Thursday 10 December 2009

The World Question Center 2009

The Edge Annual Question 2009

Through science we create technology and in using our new tools we recreate ourselves. But until very recently in our history, no democratic populace, no legislative body, ever indicated by choice, by vote, how this process should play out.

Nobody ever voted for printing. Nobody ever voted for electricity. Nobody ever voted for radio, the telephone, the automobile, the airplane, television. Nobody ever voted for penicillin, antibiotics, the pill. Nobody ever voted for space travel, massively parallel computing, nuclear power, the personal computer, the Internet, email, cell phones, the Web, Google, cloning, sequencing the entire human genome. We are moving towards the redefinition of life, to the edge of creating life itself. While science may or may not be the only news, it is the news that stays news.

And our politicians, our governments? Always years behind, the best they can do is play catch up.

This year's EDGE question for WHAT WILL CHANGE EVERYTHING? is out and while I haven't read them all, spot-checking a dozen or so I'm finding this to be the most despondent and depressing list of expert resignations they've yet put out. When asked "What game-changing scientific ideas and developments do you expect to live to see?" we find Susan Blackmore expecting to be pushed off the planet, Brian Eno witnessing the mass-disheartening of humanity, Richard Dawkins expects chimps cross-bred with humans and even Alan Alda chimes in a prediction that we always do the worst with what we get and we'll just blow ourselves up anyway.

I notice they did not ask Rob Brezny, but nonetheless I find this year's report to be extremely encouraging, because it means all these 'great' minds have boxed themselves into a corner, pressed themselves against the Limiting Edge and who knows, with a bit of luck, maybe one or two of them will fall off that edge entirely and discover something wonderful.