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Future Imperative

What if technology were being developed that could enhance your mind or body to extraordinary or even superhuman levels -- and some of these tools were already here? Wouldn't you be curious?

Actually, some are here. But human enhancement is an incredibly broad and compartmentalized field. We’re often unaware of what’s right next door. This site reviews resources and ideas from across the field and makes it easy for readers to find exactly the information they're most interested in.


The future is coming fast, and it's no longer possible to ignore how rapidly the world is changing. As the old order changes -- or more frequently crumbles altogether -- I offer a perspective on how we can transform ourselves in turn... for the better. Nothing on this site is intended as legal, financial or medical advice. Indeed, much of what I discuss amounts to possibilities rather than certainties, in an ever-changing present and an ever-uncertain future.

Monday, February 06, 2006

The Science Gap

Sebastian Mallaby is arguing in The Washington Post that the threat to American scientific preeminence is greatly exaggerated. Despite the expressed concerns of many CEOs in sci/tech-driven industries, Mr. Mallaby feels America's technological edge faces no serious challenge from the expanding scientific research bases of nations such as India and China. He comments:

In short, the "China threat" argument ignores the ways that competition between countries, unlike companies, is a positive-sum game. Moreover, to the extent that Chinese institutions -- firms or university laboratories -- compete against American ones, the alarmists underestimate U.S. strengths.

In the race to turn scientific ideas into businesses, the United States is hard to beat.

...Equally, in the competition to retain the best research scientists, the United States has a lead that tends to reinforce itself.

With all respect to Mr. Mallaby, I suspect that the concern about the shift in technological resources boils down to the fact that China and India each apparently already have far more engineers than the United States and are churning more out at a rapid and ever-increasing pace. What's more, as barriers to performing vast amounts of high-quality research in the Third World fall -- for example, a rapid change in the financial and technical resources of both these Great Powers (which aren't exactly Third World anymore, anyway) -- they're going to be able to employ those excess engineers and scientists more and more effectively.

Do Chinese and Indian scientists, inventors and entrepreneurs have a lot to learn? Of course, don't we all? Most American tech revolutions aren't driven by millions of workers who all get the
"Big Picture," but by dozens and hundreds and thousands of Brins and Jobs and Andreesens and Gates who get their piece of it, and maybe a bit more, and drive their industry into new places. Once China and India have the right environment for this kind of innovation, they are going to have a colossal intellectual resource base to drive it.

That's what people are concerned about. The simple fact is that in terms of population, China and India are roughly four times larger than the U.S.... which is roughly twice the size of those countries immediately below her in the population scale. What does that mean? If the U.S. with her enormous population and financial resources can't keep ahead of China and India, and the EU with their aggregate population and wealth can not, then no one else can. No one else can even come close.

Regardless of how you may view the politics of such a shift, there is an intriguing question behind all of the arguments and numbers. Potentially we may have a massive explosion in the world's research and development base in the next decade or so -- either because of an uncontested Chinese and Indian emergence as scientific superpowers or because the U.S., EU and other developed countries decide not to yield up their scientific and economic status so easily, and deal with this rivalry by educating -- and gainfully employing -- millions upon millions of researchers and inventors themselves.

So long as these professionals can be put to meaningful work using adequate tools, we will almost certainly see dramatic technological progress. We will also see a multiplication of the global Creative Class described by Dr. Richard Florida. And we will see all of this without requiring any human augmentation at all.

So imagine what might happen if we combined this surplus of researchers with the systematic enhancement of our innovative class. And if we engineered an even more unprecedented wave of researchers... by adding a host of computers capable of performing serious scientific research to the mix.

ACL, AI, CPS, Bio, Soc, $$$
Future Imperative


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Higher education needs to be more affordable in this great nation


February 07, 2006 6:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's a great story. Waiting for more. » »

February 03, 2007 7:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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March 17, 2007 3:06 AM  
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