Up Next: The Future

The monthly news magazine published by UBC has a neat little feature this month: they asked a handful of researchers to talk about interesting and futuristic-y developments in their field.

A nuclear weapon-free world would be nice, but I’m not holding my breath. I’m also extremely wary of psychology prof Elizabeth Dunn’s proposal to make enhancing subjective reported happiness “the explicit goal”of public policy. “I’m from the government and I’m here to make you happy” does not strike me a fruitful direction for public policy.

If we must have centralized control, how about systems that eliminate the need to drive:

We have now reached a stage, thanks in part to work on guided missiles, where camera systems can do a better job than the human eye and brain. Couple this with communication of precise positions and headings of vehicles in the vicinity and you have the possibility of safe, driverless vehicles operating over existing roads. There would be no need for traffic lights or signs and vehicles would hardly ever need to stop. A central control would normally manage all vehicle movements.

Finally, if there is one advancement on this list that I think will do most to enhance human welfare, it is professor Frank Ko’s work on tissue scaffolds:

Like the scaffolding we see on construction sites, the nano scaffolds are being created by Ko to reconstruct damaged tissue within the human body. Burn victims would benefit from scaffolds used to regenerate new skin. Those with failing heart valves or damaged nerves could count on scaffolds to regenerate these parts from within the patient’s own body. As healing progresses, the scaffold, being constructed from a biodegradable material, is absorbed and metabolized by the body while slowly releasing drugs to aid in the healing process.

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