By Arnold Kling
Christian H. Nesheim asks folks which technology will have a big impact over the next twenty years. A sample response:
But from an ethical perspective, I think the single most important technological development will be the mass-production and consumption of in vitro meat. ..The global adoption of a cruelty-free diet will mark a major evolutionary transition in the development of civilisation.
But will the EU allow something that is not “organic”* to drive its farmers out of business?
Anyway, a lot of the respondents seem to think that artificial intelligence will be here real soon, now. I remain a near-term bear on that front. I think synthetic biology is the technology most likely to break through over the next twenty years.
I look at the problem this way. To get something useful in the nanotech world, you need to be able to accomplish both self-replication and being able to control what the stuff does. With “dry” nanotech, we might be able to control what the stuff does, but self-replication is hard. With “wet” nanotech, self-replication is easier, but controlling what the stuff does is hard. Not really knowing anything, my instinct is that it will be easier to figure out how to get living things to do stuff that we want than it will be to get things that do what we want to replicate and construct themselves. So, over a twenty year horizon, my “money” is on the wet nanotech guys (actually, I don’t have any investments in the field.)