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Thursday, June 30, 2005

A Useful Analogy

Mike Treder of the Center of Responsible Nanotechnology has a good post on his blog. He highlights a quote from the recently released Millenium Report which states: "Many people still do not appreciate how fast science and technology (S&T) will change over the next 25 years, and given this rapid development along several different fronts, the possibility of technology growing beyond human control must now be taken seriously ..."

The report is exactly right: few people have any idea how fast things are changing. One way, however, I have successfully gotten people to think about the future is to the cite a quote from the federal government's first report on nanotechnology. It stated: "Because of nanotechnology we will see more change in the next 25 years than we saw in the last 100 years." To make this point more relevant, I then take my listeners back to 1905. In 1905, I tell them:

-- There were only 144 miles of paved road in America;
-- Only 8000 automobiles;
-- 40% of the American population lived or worked on farms;
-- Less than 5% of the population had even a high school education; and
-- Life expectancy was only 47.

My point is that we have seen radical change in the last 100 years and now, due to nanotechnology -- and other technologies, we can expect to see a comparable amount of change in the next generation!

This means that by 2030, the world will be as different from today ... as today is from 1905! It is impossible to imagine what exactly our world will look like but I am confident it'll be a good one ... provided we have leaders with the foresight and wisdom to embrace technology appropriately.

Luckily the good folks at the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology and the Foresight Institute are helping to do exactly that. I encourage you to add their blogs and websites to the list of sites you regularly visit.

Jack Uldrich