Bunny Guinness gardening writer, on the future of the garden
In 50 years’ time, the garden will be the place to be. We will spend more time there, and those of us who can will have burgeoning patches of vegetables, herbs, flowers for cutting, and fruit. These will be highly productive, so we will be able to count food metres, not miles. Vegetables will nearly always be prize specimens, grown in deep, raised beds that are automatically monitored for water and nutrients and protected from adverse elements.
When we tend to our plants, we won’t worry so much about the weather: developments in glass and plastics will mean light covers will collect the sun’s energy and deter many detrimental insects. The garden itself will be more hi-tech, harbouring geothermal pumps to heat the house and greenhouse. The old compost heap will be replaced by super-efficient composters that turn a much higher percentage of garden and household waste into high-quality compost without the graft and the smell.
The familiar purr of lawnmowers on Sunday afternoon will be a thing of the past; solar-powered mowers will cruise around, cutting the grass on demand. There will be no need to collect water as it will be harvested and stored automatically.
The only thing that won’t have changed is me. I will be trotting around as usual, luxuriating in being able to do something physical among all the automation. I will look not a day older, having had my daily bowl of F1 hybrid youth leaves, which I will have plucked from my patch that morning.
Michel Roux Jr, chef, on the future of food and cooking
With people no longer willing to wait for a great meal, slaving over a hot stove for hours will become a thing of the past. As a result, the quality of ready meals will significantly improve, allowing people to enjoy a fine-dining experience at home.
Good food will soon become a precious commodity. If we continue as we are, in the next 50 years we could completely run out of anything to eat. If this is to be avoided, we are going to have to become dramatically less wasteful and start respecting the land again. I think there will be a return to traditional farming methods. Rotating land so that we get as much from it as possible, and the rise of biodynamic farms may offer the solution.
Nick Candy, property developer, on the future of luxury real estate
In 50 years, not only will you be able to buy land space, but airspace, too; floating pods in the sky will become commonplace. The impact on the property infrastructure of land cars that double up as helicopters and small aircraft, or even boats, will be huge. The provision of helicopter pads in homes will become part of the normal specification and requirements in a property.
The most expensive land values in the world will still be found in Monaco, New York, London, Hong Kong and Shanghai, and Doha will be the financial centre of the Middle East. In terms of house prices, there will be three real epicentres in Europe: London, Moscowand Istanbul.
Health and Wellbeing
Baroness Greenfield, scientist and writer, on the future of fertility
Advances in reproductive science could blur our sense of identity across the generational divide. It’s likely that freezing and then thawing eggs will become unremarkable, so that women are not dependent on their natural reproductive lifespan. Women will no longer have to choose between career success and having a family.
The technology of the mid-21st century will be presenting us with unprecedented problems, yet at the same time the opportunities to develop and celebrate the human individual mind as never before. We could be using genetic material from any cell in the body to reproduce without sexual reproduction, so that anyone of any age, and any sexual orientation, could have a child with anyone else. In theory, a child could have a child with a pensioner (although pensions will have been abolished completely by then).
We could even see two donors creating one child, another providing the womb, and two more involved in bringing up the child. The issues are explosive, and some people may find them distasteful, but that doesn’t mean they will just go away. We must start thinking now about where we actually want to go.
Professor Karol Sikora, oncologist, on the future of cancer treatment
The alarm rings. Jo makes her usual early morning coffee. Her home computer is bleeping. That night, the continuous analysis of her urine by the gadget in her bathroom lavatory has picked up a strange DNA sequence. She’s requested to pop in to the test centre at her local health hotel on her way to the gym. A cheerful nurse takes a tiny blood sample; this confirms breast cancer. By 10am, she is in a comfortable armchair in the cancer centre where robotic imaging and destruction is carried out by her oncologist; the specialist advises a follow-up vaccine. By noon she’s back at work, her cancer treated in hours, not the months it took 50 years ago.
Cancer will become incidental to day-to-day living. It will not always be eradicated, but will not cause people the anxiety it does now. They will have far greater control over their medical destinies. Robotic surgery carried out using tiny nanotechnology motors will leave no scars and yet destroy cancer tissue much more effectively. Radiotherapy will eradicate rogue cells with pinpoint accuracy using sophisticated 3D reconstructions. And personalised drug combinations tailored to the exact molecular abnormalities that caused the cancer to develop in the first place will be given with remarkable efficacy to prevent it from spreading.
The ability of technology to improve our health is assured. The future of medicine will be a dream; the economics will be a nightmare.
David Blunkett MP on the future of ageing
At the age of 113, I have joined a growing number of centenarians whose quality of life could never have been maintained 50 years ago. My voice-activated wheelchair fits easily into the hydrogen-powered road-and-rail vehicle, which in turn can easily be attached to the electromagnetic overhead rapid transit network. In any case, my vehicle is automatically guided using the latest aerospace technology, which must come as a great relief to everyone else in this overcrowded “public realm”.
I’m one of the lucky ones. Longevity, the complete privatisation of all pension provision and the divide between the “oldies” with property assets, and the “youngsters” under 50 with little or no capital, is leading to considerable discontent, most demonstrably through cyber-blocking. Old-fashioned demonstrations and civil disobedience have been replaced by anti-social online behaviour, which leads to a breakdown of government communications and, recently, the suspension of energy supplies by renegade cyber-experts seeking to bring the country to a standstill. The Government has promised new, draconian legislation, with those found guilty threatened with suspended animation – a new form of control order where they are held without the need for supervision or surveillance.
On the journey, I communicate (we don’t talk to anyone any more), via a pre-prepared computer database of messages, with my 80-year-old oldest son Alastair. He is grumbling back, as usual, about having to be at work. So nothing’s changed there!
Liz Earle, skincare entrepreneur, on the future of beauty
In 50 years, the focus will be on a return to the beauty basics that actually work, with an emphasis on the simple time-tested mantra of cleanse, tone and moisturise. I also think there will be a focus on products with double-duty properties, performing more than one job or offering multiple benefits. Sustainability of ingredients will also rise to the fore with non-renewable petroleum-based ingredients increasingly being replaced with more effective and ecologically sound botanicals.
Hugo Vickers, broadcaster and royal biographer, on the future of the monarchy
It is in the nature of prediction that people invariably choose to anticipate the worst. This has certainly been the case with the monarchy, with generation after generation predicting that their sovereign will be the last. I take a more positive line, and it is an easier task than backing the wrong designer for Miss Middleton’s wedding dress!
The year is 2061. King William and Queen Catherine have announced that they will celebrate their 80th birthdays jointly the following summer and combine these with celebrations for the Silver Jubilee of the reign. A popular feature of the reign is King William’s weekly visual podcast, which is followed by 90 per cent of his subjects. Their elder daughter, Princess Diana, heir to the throne as the result of the new Act of Settlement of 2012, is happily married and has in turn produced an elder daughter, so Britain looks forward to a succession of Queens Regnant.
The King – or William, as he prefers to be addressed – lives at Windsor Castle and, like his father, uses Hampton Court for official London-based celebrations. Buckingham Palace has been renamed the People’s Palace and is a popular state-run hotel for those who can afford its exorbitant prices.
Prince Harry and his family are the only other active members of the Royal family in the new slimmed-down monarchy. Having thrown off what were considered his youthful indiscretions, he is wildly popular. His gallant army service and subsequent role as a travelling ambassador for Britain have earned him considerable respect. His support for his brother has fended off mischievous attempts in the ever-powerful media to cast him as a latter-day Rupert of Hentzau.
The media have been irritated not to have had more fun with the York princesses. When they both took the veil and founded a nursing sisterhood, there was considerable disappointment in media circles, but the press was forced to recognise the scope of their achievements. So, too, with Zara Tindall, former Olympic gold medalist, who broke ranks and stood for parliament, rising to be Minister of Sport in a succession of Coalition governments. She now makes spirited contributions to debates in the Senate (which replaced the House of Lords in 2020). Stranger things have happened.
Peter York on the future of high society
In 1960, the expectation really was that things could only get better. Inequality of all kinds would reduce, overall standards of living would rise and we would become a 'flatter’ society along 'Scandy’ lines. And, to some extent it actually happened over the next 20 years. 'High Society’ was, by today’s standards, conservative and rather careful and in decline. We had many fewer rich people than today and London was the centre of a declining Empire rather than the home of the global rich.
In the 1980s, inequalities started to open up again as New Money was generated in the City, advertising and a number of new businesses and started to push the Old Money groups off the stage. The old rituals of High Society and the Social Calendar were taken over and 'corporatised’ by new people. Income and asset inequality continued to grow under New Labour during a period when central London was bought up by the global rich. Over the last 50 years we went from an under-stated High Society whose members all knew each other to a global bling society organised by PRs.
In the future High Society will divide increasingly sharply between people who wish that this country could be just like Norway (where a gusher of oil money has been intelligently and fairly distributed for the good of all) and people who, as in modern China, see the world in 'get rich first’ terms. The fault lines may very well be between London and the rest with socially smart environmentalism turning over the years into something more rounded amongst rural smarties while High Society London becomes even more a playground for the rootless rich.
Oliver James, clinical psychologist, on the future of the family
Men and women will still form families and be parents – but I am unsure what proportion of men will take on the main domestic burdens, including responsibility for children. I believe that about a quarter of women are – and will be – ill-suited to caring for small children. In the future, maybe a slightly higher proportion of such women will get together with men who like doing it, swapping the traditional roles. I also expect more sharing of the domestic burden between the genders. Men will continue to be more likely to share care of the children and to do basic domestic tasks, like shopping for food, cooking and washing up. But I am beginning to suspect that there will always be more men working full-time and obsessed with getting to the top. As for women, young ones say they are considerably more willing than their mothers to consider being at home to care for small children.
Baroness Grey-Thompson, Paralympian, on the future for people with disabilities
The changes have been amazing over the last half-century. I would like the next 50 years to bring true equality to disabled people: all buildings to be accessible, not just new ones. Disabled people being able to get on trains without having to book 24 hours in advance, being able to catch a flight without any problems at the airport, with their chairs being smashed up mid-flight – or not returned when they land at their destination.
Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, on the future of faith
It’s pointless to try and look into a crystal ball to see the future of the Church, or “organised religion”, in the UK in 50 years. What matters is what choices we make now to preserve what we now believe to be true and worthwhile in our faith, in the confidence that if the Church is God’s purpose, it will not disappear.
What might some of those choices be? To help people get acclimatised to silence and patience in worship, so that the chatter of the ego falls away. To step back from self-importance and shrillness, so that what comes through is the fearful and astonishing mystery of God’s love, not the agenda of institutions and institutional people. To go on telling the stories of the Bible in whatever way our culture makes possible, because they are stories of how lives are opened up to grace and change. To go on trying to understand why and how we say what we do as Christians about Jesus as the presence of God in human history.
Whatever the next 50 years may bring, these things are just worth doing. Whatever changes there will be in half a century, my hope – and confidence, actually – is that these will not be forgotten. So what matters is what I can do to show that hope and confidence today.
Adam Henson, farmer and presenter of Adam’s Farm on 'Countryfile’, on the future of farming
Agriculture will still be hard work, but mainstream farming will benefit from a wealth of new technologies. Already we are seeing satellite navigation in tractors and precision farming equipment. The use of robots to milk cows and spot-spraying of weeds in horticulture is already here; it won’t be too long before tractors on large arable units will operate without the use of drivers, controlled by a central tower.
The agricultural footprint is a fairly hefty one, but farmers will look for increasingly innovative ways to produce food in a sustainable manner. Vertical farming – whereby plant and animal life are cultivated within self-sustaining skyscrapers – has already arrived in Saudi Arabia and the United States. In the future, each floor will produce different foods – salads, fish, poultry, etc – with a farm shop at ground level.
Meanwhile, the countryside will continue to be used as an amenity for the public to enjoy. As custodians of the landscape, I hope that we will continue to receive support to care for conservation and the environment.
Peter Kellner, president of YouGov, on the future of British politics
Britain’s second woman Prime Minister today persuaded MPs to support her Referendums (Abolition) Bill. Throughout the first half of the century, the habit of holding referendums had got out of hand, culminating in simultaneous votes last year to reduce taxation and increase public spending. In the crisis election that followed, Labour swept back to power, defeating the Conservatives for only the third time in half a century and promising to restore representative democracy.
Their victory was aided by the demise of the Liberal Democrats. They secured electoral reform, in the shape of the Alternative Vote, in 2017 at the second attempt. But far from benefiting from it, as they expected, AV led to their demise. Not only did they lose 10 Westminster MPs when Scotland became independent in 2026, many of their supporters used the new system to switch their first preference vote to minor parties such as the Greens and the Wessex National Party.
The new Bill now goes to the House of Lords. Many people are thankful that this remains an island of stability, and that all attempts to “modernise” it in the past 50 years have come to nothing.
Dominic Sandbrook, historian, on the future of voting
Historians are notoriously bad at predicting the future, but here goes. In 2061, British politics will look very different indeed. Thanks partly to electoral reform, we’ll have four major national parties (the Liberal Democrats having split), while more devolution means Scotland and Wales will feel far more like autonomous countries. Rising costs having eaten away at the welfare state, perhaps the biggest issue will be paying for the pensions and health care of an ageing population. We’ll vote electronically, using our mobile phones – or their future equivalents.
John Simpson on the future of the superpower
The future is pretty much unguessable; who in 1914 would have thought that France and Germany would be close partners fifty years later? But simply extending the graph from 1961 to now would suggest the following: America’s fifty-year decline will continue apace. Europe will muddle along, perhaps wiser, prosperous, pretty much neutered. China, if it hasn’t collapsed in chaos -- the nightmare of its leaders, who know the dangers of switching from autocracy to democracy --, may copy Japan’s 50-year trajectory: growth, wealth, stultification. If not, I suspect it will play by the rules. Ever since 1961 people have seen India and Brazil as the coming economic superpowers – together with the Arab countries, the Soviet bloc and the Pacific Rim (remember that?).
The past fifty years have seen an unprecedented decline in wars and dictatorships. The world is more peaceable, more integrated ethnically, better educated, healthier, more law-abiding. (Then there’s Russia, of course). I don’t want to sound ludicrously optimistic, like Norman Angell whose book 'The Great Illusion’, argued in 1910 that Europe’s economies were too closely integrated for war to be possible. But maybe he was just before his time. It’s not unthinkable that we’re entering a new paradigm.
Antony Beevor, war historian, on the future of conflict
History never repeats itself, and is therefore no prescription for the future. Its only use – an important one, however – is to help leaders avoid similar mistakes and warn them against misleading historical parallels. One can only guess at certain trends, such as the decline of the West, especially a sclerotic Europe, and the rise of China, in particular, to become a world superpower. But even that must be surrounded with certain caveats. The looming ecological disaster, with water-shortages, the possible implosion of China, with a reversion to a new form of warlordism, and other instabilities might disrupt the country’s ferocious competitiveness.
Elsewhere in Asia, in Africa and in the Middle East, water wars, mass migration as a result of ecological catastrophe, and resentment over food colonialism and the competition for mineral resources, all bode ill for world peace. And tensions will mount dramatically as globalisation and the focus of mass communications accelerate the polarisation between success and failure, whether those of individuals, communities, companies and nations.
In the past, capitalism could justify its inherent inequalities by pointing to the fact that at least the standard of living of the poor was improving. This is no longer the case. We are likely to see widespread social unrest and perhaps even the failure of parliamentary democracy. I sincerely hope I will be proved wrong on all counts.
Frank Gardner, BBC security correspondent, on the future of warfare
By 2061, one of two things will most likely have happened. Either the nuclear weapons club will have expanded dramatically to include one or all of Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, setting off a costly and dangerous arms race in the Middle East – or a nuclear device will have been detonated in anger for the first time since 1945.
If it’s the latter, then this will trigger a global crackdown on all nuclear sites on the basis of “never again”. China will have become a global strategic power in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, with bases as far away as the African mainland. “Al-Qaeda”, “neo-cons” and the so-called “War on Terror” will be phrases taught to schoolchildren in history books. Tony Blair will have passed away peacefully, convinced to the end he was right to invade Iraq.
Lord Rees, cosmologist and astrophysicist, on the future of population
Scientists have a poor forecasting record. The great nuclear physicist Lord Rutherford said in the 1930s that nuclear energy was “moonshine”; a previous Astronomer Royal thought space travel was “utter bilge”.
But some longer-term trends can be forecast with confidence. There will, by midcentury, be far more people on the Earth than there are today. World population, now almost seven billion, is projected to reach between 8.5 and 10 billion by 2050.
The world couldn’t sustain anywhere near its present population if everyone in the developing world lived like present-day Americans, profligate of energy and resources. On the other hand, more than 10 billion people could live sustainably, with a high quality of life if they travelled little, interacted via super-internet and ate food produced by intensive agricultural practices.
Will richer countries recognise that it’s in their interest for the developing world to prosper? Can nations sustain effective but non-repressive governance in the face of threats from small groups with hi-tech expertise? And – above all – can our political institutions prioritise projects that are long-term and global?
John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, on the future of global poverty
There is a real desire to do something about global poverty. We must not lose that pain nurtured within us by events like Live Aid and campaigns such as Make Poverty History, that each and every one of us can make a difference in tackling the injustice of poverty. Every single person has the potential to be the individual that delivers lasting historic transformation – but if we stand together with others in solidarity, that makes that transformation easier to achieve. I would say to all readers of the Sunday Telegraph today, go out and 'be the change you want to see.’ Our future together is too important to leave to other people to sort out!
Alan Yentob, broadcasting executive and presenter, on the future of television
Remember when TV arrived and they said it would be the end of radio and the cinema? And when the internet arrived, they said it would mean the end of everything and the beginning of something else? We are still gathering around the television on Saturday nights, with Strictly Come Dancing and Doctor Who and The X Factor for company. Fifty years on, we will be watching the Morecambe and Wise Show at Christmas – I’m pretty sure of that – and Simon Cowell will still be raring to go at the tender age of 102.
Gwyneth Williams, BBC Radio 4 controller, on the future of radio
Big changes and developments in last 50 years and how the world might look and have changed by 2061. In 2061, just as in 1961 we will want to live civilized and worthwhile lives that, to quote Matthew Arnold, seek out “the best that is known and thought in the world.“
More than ever as the interconnected world develops with its technology and as the speed of response and the bombardment of our senses with choice and 24 hour news, activity and noise continues, we will develop the art of listening and reach for quality and understanding. We will still want intimacy, insight, laughter and surprise. Our public and private lives will be increasingly intertwined. We will still seek to make sense of the world and our lives through analysis, context and culture.
So the idea of Radio 4, for instance, will remain at the heart of British civil society and still keep us company each day - and night - as we will have found a way to make us more productive through reducing the hours we sleep. We will tune in in unimaginable ways; we will be able to listen to anything, anywhere at any time; we will link the written word, numbers, sound and film; we might even be able to join the whole with a technologically-enhanced connector that helps develop intuition and inspiration.
Oh and don’t forget The Archers, who will by then have made Ambridge a global village with devoted fans all over the world.
Julia Peyton-Jones, director of the Serpentine Gallery, on the future of art
The art world has changed radically over the past 50 years, with the role of artists, architects, designers and modes of expression stretched to lengths unimaginable in 1961. In the future, technology will play a defining role. The cross-disciplinary nature of artworks will make redundant classifications such as painter, sculptor and photographer. There is everything to play for. By 2061, fund-raising should be such a highly developed skill that support for the arts will be a matter of certainty rather than debate.
Stephen Woolley, veteran producer, on the future of cinema
Is cinema a twentieth century phenomenon? The last few years has seen ground breaking and reforming changes in the way movies are both created, projected and viewed. Digital cameras, lighter and more efficient are replacing more static and traditional equipment; box office hits like Avatar are produced primarily on computers and lower budget movies can’t afford the more archaic process of 35mm chemical baths. Digital projection is now at a standard that almost betters the original film quality.
At a BFI screening of Zulu that I hosted recently the digital version was gloriously rich, which was a relief as there is no longer a 35mm print viewable of Zulu in the UK. While home cinemas, 3D screens and advanced sound systems become de rigueur for those that can afford them, most people download their entertainment on their computers with scant concern about picture and sound quality. Do these revolutionary changes matter? For most people not at all.
For a minority we will mourn the death of celluloid, as digital screens proliferate worldwide the sheer size, bulk and cost of a film print almost prohibits their existence today. The quality of digital is amazing but is it better than film? No, it’s just different.
In fifty years, boring old film buffs will be paying over the odds to get their last view of 35mm film, like those sad sacks buying vinyl records in Soho.
Michael Attenborough, artistic director of the Almeida Theatre, on the future of the stage
It is neither desirable nor possible to view cultural developments apart from society at large. Inevitably therefore, political and economic issues have and always will impinge on the world of the theatre, in which I have been working for the last 40 years.
I have seen governments of both red and blue persuasions come and go. Broadly speaking, Labour has been much more sympathetic to the arts, in particular the most recent administration. Crystal ball gazing is a perilous pastime, but there is little doubt that the immediate future looks somewhat grim. No one is under any illusion that the country’s finances are in desperate straits, but it is at key moments like these that society has to express its priorities.
The clear and current danger is that we are now in the hands of those who “know the price of everything and the value of nothing.” We urgently need politicians who are prepared to stand up and be counted in their defence of those resources that nurture and enrich our insides as well as our outsides. Or, in the not too distant future, we shall reap the social consequences. A government that is forcing the closure of libraries and the drastic shrinkage of cultural provision, while cutting back severely on young people’s ability to educate themselves, even worse, deliberately targeting university courses in the arts and the humanities, is clearly prepared to sacrifice the long-term health of this country on the altar of short-term financial expediency.
Theatre, however, has a remarkable ability to reinvent itself, so in spite of this philistine attack, I remain optimistic that the one art form that depends entirely on a communal, social event will survive. For the sake of my children and my grand-children, I certainly hope so.
Hilary Mantel, Booker Prize-winning novelist, on the future of reading
You know how they say “everyone has a book in him?” In 50 years, they will all be out of him. The activity formerly known as reading will have given way to personalised multimedia projects of pseudo-living, each citizen enraptured by his autobiography and unfolding in real time his pitiful career through the creation of giant interlinked playlists and audio-visual reruns of his favourite bits. There will be no life, only constantly reworked and slightly inaccurate stories about lives. Each person will have a story and no one will be interested in sharing it. History will have eaten itself.
Amanda Foreman, biographer, on the future of writing
It is my sincere hope that I will be reading The Sunday Telegraph in 50 years’ time. The problem with hopes and predictions, however, is that they are based on past experience. In some eras, this was not such a stumbling block, but it is today. For people born before 1979, their formative experiences have framed them in a way that is incomprehensible to their own children, let alone future generations. They can watch a Second World War film and identify with the entertainment on offer, the materials worn, the phones used, the cameras held, and, not least, the primacy of the written word in the lives of the characters. None of this matters except for the last.
The current assault on the written word is as powerful and as destructive as the forces which brought about the Dark Ages. Not only may there be hardly anything left in 50 years, but there will be hardly anyone who cares.
Anthony Horowitz, author and screenwriter, on the future of storytelling
The most depressing thing about the world 50 years from now is that I won’t be in it. My mind spins at all the great things I’m going to miss. In my lifetime, the advance of the internet, computers and mobile communications has been so fast-paced – I’m old enough to have received messages on ticker-tape; my first TV was black and white and had one channel… (and I’m not even really that old) that we seem to be hurtling into a technological utopia.
There will probably be no newspapers or books, you may be able to download straight into your brain, but whatever happens, publishers and bookshops will be obsolete. Writers will self-publish direct to e-books. People will still worry that children aren’t reading, but storytelling will never die: it’s too important to the human condition. If by chance someone invents cloning, cryogenics or some scientific form of reincarnation, do please take note. I’d very much like to come back.
Sir Alex Ferguson, manager of Manchester United, on the future of football
The standard of football will get better and players will get better because there’s more and more concern about how you develop young players, and that will become a major issue at every club. Football can’t get much quicker, but there will be a higher degree of skill.
Sir Clive Woodward, former rugby union coach, on the future of rugby
Rugby will be one of the big winners of the next 50 years. It wouldn’t surprise me if the semi-finals of the 2061 World Cup were played out between China and the USA, and Russia against India, with the final a clash between Russia and China, with China emerging as champions. That has implications from a British and Irish perspective because these countries have the ability to catch up and overtake us. It will also sound alarm bells for the number-one team in the world at the moment, New Zealand, where growth is restricted by playing numbers.
In terms of technical innovation, I think that the American football-type pass will come into rugby far more. Currently, it’s completely underused. I also envisage every player, even front five forwards, having the ability to kick the ball with precision.
Michael Vaughan, former England captain, on the future of cricket
In 50 years’ time, I expect there will still be Test cricket, but it will be played at night, maybe in indoor stadiums, and perhaps even in China; Pakistan may play some of their home games there. Batsmen will be able to watch replays on their watches, while the back of the bat will screen advertisements between deliveries, much like a football hoarding does now.
Geoffrey Boycott on the future of international cricket
In fifty years’ time, I don’t think there will be any Test cricket as we know it. The money men have taken over: they will kill the game off. One-day internationals – and now Twenty20 games – have done nothing to help Test cricket. The only thing that keeps it going is TV money. Because, apart from a very few iconic series, no one comes to watch it anymore. The smaller teams – West Indies, New Zealand, Pakistan and so on – are already struggling to survive.
Fifty years ago, nobody had heard of one-day cricket. It came in during the middle of the 1960s. Test matches were played to full houses for five days. Nobody travelled in the summer those days, there were no cheap flights to European destinations. Most people didn’t even have a car, and golf was a very expensive hobby available to only a few rich people. There was no football in the summer, no rugby league. So cricket was the only game in town. The Roses match at Old Trafford or Headingley was always packed out.
Test cricket hasn’t changed since then. It’s still five days, played over three sessions until six o’clock. The people who run the game have just taken the easy money from TV when it’s there. They have done nothing to save the game, and they should be ashamed of themselves. The world has evolved. But Test cricket hasn’t, and if you don’t evolve you die. I feel terribly sad about that because I love the game so much.
Dame Kelly Holmes, double gold medal-winning Olympian, on the future of sporting world records
As sports science becomes more refined, you would think that world records will continue to be broken. But things may go in the opposition direction, due to our changing lifestyles. There may not be so many improvements, as kids aren’t as healthy as they used to be, eating junk foods that could well have an adverse affect on future performances.
Lord Sebastian Coe on the future of televised sport
If I were to pick out just one important change in athletics over the last 50 years it would be the huge impact of television which, starting with the Olympic Games of the 1950s, has not only brought the sport into millions of homes around the world but gave it great commercial power. We were able to move from a purely amateur to professional era, perhaps not smoothly and quickly, but inevitably. Back in the 1950s, the four-minute mile record- breaker, Roger Bannister, was a medical student who happened to run as a hobby. Today, Usain Bolt is a millionaire, and rightfully so, thanks to his sublime gifts in athletics.
As for the next 50 years, I think the irony is that it should be about reversing the trend of the last half-century - in other words, finding ways to get people away from screens that are hand held or in living rooms, and back to being active, healthy participants. The sport of athletics can embrace the idea of “athleticism” and that running, jumping and throwing are the basis of pretty much every sport. There will always be a place for competitive track and field, simply because it is a simple and exciting spectacle and offers an event for all types of physique and personality. The variety of the sport’s disciplines – bulky throwers and skinny distance runners – is part of its attraction and diversity.
But as well as the competition aspects, which have not changed much in decades, we shouldn’t forget the healthy benefits of just going out for a run, which is what has fuelled the huge success of the road-running scene and events like the Virgin London Marathon. The ability to set a difficult but achievable goal and the sense of achievement felt by most “ordinary people” who sign up and complete a race like that is priceless. It is about getting fit and healthy and of challenging and improving yourself, rather than beating others. In short, what I hope athletics will be able to achieve in future, is to once again inspire youngsters and people of all ages, to enjoy the benefits and values of taking part in sport.”
James Dyson, industrial designer, on the future of engineering and innovation
We’ve tried to build our economy on financial services and software, and exhausted it. Now, we need to get the balance right between the cyber and the real worlds. Exportable inventions are our way towards a safer, more intelligent future. I think we should be investing more in tangible technology that draws on mechanics and material science, and offers practical solutions to the most important problems facing the world: clever energy-saving systems, effective infrastructure and ways to deal with waste. Photovoltaic technology will become so efficient that paint on roofs will generate enough energy to power an entire building. One thing that won’t change much is the power of the sun.
David Rowan, editor of 'Wired’ magazine, on the future of mobile technology
There are an estimated 35 billion devices connected to the net, and we’re only at the start of the mobile internet revolution. Your iPhone or Nexus One already knows where you and your friends are, can translate spoken words into other languages, and recognises the images on the camera lens.
In the decades ahead, we will rely on these smart devices to augment our humanity – to remind us about previous encounters with people whose faces the device recognises; to answer our unspoken questions by reading our brain patterns and tapping into vast artificial-intelligence neural networks; to use sensors tell us about our body’s immediate needs and our most efficient route across town.
Christian Wolmar, railway historian, on the future of transport
One factor will dominate the transport picture of 2061: price. Transport will no longer be cheap. Largely, though, we will be using the same ways to get around. Individual cars will have been banned or priced out of inner cities, replaced by electric buses and light rail systems. Encouraged by “Boris bike”-type hire schemes, there will be more cyclists than motorists. Cities will be more compact, and we will travel less. Cars on motorways, all of which will be tolled, will be required to log onto the automatic system which will ensure they are driven fuel efficiently and enable drivers to relax and snooze or read the paper.
The rail system, too, will have been revolutionised by new technology, with signalling systems and double-deck trains allowing far more services on existing lines. The high-speed project will have been abandoned because of the cost.
Air travel will be, once again, a luxury. Technical innovations such as maglev (trains powered by magnets) or individual helicopters will remain niche markets.
Martha Lane Fox, the government’s digital champion, on the future of the internet
Distrust anyone who tries to make technology predictions with certainty. However, I think humans will be able to connect with each other through all kinds of intelligent devices, using chips embedded in our bodies. By using data more effectively, we will be able to address some of the most complex social and structural problems. Take the enormous potential burden of an ageing population – more isolation, more illness, more cost. Advances in remote care alone will help even the most isolated lead more fulfilling lives. I am an optimist so I believe the good aspects of the internet will far outweigh the bad.
John ZarneckiI, professor and researcher in space science, on the future of extraterrestrial life
2061 will be the 100th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin performing an orbit of Earth on 12 April 1961. What will we have achieved 100 years after humanity’s first journey into space? Astronauts will have set foot on a passing comet and an asteroid – great places to explore but not to live on. Our robot explorers will have landed on Europa, a moon of Jupiter, and drilled down through the icy crust to the underground subsurface ocean; simple life will have been found there.
Our telescopes, on the ground and orbiting in space, will have confirmed that our universe is full of planets. We have already discovered more than 500 so-called exoplanets, and in 50 years, will have detected life on a handful of these: biological activity, chemical pollution and, sadly, even the telltale signature of nuclear wars.
In a few cases, we will even have made radio contact, answering the age old question: “Are we alone?” The answer, when it comes, will be a definite “No”! But these are faraway civilisations, with each message taking 10 or more years to go in each direction. The next 100 years will find us really talking and the truly mind-boggling discoveries just beginning.
Colin Pillinger, planetary scientist, on the future of space exploration
By the Telegraph’s 100th anniversary, we’d better be on Mars because if we aren’t, I’ll bet someone from the less risk-averse emerging economies in Asia will have beaten the US and Europe to it. I hope by 2061 the West will at least have a scientific base at the Moon’s South Pole. Please let there be British astro-scientists on it.
Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum and presenter of 'A History of the World in 100 Objects’, on the future of civilisation
Everybody loves guessing what the future will hold. The British Museum is filled with objects from every civilisation intended to foretell, and control the world as it will be – or even more, the world as we would like it to be: oracle bones from China, fortune-telling mirrors from Central America, or the elaborate equipment the ancient Egyptians prepared to take with them to the afterlife.
As far as we can tell, all the predictions proved wrong. But that’s no reason not to go on guessing, wishing and hoping. So I shall predict the world will be changed – and hugely for the better – by everyday objects such as the small solar panels that make power and light available to the billion or so people with no access to mains electricity. In 50 years, this technology will have changed countless lives, giving access to the knowledge of the world through the internet, and providing light and heat.
The world a happier, healthier, fairer place? How can we doubt it. The oldest of human tradition is that the future is going to be better.
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The Next 50 Years Looking to the FUTURE âIt is tough to make predictions, especially about the future.â Countless examples attest to the truth of this famous quip, often attributed to Yogi Berra. In 1943, IBM chairman Thomas Watson said there might be a total world market âfor maybe five computers.â Forty-four years earlier, Lord Kelvin predicted that âradio has no future,â proving that a brilliant practitioner in one area can completely miss the significance of developments in a different field. Past âexpertâ prognosticators doubted the utility or appeal of everything from personal computers and televisions to online shopping and overnight package delivery. Meanwhile, others forecast that by now weâd have flying cars, colonies on Mars, and fusion power too cheap to meter. Science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov correctly anticipated videophones and giant flat TV screens. But even Asimov sometimes got it wrong. In a 1964 essay looking ahead 50 years to 2014, he predicted that appliances would be powered by radioisotopes rather than electricity and that most jobs would be done by machines, freeing up people from actual work. âMankind will . . . have become largely a race of machine tenders . . . [and] will suffer badly from the disease of boredom,â he wrote. Still, itâs deeply engrained in human nature to gaze into a crystal ball and imagine what the future will bring. And in many cases, we can look at todayâs technologies and anticipate how they will evolveâand how they may bring surprising changes that emerge from a series of incremental advances. Until recently, driverless cars seemed like a distant dream, for instance, yet weâve had most of the underlying technologiesâfrom computer-controlled braking to detection of vehicles in the next laneâfor years. So itâs worth taking a journey of the imagination down the path of continued development of todayâs technologies. 44 Making a World of Difference
Grand Challenges Foremost among the challenges are those that must be met to ensure the future itself. In 2007 NAE at the request of NSF, convened a diverse international panel of some of the most accomplished engineers and scientists of their generation. The panelâs task: to consider broad realms of human concernâsustainability, health, vulnerability, and joy of livingâand propose a set of the challenges most in need of 21st-century engineering solutions. The panel did not attempt to include every important goal for engineer- ing. Rather, it chose the problems we must solve to ensure survival of a livable Earth and the well-being of its inhabitants. Earthâs resources are finite, and our growing population currently consumes them at a rate that cannot be Brought to You by Engineering sustained. Among the most pressing concerns, then, is the need to develop O ver the next half century, we can foresee tacklingâand new sources of energy while also preventing or reversing the degradation of solvingâmany of the pressing problems facing humanity the environment. Another is to find new methods to protect people against and society today. An NAE report in 2008 describes 14 pandemic diseases, terrorist violence, and natural disasters. The engineering Grand Challenges for Engineering, such as creating better solutions to challenges such as these can no longer be designed solely for medicines, restoring and improving our cities, and providing more isolated locales, but must address Earth as a whole and all the planetâs people. sustainable sources of energy. Yet even as some of these challenges As the panel concluded in its 2008 report, âa world divided by wealth and are met, new issues will arise, sometimes in the form of adverse poverty, health and sickness, food and hunger, cannot long remain a unintended consequences of our successes. In every case, engineering stable place for civilization to thrive.â will be critical to the solution. Perhaps most important, though, while our imaginations may be â¢ Make solar energy economical spot-on in some cases, in many others the future will be far different â¢ Provide energy from fusion than what we now foresee. It will bring answers to questions we â¢ Develop carbon sequestration methods arenât asking, and solutions to needs we donât know we have. It will â¢ Manage the nitrogen cycle enrich and enhance human lives in ways that are simply impossible to â¢ Provide access to clean water predictâsurprising and delighting us, and creating innovations that â¢ Restore and improve urban infrastructure soon will seem impossible to live without. Mobile phones, for â¢ Advance health informatics example, were a staple of science fiction and a goal of engineers for â¢ Engineer better medicines years, but the first clunky models were something of a hard sell, and â¢ Reverse-engineer the brain we certainly didnât know we needed smartphonesâor social mediaâ â¢ Prevent nuclear terror until suddenly we did. Todayâs youth find it hard to believe that â¢ Secure cyberspace previous generations could function without these inventions. â¢ Enhance virtual reality Whatever the shape of the future, the underpinnings and most of â¢ Advance personalized learning the details will come from engineering innovations. As computer â¢ Engineer the tools of scientific discovery scientist Alan Kay, president of the Viewpoints Research Institute once said, âThe best way to predict the future is to invent itââand thatâs To learn about the Grand Challenges for Engineering visit the precisely what engineering does. î¬ projectâs interactive website at www.engineeringchallenges.org Engineering Ideas into Reality 45
New Materials, New Possibilities F rom the Stone Age to the Iron Age, epochs of human history have been named after materials. Thatâs not surprising, because new materials open the door to entirely A new and unexpected applications and developments, weaving new threads into the tapestry of human progress and changing how we live and work. Todayâs Information A new materialâ Age might justly be called the âSilicon Ageâ because of the enormous capabilities provided by grapheneâis a layer of carbon silicon-based devices and applications, although modern advances have also required numerous only one atom other crucial materials, from optical fibers to high-strength alloys. The silicon frontier will be B thick, discovered extended farther, no doubt, but new materials may take us beyond a simple extrapolation of by physicists Andre Geim (bottom, left) todayâs technology, meeting the needs that we donât yet know we have. and Konstantin Novoselov, who won Scientists and engineers are now hard at work leagues at UCLA, Williams fashioned the the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics for their creating and exploring the potential of new worldâs first molecular logic gate, the building C groundbreaking materials. In the early 2000s, for example, block of digital circuits. If such âmolecular experiments. physicists Andre Geim and Konstantin electronicsâ devices could be used to create Novoselov at the University of Manchester in viable computers, they could put the power England were tinkering with graphite and tape. of a hundred workstations on a chip the size They realized that it was possible to peel off a of a grain of sand. D layer of carbon so thin that it was only one We donât know if the central processors atom thick. This material, dubbed graphene, of computers 25 or 50 years from now will be was almost completely transparent, yet so built from graphene, self-assembled molecules, dense not even helium could pass through. DNA, or any of a number of other exotic Possessed of immense strength, it also had materials emerging from todayâs laboratories. E interesting electrical properties, which Geim We do know, however, that the enormous and Novoselov nailed down by studying dozens advances in materials (and concomitant leaps of ultrathin electronic devices they made from in computing power) that have already graphene. Their work won them the 2010 Nobel transformed our lives in 2014 will continueâ Prize in Physicsâand pointed to a new path perhaps even accelerate. Engineers will create F for devices. âGraphene could change the ever-smaller devices, exploiting the strange electronics industry, ushering in flexible world of quantum mechanics, where atoms can In this series from devices, supercharged quantum computers, exist in different places at once and affect each HP Labs, each successive image electronic clothing and computers that can other across considerable distances. âMaterials is magnified interface with the cells in your body,â predicted with genuine quantum properties will have about 10 times the the New York Times in 2014. enormous impact,â says Venkatesh Narayana- previous one, from (A), the wafer on Meanwhile, in Hewlett Packardâs Quantum murti, professor of technology and public which 625 64-bit Science Research Lab, Stanley Williams has policy at Harvard Universityâs School of memories are built novel devices with a completely different Engineering and Applied Sciences. And other imprinted, through (F) a close-up of approach. His idea: Use chemical reactions improved or new materials will enable continual a single memory, to grow switches and wires that assemble advances in everything from cars and planes to with one bit stored themselves into circuits. Working with col- the buildings we live in. î¬ at each of the 64 intersections.
The future is now: Flying drones that deliver packages and cars that drive themselves are already being tested, while virtual reality software helps train aviators both to fly a plane and to jump out of it. A World of Embedded Intelligence I n 2014, we already have sports watches that record workouts and autonomous flying drones the size of birds. But imagine dramatically shrinking those devices and many others, while also adding the raw computing power of todayâs supercomputers. Imagine similar giant leaps in sensors, communications capabilities, displays, software, batteries, and mechanical actuators. Put all those together and we can embed intelligence in virtually anythingâfrom light bulbs and refrigerators to cars and complex manufacturing tools. Already, smart devices can answer simple inquiries and understand simple commands. Itâs not a stretch to predict that these capabilities will improve enough to make it appear that devices are thinking, speaking, and acting independently. Some of these devices will fail in the market, but others will hit the sweet spot that delights consumers and improves or enhances their lives. Hereâs just a sample of what may be possible, some of which is already taking shape: Virtual reality technology that trains the military. Cars that drive themselves, in constant communica- tion with other vehicles and with traffic signals. Appliances and houses that respond to voice commandsâmaybe even know what you want automatically. Displays that cover entire walls,
Entrepreneurs and engineers are using 3-D printers to create everything from custom toys and machine parts to working prostheses. enabling us to put an art gallery with treasures like the Girl with a Pearl Earring in our homes, visit with grandma in what feels like an adjacent room, negotiate a deal across the âtableâ with partners in Tokyo or Kazakhstan, have a prime seat at the opera or rock concert, work with a personal trainer, or take a virtual climb up Mount Kilimanjaro. One of the NAEâs Grand Challenges, enhancing virtual reality, will Reshaping Industries N be easily met, predicts Ray Kurzweil, now ew materials are one driver of change. Development of new manufacturing methods and tackling natural language understanding at tools is also crucialâanother job for engineers. Consider 3-D printing. GE Aviation used to Google. âBy the early 2020s we will be make jet engine nozzles by welding together 18 different parts. But not for its latest, most routinely working and playing with each other efficient engine. The company now builds the nozzles one layer at a time by precisely in full immersion visual-auditory virtual depositing material with a 3-D printer, in much the same way an ink-jet printer sprays on paper. environments,â he writes. Another Grand Challenge, tailoring education to meet indi- 3-D printing is a potential game changer for at his 3-D printer and hands it to you,â says vidual needs, will also be met, says Leah H. todayâs factories, warehouses, supply chains, John Wall, vice president and chief technical Jamieson, dean of engineering at Purdue distribution systems, and delivery companies. It officer at engine and power systems manufac- University. âI absolutely believe it will be also has the potential to eliminate the waste of turer Cummins. Or imagine inventors dropping possible to build interactive systems that raw materials in manufacturing processes. by the local 3-D print shop to print out working provide personalized learning environments.â Instead of machining or forging a part like a prototypes of their latest ideas. You could even The future world could bring what Asimov connecting rod, a 3-D printer puts material just print stuff in your own home. anticipated a bit too earlyâthe creation of where itâs needed, like an oyster building up its Itâs also theoretically possible, if you have robots that read, learn, and even feel. Such shell layer by layer. â3-D printing sounds trite, the right materials, to print almost anything, robots could take care of the elderly, file tax but you can build structures that you could never including living tissue. If you needed a new returns, build houses, and discuss the origins of do any other way,â says Paul Citron, retired vice liver, say, doctors might extract a few of your the universe or the latest escapade of the next president for technology policy at medical stem cells, transform them into liver cells and generation of reality TV stars. âWe will have device maker Medtronic. This technology makes print out your new organ. âBy the early 2020s another intelligent species on Earth,â predicts it possible for anyone to become a manufacturer. we will print out a significant fraction of the Danny Hillis, chairman and cofounder of âImagine that instead of having to stock parts at products we use, including clothing as well as Applied Minds, LLC. î¬ an auto supply store, the guy goes to a keyboard replacement organs,â predicts Googleâs when you ask for a part. He then makes the part Kurzweil. î¬ 48 Making a World of Difference
Expanding Our Connections M any visionaries foresee that people in future decades will want to be connected even more than they are today, and that such connections will improve their quality of life. If so, engineers will be the architects of this hyperconnected future. âThe connectivity of everything is within a decade,â predicts Charles Holliday, Jr., former CEO of du Pont. âIt will change how we think about managing our lives.â And by 2025, âinformation sharing over the Internet will be so effortlessly interwoven into daily life that it will become invisible, flowing like electricity, often through machine intermediaries,â according to a 2014 report from the Pew Research Centerâs Internet Born without an arm, six-year- Project. The developing world will continue to leapfrog old Alex Pring the old wired infrastructure, as remote villages connect of Groveland, to the larger world with wireless broadband networks. Florida, practices picking up objects with his new 3-D As is frequently the case with new technologies, printed prosthetic hyperconnectivity will offer challenges along with arm and hand, opportunities. Will the regulations written for telephone designed and made by engineering communications need to be rewritten for the Broadband students at the Age? Can cybersecurity efforts not only keep the hackers University of at bay but also keep criminals and terrorists in check? Central Florida for about $350. Can we find a balance between hyperconnection and personal privacy that is acceptable to most people? GE Aviationâs new Governments and societies will need to grapple with jet engine (left) includes a fuel these questions and challenges, but engineering nozzle made by advances will underpin the solutions. î¬ 3-D printer. Engineering Ideas into Reality 49
Making Energy Sustainable I ntelligent, hyperconnected devices, 3-D printers, and other technologies will bring surprises, meet unanticipated needs, and change our lives in ways that are hard to imagine. But some aspects of the future are easier to predict. To create a better, richer, and healthier future for all people and nations, we know we must tackle and solve problems that are already obvious now. to warming has increased in recent years. energy more efficiently. Something as simple J. Craig Venter (far left) is working on Thereâs âcompelling evidence that increasing as better insulation, such as ultralight aerogels, synthesizing algae temperatures are affecting both ecosystems can dramatically reduce the energy needed to to replace fossil and human society,â warns the 2014 National heat and cool homes and factories and run fuels. In France an experimental Climate Assessment. refrigerators. thermonuclear Thus, the energy mix is as important Engineers are also working to design reactor project is asâor more important thanâthe total energy safer, cheaper nuclear reactors. As a virtually under construction (above). needed. If we want to avoid contributing to the carbon-free source of reliable energy, ânuclear carbon dioxide buildup by burning fossil fuels, power has to play a significant role in the efforts both to switch to renewable or other future,â says Cumminsâs John Wall. It may also low-carbon power and to use less energy must be possible to harness the fusion reaction that go forward. Wind power and solar power powers the sunâanother NAE Grand Challenge. currently represent about 7 percent of overall A research reactor, the International Thermo- One of those big challenges is creating a generating capacity, and engineering advances nuclear Experimental Reactor Project, is now sustainable supply of energy. Energy is crucial there and elsewhere are in the offing. Improve- under construction in Cadarache, France. to maintaining and boosting standards of ments in wind turbines and solar panels, for Although fusion energy still faces daunting living. To bring billions of people out of poverty, example, are rapidly making them more technical hurdles, many experts remain hopeful. therefore, weâll either need more energy or efficient and cheaper, and new battery âI think weâll have fusion, maybe not in 50 huge improvements in energy efficiencyâor, technologies promise to solve the problem of years, but eventually,â says Julia Phillips, vice most likely, both. But right now, because of intermittency. Argonne National Laboratory, for president and chief technology officer at our dependence on fossil fuels, humans are instance, is leading a major multi-institution Sandia National Laboratories. emitting carbon dioxide and other greenhouse effort to build a battery with five times the Meanwhile, other creative ideas abound. gases into the atmosphere at a rate that energy density of todayâs best, at one-fifth the For example, Caltechâs Frances Arnold, winner exceeds anything the Earth has experienced cost. Such batteries could also make electric of the 2011 Draper Prize, is using the techniques in millions of years. Since 1900, the planet cars far more practical and attractive, weaning of directed evolution to produce new biocata- has warmed by about 0.8 degree Celsius much of the transportation sector from the lysts to convert cellulose to sugars and then to (1.5 degrees Fahrenheit), and the number of fossil fuel pump. biofuels. In other labs researchers use catalysts extreme weather events scientists are linking Huge improvements are possible in using and other materials to mimic photosynthesis 50 Making a World of Difference
and capture energy from sunlight. At least five different designs are Feeding the competing to turn the energy from ocean waves or tides into electricity. Smart micro-grids promise not only to keep the lights on in U.S. cities, but Worldâs Billions T also to bring renewable power to remote villages in developing countries, he combination of massive harvesters bypassing the need for expensive power lines and central power plants. and other farm machinery, precision Some visionaries believe human ingenuity and engineering wizardry fertilization, genetically modified crops, can easily wean humanity from fossil fuels within 50 years. Kurzweil, for one, and other advances has dramatically predicts that âby 2030 solar energy will have the capacity to meet all of our boosted yields of corn and other crops across the energy needsââincluding providing enough extra power to purify vast United States and around the world. At the dawn amounts of salty water. Meeting the Grand Challenge of making solar energy of the 20th century, about 50 percent of the U.S. economical thus could also satisfy the growing need for clean water, another population was involved in food production. Grand Challenge. A surplus of energy would also make it possible to power Today that number has dropped to 2 percent. scrubbers that can pull carbon dioxide and all other forms of pollution from the air, says Cherry Murray, dean of Harvard Universityâs School of Engineer- But to feed the worldâs growing number of people, ing and Applied Sciences. we will need another increase in productivity. One The conventional wisdom, though, is that wind and solar alone canât of many possible answers to this problem is provide enough energy for a growing world, especially when the wind dies harnessing the potential of genetic engineering or the sun sets. Many experts insist that the world will depend on fossil fuels and fermentation. Biological engineers are already for a sizeable percentage of its energy for a least 50 more years. âEnergy is growing gene-spliced algae that make a full set of going to come from a lot of different sources,â says Holliday. In particular, if the protein building blocks, or amino acids, that for no other reason than it is plentiful and cheap, the world is unlikely to we need in our diet. Turn that algae into flour, and stop burning coal soon, with 2,300 existing coal plants and more than 1,000 we could replace millions of acres of amber waves proposed new facilities. So, to reduce emissions in the medium term, even for the long-term, wide-scale implementation of improved technologies for grabbing the carbon from fuel or carbon dioxide from smokestacks is essential. And additional innovations are needed to pave the way for safe storage of that carbon, meeting the Grand Challenge of developing carbon sequestration methods. Creating a cleaner, more sustainable energy future will require hard decisions based on data and evidence, which can come from engineering advances such as more powerful supercomputers and sophisticated sensors on land, in the oceans, and in space. The decisions themselves are typically outside the realm of engineers and scientistsâbut scientists and engineers will need to engage them as they work to create solutions to the worldâs energy problems. As a practical matter, according to the National Climate Assessment and a joint report by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society in the United Kingdom, carbon dioxide concentrations and global temperatures presently in place make some climate impacts inevi- table, even if greenhouse gas emissions were to cease. So, as we hedge our bets by striving to change the energy mix, engineers also face the challenge of helping society adapt to the changing global environment. î¬
A Healthier Future A mong the many medical advances from the lab of MIT chemical and biomedical engineer Robert Langer are polymers designed to dissolve at different rates in the bloodstream. Encapsulate a drug or a vaccine inside tiny spheres made from these materials, inject them into the blood, âWeâll have local food in home gardens, and the microspheres will âdeliverâ the actual medicines to the site of cancers or other tumors days or weeks later. âIt may sound hanging gardens, and hydroponic gardens trivial, but it can help change the face of medicine,â says Langer. in all sorts of interesting places.â To fight deadly diseases such as tuberculosis or Ebola, doctors must of grain with giant stainless steel vats filled with fermenting microbes. Slip in treat people with multiple, periodic doses of drugs or vaccines. Yet in the genes for muscle and blood proteins like actin and myogloblin, along with many parts of the world, itâs hard enough to get patients to health genes for healthful fats, and algae or other microbes could even make what clinics once, let alone every few weeks. Microsphere technology J. Craig Venter, chairman and president of the J. Craig Venter Institute, dubs solves that problem. Patients could be given full courses of treatment âmotherless meat,â ending the need for a home on the range. or vaccinations with a single injection. Suddenly, once-intractable Venter calculates that microbial factories could produce as much food diseases can be cured or prevented. as our current system of agriculture using only one-tenth the land area. If we Over the next few decades, bioengineers are expected to create wanted, we could turn the Great Plains back into a vast prairie teeming with many more such weapons in the fight against infectious diseases. buffalo, or bring forests back to many areas of the world that were cleared for These innovations might include malaria and tuberculosis vaccines as cultivation. Plus, the approach would solve one of NAEâs Grand Challenge well as cheap, effective (and simple to administer) drugs against HIV, problemsâmanaging the nitrogen cycle to reduce the nutrient pollution and robust technologies for delivering clean water and providing thatâs harming the worldâs creeks, rivers, lakes, and coastal areas. basic sanitation in underdeveloped countries. By 1980 the world had Of course, thatâs just one possibility. Harvardâs Murray and others have eradicated smallpox. Itâs not a great leap of imagination to think that different ideas for feeding the worldâs billions of people. Murray predicts that we can finish the job of eliminating polio and make dramatic inroads a global disasterâsuch as a disease that wipes out all wheat or rice cropsâ against cholera, AIDS, diphtheria, and other terrible infectious will bring a dramatic shift from todayâs industrial monoculture agriculture to a diseases. The benefits would be enormous, not just in reducing infant distributed, local system, where a wide range of plants are grown on rooftops mortality and increasing life expectancy, but also in boosting produc- and other spaces throughout cities and communities. âWeâll have local food in tivity, economic growth, and standards of living all over the world. home gardens, hanging gardens, and hydroponic gardens in all sorts of But thatâs just the beginning of how science and engineering interesting places,â she says. In fact, this trend toward more local food is have the potential to transform health. Drop in, for instance, at the already beginningâeven without a major crop failure. î¬ Stanford lab of Karl Deisseroth, which recently tackled a project so 52 Making a World of Difference
The idea: make an intact, transparent brain with all of the body before we ever get sick,â he predicts. Paul Citron, retired from Medtronic, expects that its internal structure and wiring visible.... As a result, for diabetics âan artificial pancreas will become researchers can now chart all the connections between a reality,â staving off the many complications of neurons, a significant step on the journey toward meeting diabetes by precisely controlling blood sugar. MITâs Langerâwho was awarded the 2002 another Grand Challenge, reverse engineering the brain. Draper Prize for âbioengineering of revolution- ary medical drug delivery systemsââpredicts that it will be possible to regenerate spinal cords, to replace failing organs and body parts with engineered tissue and to turn the body into its own drug factory by injecting the manufac- turing instructions in the form of messenger RNA. âThe combination of biology and engi- neering will lead to all kinds of new things, improving the quality of care and quality of life,â he says. Just as with computer power and the connected world, these advances could be of tremendous benefit to humanity. Weâll get longer, healthier, more productive livesâand, with advances in brain science, a deeper understanding of what it means to be human. But the technology will also raise difficult risky that Deisseroth enlisted only those intervene successfully in everything from questions and ethical dilemmas. Will society be colleagues whose careers were sufficiently addiction and epilepsy to schizophrenia and willing (and able) to pay for expensive new established that they would not be set back by Parkinsonâs disease. Meanwhile, researchers treatments and approaches for everyone, or will a failure. The idea: make an intact, transparent predict that advances in understanding the these advances benefit only brain with all of its internal structure and wiring biology of the rest of the body will make it pos- the rich? Once it becomes visible. The team succeeded, figuring out how sible to tame autoimmune diseases and cancer. possible, will we rush to to support a mouse brain with an external Similar gains will come from reading tinker with our genes to hydrogel skeleton, then dissolving away its humanityâs genetic code, from cataloging all of create new generations with opaque fat. As a result, researchers can now our proteins, and from manipulating genes and superior athletic abilities or chart all the connections between neurons, a biology. Danny Hillis of Applied Minds foresees intelligence? It could indeed significant step on the journey toward meeting making real-time measurements of the be a brave new world. another Grand Challenge, reverse engineering chemicals coursing through the body, and then âHuman engineering will be the brain. using computing tools like data mining and inevitable,â says J. Craig Eventually, with better understanding of pattern recognition to spot chemical signals Venter. Once again, how brain chemistry as well as brain circuitry and going awryâlong before any actual symptoms tomorrowâs society decides the underlying mechanisms of biology and of illnesses appear. âWeâll be able to see a to use its new engineering disease, medical professionals may be able to problem coming and intervene on the side of powers will be crucial. î¬ Engineering Ideas into Reality 53
China alone must build the equivalent of a city the size of Boston every 17 days to accommodate the 14 million additional people per year projected to live in the countryâs urban areas. alone must build the equivalent of a city the tion systems to cope with higher populations. size of Boston every 17 days to accommodate In the United States, urban engineers can the 14 million additional people per year envision a future where the number of cars projected to live in the countryâs urban areas. drops and an increasing proportion are shared. How can we keep all these people from ending When not in use in the denser, future city, many up in sprawling shantytowns cars might sit around in automated multistory all over the world? garages. Need a car? Call one with your Cities, Limits, and New Frontiers Many urban planners suggest that the answer smartphone. It may even drive to you and chauffeur you around. When youâre done, A half century from now, one of the most critical factors determining lies in taller, denser cities. âpush a button and the car parks itself in the what the future looks like will be this: how many people will be According to Antony Wood, parking garage,â says Holliday. Urban planners packed onto the planet? The United Nationsâ best estimate is that the executive director of the and engineers are already exploring many of global population will climb from todayâs 7.2 billion to 9.6 billion in Council on Tall Buildings and these possibilities. 2050. But higher fertility could send that soaring past 15 billion by the end of the Urban Habitat, engineers With more than 40 percent of the worldâs century. Or if the developing world emulates the low birth rates of countries like already know how to build population living within 60 miles of coast- Italy and Japan, the number could actually decline by then to 7 billion. soaring structures two or linesâand many more along riversâengineers three kilometers tall. Whatâs must also figure out how to make cities more Either way, the consequences will be profound. harder is maintaining the vitality of urban life in resilient against rising seas, river floods, and A more populated world increases the chal- a city of super-skyscrapers. So much of the extreme weather events. In the aftermath of lenges of providing food, health care, and vibrancy of a city goes on at ground levelâin 2012âs Superstorm Sandy, for instance, New housingâeven bumping up against the limits of parks, shops, and restaurants. The answer may York City has developed a detailed plan for what the planet can support. On the other hand, be to bring that vitality upward. âIf a city gets reducing the damage from future storms. The lower population numbers mean that average ten times more vertical and ten times denser, engineering steps that New York and other age will climb quickly, making it harder to care then we need to replicate the ground level in cities could take are as simple as elevating for the elderly. The number of people older than the skyâcreating urban habitats in the sky,â homes and moving the mechanical guts of 65 is on track to exceed those younger than 15 in says Wood. That shift would be a major buildings from the basement to higher floors, most countries within a decade or twoâfor the undertaking for urban planners and civil or as complex as re-creating and reengineering first time in human history. engineers. the buffer of coastal wetlands that can protect One trend thatâs safe to predict, however, Of course, future cities wonât be able to cities from raging storm surges. is increasing urbanization. More than half the function without other vital engineering But engineering the path to the future is worldâs people now live in cites. A million more advances: replacing and redesigning aging not just about planning for disaster, coping are born there or move in every week. China water mains and sewers; reshaping transporta- with potential limits, or finding solutions to 54 Making a World of Difference
innumerable problems. As this chapter tries to V I E W F R O M A FA R convey, itâs also about eradicating diseases; lifting millions out of poverty and sickness; forging stronger, more resilient communities; and A First Step to Other preparing for many possible futures. Itâs about Planetary Systems making life richer and more fulfilling. Itâs about The Kepler Space Telescope, launched in 2009 pushing back the frontiers of knowledgeâeven to search for planets orbiting other stars, has freeing us from the bounds of Earth. âWithin 25 found many such systems, including at least one, years, weâll go to space as routinely as we go the Kepler-186, with a planet similar to Earth in what grocery store today,â predicts Wanda Austin, astronomers call the âhabitable zoneââthe dis- president and CEO of The Aerospace Corpora- tance from a star at which liquid water can exist. tion. âIt could be for fun or because itâs critical Kepler-186 is 500 light-years away, meaning that for our survival.â light from its star takes 500 years to reach us. cal axis of the solar lensâto the closest point Just imagine what it would mean to use With the technology of the next decade or two, where the light from the object we want to look 500 light-years is much farther than we can send at, bending around the Sun, comes into focus engineering advances to finally understand the a probe to do a flyby. (above). The trick is getting our telescope out mysterious dark matter that makes up most of But we can undertake missions in the next there. The focus of the solar lens begins 3.2 light- the universe or to discover extraterrestrial life. few decades that could let us look more closely days from the Sun and continues outward, with âContributions from engineering will bring many the image quality improving as the telescope at some of the planets Kepler has found. Scien- more astonishing insights about ourselves, our tists and engineers have proposed to do this by gets farther away from the Sun. Earth, and our universe in the next 50 years,â taking advantage of an effect first predicted by Over the next half century, engineers will says Princeton Universityâs Robert Socolow. Albert Einstein in 1936ânamely, that the gravity develop new probes that will be smaller, lower Decade by decade, century by century, of large objects would bend light, just as a glass mass, and easier to propel to high speeds than engineering has taken us further and further lens does in a traditional telescope. Astronomers anything weâve launched so far. They will be from the first glimmerings of human art and already use gravitational lensing to get better powered by new propulsion systems, such as ion culture on the walls of Paleolithic caves. And to images, from our perspective on Earth, of objects rockets or âlight sailsâ (below left) that catch the located beyond large stars or galaxies. However, solar wind speeding from the Sun at more than some experts, itâs even helping us leave behind they canât âaimâ a galaxy or re-position Earth to million miles per hour. With a push from a laser some of the darker side of human nature. Harvard choose what to examine. beamed from Earth, our telescopeâs light sail University cognitive scientist Steven Pinker argues We could use our Sun itself as a gravitational could reach the focus of the solar lens in a few that as human society becomes more modern years. As engineering advances make probes still lensâexcept we canât do it from Earth, or even (in large part from technological advances), we from Earth orbit; weâre much too close. Instead, smaller and less expensive, we could even launch become a kinder, gentler species. âYou can see we have to send a telescope out along the fo- a swarm of space telescopes to different focal [the decline of violence] over millennia, over points of the Sunâs gravitational lens, giving us centuries, over decades, and over years,â he says. close-ups of more distant stars and the means to âWe are probably living in the most peaceful time detect radio or optical signals that might in our speciesâ existence.â indicate an advanced civilization. Itâs a highly controversial idea, but a hopeful âThe new frontier of the 20th century was and attractive one. If the march toward greater our solar systemâ says David Messerschmitt, Roger Strauch Professor Emeritus of Electrical enlightenment continuesâand the flowers of Engineering and Computer Sciences, University engineering bloom as they have throughout of California, Berkeley. âAnd the new frontier for historyâthen the next half century really will the 21st century will be interstellar space in our be worth looking forward to. î¬ region of the Milky Way galaxy.â î¬ 55