Where will science be in 30 years?

By Grant Jacobs 15/09/2010

Over at Discover magazine they are encouraging readers to offer their thoughts on where science will go over the next few decades, seeding it with a list of thoughts from leading lights.

(Source: xkcd.com)
(Source: xkcd.com)

I think we have enough people here to run our own show…

Here’s a few loose thoughts to kick it off. Understandably they’re biased to my own reading.

  • I agree with Oliver Sacks in that we’ll see more implant technology. Cochlear implants impress me (something I have meant to write about too) and I have little doubt similar approaches could be applied to sight, efforts are already well underway after all! We could imagine more exotic applications further into the future, too, ones I have to admit I’d rather limit to science fiction for now.
  • I’m not sure I’m confident enough to predict where cheap fast genome sequencing will take us. Obviously we will know a lot more basic biology – that goes without saying – but the question (to me) is how well this will translate into applications, say, personalised medicine, genetic diagnosis of disease and so on.
  • We’ll see the rise of more biophysics-based models of biological systems on a large scale. I’m biased here, as I’m interested in this sort of thing applied to genomes, but I believe this will make for quite a change. Some aspects of biological systems will become understood through seeing them in three-diamensional systems, rather than abstract logical elements from isolated experiments. (If anything there is a distrust of mathematical models by many ‘bench’ biologists, something that I think will need to change.)
  • One I’d love to see, but haven’t the background to predict, is advances in solar energy generation or other forms of energy generation? Thoughts anyone?
  • There has for a long time been work aimed at creating ’designer’ proteins that bind specific targets or catalyse chosen reactions. Will the next 30 years see these achieve wide application?
  • We’ll fly on jet packs. (I’m kidding. Imagine the traffic chaos!)

Offer your insights and brave guesses in the comments. More spoof suggestions welcome, I’m just not up to them today myself! More thoughts outside of biology welcome too.

A new science blogging network

Yet another science blogging network has been launched, this time Wired Science. There are now so many new networks over the last few months that I can’t be bothered announcing this one with a dedicated post… Sad, but true.

Among the writers that I am familiar with are Brian Switek (dinosaurs and other animals from prehistoric times) Maryn McKenna (microbes), David Dobbs (neuroscience, genetics), Jonah Lehrer (neuroscience) and Daniel MacArthur (genetics), which is almost all of them. Am I the only one who feels left out with all these things going on? (I’m kidding.)


I apologise to regular readers for the hiatus in writing, but long work hours have knocked me sideways. Hopefully the next few days will see this come right. I need my beauty sleep!

Other articles at Code for life:

Science-y reading and open book thread

Temperature-induced hearing loss

I remember because my DNA was methylated

A plastic ocean

Aww, crap.

0 Responses to “Where will science be in 30 years?”

  • 30 years seems like a quite a large time span giving how quickly science and technology will progress, but I’ll give it a go:

    1) genetic testing will be used to predict the treatment that will be most appropriate for a patient
    2) nanotechnology to continuously monitor health conditions while a patient is mobile, and carrying out every day activities.
    3) Use of virtual reality to allow conferences that allow people worldwide to attend and interact from the comfort of their own home.
    4) Personalised education – allowing students to move at their own pace. Likely to make heavy use of technology but with teachers as facilitators (some education institutes already use this sort of approach but I think so much more could be done)

    Admittedly these are conservative ideas and many are already in the early stages of development in one way all another.

    A redesign of city buildings?

    A method of harnessing sunlight and converting it into some sort of food without plants being an intermediary?

  • Ah, someone who’s is not completely shy! 🙂

    Thanks for offering your ideas. I always find it interesting how different people think of different things.