Monday, March 30, 2009

Freeman Dyson on the Future

I predict that the domestication of biotechnology will dominate our lives during the next fifty years at least as much as the domestication of computers has dominated our lives during the previous fifty years.
Freeman Dyson
New York Review of Books, July 19, 2007
I came across a talk by Freeman Dyson from several years ago that makes an interesting point:
I'm not saying the (global) warming doesn't cause problems. Obviously it does. Obviously we should be trying to understand it. I'm saying that the problems are being grossly exaggerated. They take away money and attention from other problems that are much more urgent and more important—poverty, infectious diseases, public education and public health. Not to mention the preservation of living creatures on land and in the oceans.
He also told the new holders of graduate degrees:
Your precious PhD or whichever degree you went through long years of hard work to acquire may be worth less than you think. Your specialized training may become obsolete. You may find yourself overqualified for the available jobs. You may be declared redundant. The country and the culture to which you belong may move far away from the mainstream.

But those misfortunes are also opportunities. It's always open to you to join the heretics and find another way to make a living. With or without a PhD there are big and important problems for you to solve.
Comment: This is a nice talk, suggesting that biotechnology will follow the path of information technology, in that it will confound the expectations of its originators and become popularized over the decades to eventually become ubiquitous. That sounds quite possible to me -- unintuitive but possible.

He also suggests that in the coming decades the United States will follow Spain, France and England in giving up its status as the world's leading economic power, perhaps being replaced by one of the BRICs. That too sounds likely. JAD

Image Source: Cambridge University

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