problematic that we now expect the taxpayer to be the main source of funding for basic research.

        Why not? It has been fairly conclusive that taxpayer investment in basic science research has paid off handsomely in terms of return on investment going back to the 1940's.

        • Why not?

          Because of the intrinsically political nature of taxpayer funding. The current administration only has the power to halt stem-cell research (for example), because it's government money.

          -jcr
          • Because of the intrinsically political nature of taxpayer funding. The current administration only has the power to halt stem-cell research (for example), because it's government money.

            Sure, that is a problem and a risk, but what do you suggest is a reasonable alternative for funding basic science research that will benefit a range from the individual to a wider society?

            Additionally, it could be argued that a countries security is in large part based upon its ability to bring its combined intellectual capab
            • what do you suggest is a reasonable alternative for funding basic science research that will benefit a range from the individual to a wider society?

              Private research foundations, of course. Not everything that's worth doing is important enough to justify the use of force to bring it about.

              -jcr
    • I think your response shows the deceptiveness and self-centered greed that characterizes special interests. What you call 'reduced funding' is actually increased funding at a lower rate of growth. What you neglect to tell readers is the NIH budget has had several years of sustained growth [nih.gov] under this administration. In an era were federal spending is out of control I would have hoped that growth in the NIH budget could be restrained more. My guess is that the damage being done is similarly illusory.

    • and then stalls, I hardly think there is any reason to panic. In any case, private R&D dwarfs federal R&D.

      NIH needs to get its act together, anyway, and fix the major problems with PhD overproduction it has caused. NIH's primary method of spending money is to give it to university professors, who use it to reproduce. We now have far more PhD's, especially in biosciences, than the system has room for. NIH needs to shift from funding grad students and post-docs to funding full-time salaried per
    • Re:NIH funding (Score:3, Informative)

      by citanon (579906)

      The administration's cutting of the NIH budget is part of an overall effort to reemphasize funding of the physical sciences. In the decade after the Cold War, health and biology research saw a funding boom due to the inherent political attractiveness of funding efforts to fight disease. On the other hand, basic physical sciences suffered from shrinking governmental support because of dissipation of competitive pressure from the USSR. Today, with new competition from Asia and Europe, the US is seeking to ree

  • Tough to predict (Score:5, Interesting)

    by evil agent (918566) on Sunday March 19, 2006 @04:02PM (#14953037)
    Seems to me that as time goes on, the more quickly things change. This is true for pretty much anything, not just science and tech. Maybe you can predict what the next 5 or 10 years will be like, but I don't think you can claim that "The new century will be the century of Biology." With such a high rate of change, it's likely that there will be a radical change within the next decade. At which point, people will then make a new prediction for the rest of the century.
    • Seems to me that as time goes on, the more quickly things change. This is true for pretty much anything, not just science and tech. Maybe you can predict what the next 5 or 10 years will be like, but I don't think you can claim that "The new century will be the century of Biology." With such a high rate of change, it's likely that there will be a radical change within the next decade. At which point, people will then make a new prediction for the rest of the century.

      You're right. Back when I was in colleg

      • by Shihar (153932) on Sunday March 19, 2006 @05:00PM (#14953282)
        Science makes bold predictions, and it moves at a snails pace. We're not any different than people who lived 20 years ago, just like people who lived 20 years ago were not that different than people who lived 40 years ago. Consider how many major changes there have been in the past 100 years? Automobiles, television, and airplains. If you then throw out those 100 years, and go back from 1800 to 1500, how much change was there in 300 years? Someone invents gunpowder and that is the major catalyst of change.

        Science make bold and utterly false prediction, just to have some other upstart technology steal the show. Sure, we don't have flying cars. We do have a world wide communications grid though that is having rapidly changing society in ways that a few flying cars couldn't even begin to compete with. The reason why science seems slow these days is because we are so damn used to change.

        Few people even remember what it was like to look up information before Google. A lot of people forget that less then 10 years ago you couldn't instant get in contact with anyone you wanted via a cell phone. While we were waiting for rocket ships, a significantly more profound technology in the guise of the Internet and communications technology made itself at home. Multinational corporations used to be disjointed heads only vaguely sharing the same financial body, now they are well oiled machines that operate with ease across thousands of miles.

        There absolutely have been profound changes in just the past 20 years. Our society is being remolded in reshaped by technology at a blinding speed. The only reason why we can look back with a 'ho-hum' attitude is that one of the changes this technology has made to our society is a near complete acceptance of constant change. Most people complain that nothing change all the while ignoring the fact that they get pissed off when someone leaves their cell phone off or can't find an address or a movie time without using the Internet.

        The future is here and we are running head long into it faster and faster. Open your eyes to the science and society that is rapidly changing around you and stop looking for flying cars.
      • Science makes bold predictions, and it moves at a snails pace. We're not any different than people who lived 20 years ago, just like people who lived 20 years ago were not that different than people who lived 40 years ago. Consider how many major changes there have been in the past 100 years? Automobiles, television, and airplains.

        You don't think there's been much progress in the past hundred years? Cheap local travel, cheap international travel, cheap international communication, computers, hell, in

        • Re:Tough to predict (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Baseball_Fan (959550)
          You don't think there's been much progress in the past hundred years?

          Not really, there has not been that much progress. Life is pretty much the same, except we have different toys to occupy our time.

          hell, in this generation alone we have had the birth of the Internet, email, and the WWW.

          So what? It is a system of communication, it is not communication. People have been communicating since the beginning of time. What difference does it make if I talk to you face to face, or send you an IM? Maybe you

  • Wikiscience (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MyLongNickName (822545) on Sunday March 19, 2006 @04:05PM (#14953047) Journal
    *Sigh* Wiki is a wonderful tool for certain applications. When you want breadth of knowledge and are willing to accept a certain amount of uncertainty on accuracy of knowledge, wiki is a great tool. When you want narrow focus and little uncertaintly on accuracy, wiki sucks. Using wiki for this is like using .NET for low level, speed intensive applications.... a great tool for the wrong job.

    I do not want to read a science paper put together by a committee. Can you imagine a natural selection paper written by the masses? Truth is not a democratic sport. I'd rather read two papers contradicting each other than one paper written by those two parties. IN the former case, I can easily compare and contract. In the later, I am forced to sift through revision histories to try to piece together original intent.

    Add in the "lol, jews" camp, and we are back in the middle ages.
    • Re:Wikiscience (Score:3, Informative)

      by iabervon (1971)
      Actually using a Wiki would be terrible for scientific papers (or almost anything, really). It is only really good if there is some clear organizing principle for the information, which is why it's great for an encyclopedia (which are generally organized strictly by article title anyway), but lousy for things where the ontology is more complicated.

      On the other hand, traditional scientific papers are hard to deal with, because a newer paper will often revise the understanding of some aspect of an earlier pap
      • It is only really good if there is some clear organizing principle for the information, which is why it's great for an encyclopedia (which are generally organized strictly by article title anyway), but lousy for things where the ontology is more complicated.

        I agree with you in theory, but as with most wiki concepts, it works better in practice than theory would suggest. http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Main_Page [wikibooks.org] The key is to stop behaving as though it were an electronic copy of an authoritative textbook and

    • I do not want to read a science paper put together by a committee

      Read the IPCC report on global climate change that so much climate research is authoratively based on. Science by committee, right there. I will let you come to your own conclusions as its merits, depending on your political bias.
    • Re:Wikiscience (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jerf (17166) on Sunday March 19, 2006 @06:13PM (#14953608) Journal
      You probably shouldn't read "Wiki" literally in the modern sense. Read it as "something like a Wiki, suitably modified for scientific application".

      I think the key idea here isn't so much the "Wiki", but the idea that you can turn the fundamental unit of "science" away from "the paper" to something more dynamic and electronic. While you don't want to lower the standards (or at least less trustworthy material should be clearly labelled as such), this can correct some serious issues that "the paper" has:
      • Constrained by physical publishing. I'll admit I don't have much academic experience, but every published paper that I've seen the "inside" of, it turns out there's a lot more good material the research generated, there's just no space to publish it, and the author has to pick and choose.
      • Difficulty of publishing original data: A standardized way to post the source data would be useful.
      • Static: Once the paper is published, that's it. It would be nice that if somebody replicated the experiment, say, there would be a standardized way to "attach" that information to the original paper. Thus would each "paper" also become a statement of how thoroughly (or incompletely!) attested the result is. A paper could also play host to a "conversation" of sorts about the result, eventually resulting in further refinements and such.
      All of these problems of course have some solutions in the current world (or so I would presume), but a (semi-)unified*, standardized system would make the current solutions look primitive and piecemeal.

      And again, I emphasize that while it might not be all bad to allow "unverified" claims to be added by a broad crowd (perhaps not everyone), I would never suggest not using standards or peer review and clearly labelling what has been reviewed to what extent. However, the scientific process can benefit from borrowing from the Wiki, the discussion board, and a few other formalized, standardized pieces of the Internet and other electronic communication techniques without losing its essential nature, indeed, enhancing it.

      (*: Personally, if I were designing this, I'd support a very distributed system that would only be "semi-unified", based on open protocols and data descriptions that would allow anyone to host their own "journal" (mostly universities and university departments), and to try to encourage people to be open with their data and such so that it would be easy to negotiate backup/mirror agreements and such, allowing one to do away with "the journals" while still being very aware that certain people and groups will have enhanced reputation and this would need to be dealt with directly. This would be a lot of fun to design.)
    • by lennier (44736) on Sunday March 19, 2006 @07:49PM (#14953999) Homepage
      Can you imagine a natural selection paper written by the masses?

      Because of course something as irreducibly complex as Darwinian theory could never arise from the competitive random chance interactions of a normally-distributed population.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 19, 2006 @04:05PM (#14953049)
    We must also consider the effects religion will have on scientific advancement.

    He speaks of biology. What we see today is religious individuals and organizations taking a very active stand against such research. This is especially true in the United States. Christian fundamentalist groups have had a truly astounding effect. Between getting religious dogma (in the form of 'intelligent design') taught in science classes, and the outright prevention of stem cell research, they have become the greatest hinderence to scientific progress.

    We will likely see such progress happen anyways, however. It just won't be in America. Countries like China, and to a lesser extent India, will soon become the hubs of scientific research. Instead of them sending their best and brightest students to America for an education, we may see it go the other way.

    • > it just won't be in America. Countries like China, and to a lesser
      > extent India, will soon become the hubs

      Bah. China has got its own set of problems, for example, they're busy limiting the names of newborn babies [timesonline.co.uk].

      And if by "religious fundamentalists" you mean people like Donald Knuth and John Vlissides [c2.com], I think we're doing OK.
  • by drDugan (219551) on Sunday March 19, 2006 @04:07PM (#14953057) Homepage
    I think he's wrong about Biology beiung next. Not because it's not interesting (it is), but because we still have so much farther we can go with IT. Each new tech area gets overhyped and then crashes expectations, then the reality catches up with the hype. Only now, in the last 1-2 year have we seen an emergence of the real power of the Internet (and it's long-hyped power) being realized by large numbers (%'s) of people. By "real power" I mean structured data encoding for all useful information - persistent global connectivity enabling virtual organizations - and (what I call "The greatest shift") the realization by society that information is more valuble than physical goods.

    The next 20 years will one of vast social change, enabled by computing and communications technology. The social change will be driven by a realization that basic physical goods to support life are of such low value compared to information that it's in the best interest of large social groups (governements) to feed and house people effectively for free - and harness their THINKING ability toward global value instead of their more classic PRODUCTION value. This will radically alter our view of work and production. Mental participation at a basic level will sustain large groups of people at minimal levels (housing,food) for the value that simple participation will generate.

    In terms of biology and biotech - yes, it's exciting - but by comparison to the aboe radical changes in our society, the technology for biological change is still really really hard. We don't have the ability to probe deeply enough, the systems we measure are noisy and all unique, so while there will be advances, they will not shift our lives so much os the shift happeneing because everyone is talking. Spending 30 minutes looking at Myspace will give you an indication of the amount of energy the NEXT generation will be willing to put into connecting online.

    • Those "<insert some area here> is the next big thing" predictions are always BS. They happen because on the past we had a big thing. That was physics, but on the pas we didn't have much more than physics. Nowadays, we have plenty of areas that can lead to great opportunities, and need to (and will) explore all of them.

      No old area lose (scientifical or economical) importance, and no new area is much bigger than the old ones. But the oposite is true, normaly, new areas normaly are quite small, and when

    • But, if we view this as the century of biology, imagine what kind of data analysis will be possible on that material when IT develops further. Imagine the transformation of society if genetic modification of humans got commonplace in the 2040's. Imagine what combined organic/electronic implants could do.
    • Natural resources and space will still be relatively scarce, while everybody has the capacity to understand and interpret ideas. Information will never be worth more in an economic sense than physical goods. What you espouse would be closest to the replicator-driven society of Star Trek, where any sort of matter can be transmuted into anything else. That might cause information to become more valuable to people, but it will still cost less in terms of energy to copy and understand the design specifications
      • Natural resources and space will still be relatively scarce, while everybody has the capacity to understand and interpret ideas.

        I disagree. Natural resources are merely mismanaged and management is essentially a problem of thought. If we are having problems with scarce resources, such as oil or fish, then it is the domain of the mind to find alternatives. Overfishing is a shortsighted abuse of a natural (replenishable)resource. Perhaps as food technology advances, diets will rely heavier on vegetables lik

    • Remember folks, an educated public is BAD for any government trying to maintain control. Those pesky "educated" folks have a tendency to gum up the works. They're BAD for the country, and thus must be stopped.

      The best way to d this if course is to ensure that Only the wealthy can get decent educations. That way anyone who doesn't fit the mold can simply find their business opportunities dry up. The, and their degenerate ideas, will be dead and gone withing a generation!

      Isn't it brilliant?

      Besides, a lead
  • Triple-blind experiments will emerge through massive non-invasive statistical data collection--- no one, not the subjects or the experimenters, will realize an experiment was going on until later.

    Won't this have a slight effect on the quality of data that's gathered (or lack thereof)?
    • If no one knows it's happening, it's not an EXPERIMENT - it is a retrospective analysis

      Big difference philospophically, and a terrificalyl interesting topic.

      See this paper in Science -
      http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/307/570 7/219 [sciencemag.org]

      • Thanks for the link. Unfortunately, I don't have a Science Mag subscription, nor do I have access to newer articles (using a bugmenot login). I was hoping PubMed might have a copy or a link, but they just bounce me back over to the sciencemag.org page. Oh well. I'll keep looking for a copy.
    • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Sunday March 19, 2006 @04:21PM (#14953123)
      From TFA:
      While ordinary life continues for the subjects, massive amounts of constant data about their lifestyles are drawn and archived. Out of this huge database, specific controls, measurements and variables can be "isolated" afterwards. For instance, the vital signs and lifestyle metrics of a hundred thousand people might be recorded in dozens of different ways for 20-years, and then later analysis could find certain variables (smoking habits, heart conditions) and certain ways of measuring that would permit the entire 20 years to be viewed as an experiment - one that no one knew was even going on at the time.
      Can you imagine the invasion of privacy that would be required to get that kind of data on that many people?

      Sure, they can match the cigarettes you buy when you use your bank card ... and they can match that to your hospital records ... but how will they know anything about your illegal drug usage? Yes, that would be a factor.

      They would have to monitor 100,000 people, 24/7 and record EVERYTHING from where you worked, live, travelled to what you ate and where you bought it (and where it was produced and what chemicals were used on it).

      And that won't even allow you to try to isolate the variables. Once you get into multiple variables (dosage, exposure rate, etc), you don't have a valid experiment anymore.

      He's confused "science" with "demographics".
    • Nobody knows what is going on ...
      This would require the elimination of "informed consent" and I think would be a major step backward. However, the use of placebo for the control group is also something I am very much against.

      I applaud his suggestion that negative results be reported.

      The way things are now, I predict that placebo will be the most prescribed medication in 50 years. (I like predicting things N decades in the future. If anyone can actually remember this to call me on it, I can claim I don

  • I think that saying that "the next 50 year will see more progress than the past 400" although being true, it's a major understatement.

    If you see Moorse's law as applied to electronics, and the similiar explossive exponential growth we see in all areas of human development, and you extrapolate the available data, you will see that even the next 20 years will see more progress than the past millions of years of human and non-human-derived evolution. Not only will we see major revolutions in biology, but in na
    • by Black Parrot (19622) on Sunday March 19, 2006 @07:16PM (#14953836)
      > If you see Moorse's law as applied to electronics

      Moorse's law: the number of people who know Moorse code is halving every decade.
    • The first operating principle of all society is self-defense. The second operating principle is food production for the population - a starving population cannot be productive. Only the surplus after food production is available for economic investment. The Third operating principle of all society is property rights management - recording deeds and such. All of this work requires energy. Currently, our food production is dependent on petroleum based fertilizer. Food transportation is also dependent on petro
  • He's an old hippie and he don't know what to do
    Should he hang on to the old
    Should he grab on to the new
    He's an old hippie...his new life is just a bust
    He ain't trying to change nobody
    He's just trying real hard to adjust

    -- Bellamy Brothers
  • This is TOTALLY wrong, I 'thought' of wikiscience last year... patent pending... nuff said :)
  • by Tablizer (95088)
    the new century will be the century of Biology;

    Not to bash biology and medicine, but we need breakthru's in physics and AI to progress to the next stage. We need phyz to break free of oil, and AI to allow things such as solar farms and efficient remote construction in space. Maybe AI would allow us to build solar farms and mining colonies throughout the solar system. In short, we need plentiful energy and slave-like-labor (AI) to really "build out" as the human race. Biology will only give us incremental
    • If you want slave-like labor, it could just as well (possibly easier) be realized through suitable enhancement and control over biological organisms, at least in some cases. I hope for fusion as much as anyone, but on the other hand modified photosynthesis (that is, properly modified to harness the H+ transport into proper electricity, without waste into growing elaborate structures that we don't really need) could provide loads of energy.

    • by NorbrookC (674063) on Sunday March 19, 2006 @05:19PM (#14953350) Journal

      Not to bash biology and medicine, but we need breakthru's in physics and AI to progress to the next stage. We need phyz to break free of oil, and AI to allow things such as solar farms and efficient remote construction in space.

      No, the physics to 'break free of oil' are pretty well set, it's now more in engineering, to make it cost-effective and practical. "AI's" possibly, but you're assuming cheap ground-to-space launching to begin with, and the issues of getting power back from space - and no, it's not as simplistic a solution as you might think.

      Oil isn't just for energy. It's also a basic feedstock for the chemical industry. That's where biology will be important. Production of feedstock chemicals, as well as alternatives for fuels are just a part of what will be happening.

      Biology right now is where physics was almost a century ago. Theoretical boundaries, and the tools to actually test them are now coming onto the scene. The practical and ethical sides are still being developed. A little over 20 years ago, if I wanted to sequence a gene, I was looking at months, if not years of work to do it. Now, it doesn't take much time at all. Determining what it does, and how it does it is now the tough part. This is followed by the part of deciding what you're going to do with it - or if you should do anything.

  • Painfully Obvious (Score:5, Insightful)

    by theolein (316044) on Sunday March 19, 2006 @07:03PM (#14953794) Journal
    The article wasn't a very good one; it did cover a topic not often covered - scientific method itself - but it didn't really say anything that wouldn't be fairly obvious to anyone who half way understands what he was talking about. It is obvious that current systems and practices will get better and more universal (his so called hyperdata where more powerful systems simply can correlate more data). What is not obvious is that the next 50 years will be one glorious boom of improvement. Although the world has managed to avoid a nuclear war in the last 50 years, there is no saying that there will not be one in the next 50 years, say between China and the US over Taiwan. Yugoslavia showed that it doesn't take much to turn neighbours into mass murderers.

    A big economic meltdown could do it too. Or a major bird flu epidemic. Or plain simple glabl warming with major storms, flooding, and droughts. The challenges haven't gotten smaller.

    He didn't mention the dark ages, where there wasn't much in the way of development for over 500 years from 500AD onwards after the fall of Rome. It could happen again.
  • Kelly's _Wired_ has spent over a decade spewing little but science fiction. Therefore he's an expert in the future of science. It's the geek _OMNI_, and he's the geek Guccione.
  • Weak psuedoscience (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jimmygib (39231) on Sunday March 19, 2006 @07:47PM (#14953992)
    Please don't read this and think it is in anyway representative of science or scientific method. The only value of this article is a demonstration of the current devaluation of science. Not only does someone with no college degree feel able to comment, in a moronic way, about the current status and future of science, but people take notice of his addled opinions.

    There is a deadly mixture of the meaningless "Kelly chronicled a sequence of new recursive devices in science...", the statement of the obvious, "Technology is, in its essence, new ways of thinking", the silly "We retain reptilian reflexes deep in our minds (fight or flight)" and the irrelevant "Information is growing by 66% per year while physical production grows by only 7% per year".
  • I wonder how long until we break the record of 972. This was in 1992. http://www.improb.com/ig/1993/1993-lit.html [improb.com]
  • We already do such experiments on a large scale like the Nurses Health Study and others. They're called "Retrospective Analyses," and they can be a good first step but can ultimately give some BAD and very wrong results. The Nurses Health Study followed on the order of 10's of thousands of nurses over decades, and one of the "results" of the study was that taking estrogen replacement was correlated with decreased cardiovascular disease (i.e heart attacks). Unfortunately, what the study actually showed wa

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