How are technologies driven in the future – Still by science joining capitalism?

In the 1950s and 1980s the famous quantum physicist Richard Feynman gave two lectures, which are still widely cited today and can be seen as a vision and program for entirely new technologies in the 21st century. In 1959, under the title “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom”, he described how future technologies could function on a micro- and nanoscopic level. The ideas of his lecture became the basis of todays’ nanotechnology. In his second visionary speech in 1981, Feynman developed the idea of a quantum computer, equally a technology we are possibly about to experience. Such a computer, in which subatomic particles are used for data storage and processing, is based at its core on bizarre quantum properties of the particles involved which enables an unimaginably higher computing speed compared to conventional computers.

With the change of science’s character due to the US leadership of it some amazing technological advances have appeared in the last 80 years which ultimately created our modern age. The speed at which this has happened is amazing. Yet, technological progresses will even more increase their speed in the future, as will likely the scientific one. The world has already changed by technologies so much more dramatically between 1990 and today than between 1958 and 1990, technologies that are the results of scientific insights from many years before. It is hard to imagine what the world will look like in 2054 driven by entirely new technologies. At the same time we will surely penetrate even deeper into the secrets of nature due to scientific insights in the coming years and recognise more and more what holds the world together at its core. Before we have even understood the scientific upheavals we are today already exposed to, the scientific progress of the next years and decades will once again dramatically reshape many supposed certainties – about the world and the universe, about space and time, about matter and substance, about man and nature and not least about ourselves and our mind. However, it is the technological progress – which is likely to significantly depend on today’s and tomorrow’s science – that will ultimately determine our all’s future. Obviously, we will even more have to meet challenges, not only scientific and technological ones but also philosophical ones, i.e. how to socially deal with the implications of science and technology that are also raising significant ethical issues.

The current status of the different sciences and possibly even more their future status will provide new technologies that will most likely be even more important for our lives than the ones today. The following list outlines the likely most likely potential key future technologies – which often have already started to appear today. They have unbelievable significances to any future human individual, but also for the entire human civilization

  1. Artificial Intelligence – Controlling our lives or improve it forever?
  2. Quantum Computers – The future of millions of times faster computation or just a dream of physicists?
  3. CO2-Neutrality – Can we create enough alternative energies in the next few years to prevent a climate catastrophe?
  4. Nuclear Fusion – The solution of our energy problems or just a subject of a century of dreaming?
  5. Genetics – The victory over cancer or manipulation of mankind?
  6. Internet of Things – New powerful industrial technologies and smart fabrication or an entire invasion of privacy?
  7. Neuro-enhancements – Improving our thinking and acting or move from today’s reality into a new and fictive world?
  8. Understanding our minds – Finding our Ego or is it unfindable for scientists?
  9. Digital Algorithms and Big Data – New enhanced profiles for our lives or controlling humans’ thinking and acting?
  10. Nanotechnology – Creation of useful things from „nothing“ or destruction of our bodies?
  11. Stem cells – Using cells that can do everything, also for our entire body and mind?
  12. Biotechnology – From frogs for pharmacists to nano-robots in our bodies, a dream or reality?
  13. Food Technology –Provide food for 10 billion people or just a science dream story?
  14. Synthetic Life – Can humans play God(?), part I
  15. Life Prolongation – Can humans play God(?), part II

Fact is: Our world is changing faster and faster by technological progress. On this rapid change capitalism plays a significant role in pushing and picking up on scientific progress. In fact, since around 1820 and more and more since 1960 – when science became even more technologically productive – capitalism and science have played a powerful joint and very productive role together to produce new high-tech progress. Scientific research (and knowledge) has thus become a crucial factor for running a company in todays’ capitalism. Today’s tighter and tighter interaction of capitalism and science makes the changes of the technological landscape significantly faster than ever. In the future it will likely move with a speed unimaginable today. Will we even be able to accompany technological changes by also progressing respectively politically and socially and develop appropriate philosophical insights and doings? We will have to in order to address and control the risk and dangers of the new technologies as well as their consequences on social relationships and interactions. But can we keep up?

In his 1932 novel Brave New World, Aldous Huxley describes a society in which people are sorted into different castes already at birth by means of biotechnological manipulation, and at the same time have all their desires, cravings and appetites immediately satisfied by permanent consumption, sex and the happiness drug soma. The novel will be familiar to most readers in its basic outline. Less well known is the year in which Huxley sets his action. It is the year 2540 A.D., more than 600 years after the novel was published! Even the visionary Huxley could not have imagined that the real technological possibilities could not only reach this scenario after only one century but could far outshine it. The applications are coming at a rapid pace, the social, philosophical and ethical challenges must be met at the same speed if mankind does not want to end up in the dystopian world described by Aldous Huxley. Is the interaction of science and capitalism still hopeful for that?

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