Futurist and business strategist Peter Schwartz, the guest on Thursday night, has spent thirty years looking at the deeper forces for change. He believes that in the coming decades the ability to manipulate matter at the atomic level will be "the new industrial revolution," and that we will be able to "grow a building the way nature builds a tree."
There will be "quantum computers" that can have more than just the two states of 0 and 1, and this will vastly increase computing potential, he explained. He predicted that within 30-50 years, artificial intelligence (AI) machines will be smarter than we are, though humans will likely be enhanced electronically to increase their capabilities.
Schwartz suggested one of the biggest dangers we face in the future is radical climate change, of which we could now be seeing the initial signs. In this scenario, at first the weather would get warmer and then grow much colder, possibly akin to an ice age occurring within a decade. Another threat he outlined was in the field of genetic engineering or molecular biology, where an accidental or unforeseen development could have disastrous consequences.
Peter Schwartz has made a prediction on the intriguing site longbets.org, a public forum created to stimulate long-term ideas. Members to the site can log in their long term predictions, and then other participants can bet for or against the proposition, with the wagers going to philanthropic causes.
Schwartz's prediction that "at least one human alive in the year 2000 will still be alive in 2150," has already attracted one person to bet $1,000 against it. Ironically, if the person wagering against it is still alive in 2150, she will lose the bet. In his argument for increased longevity, Schwartz points to the current work in stem cell research, as well as in telomerase, an enzyme in DNA, which may yield new life extension therapies. He further notes that human lifespan doubled from 45 to 85 in the last century. If that was to happen again in the 21st century, we could have 170-year olds walking around!
Bumper music from Thursday August 07, 2003