Which field of science will have the next life altering breakthrough?

Which of the following braches of science in your opinion is most likely to have the next breakthrough?
Genetics - Human Genome / genetic engineering

Computer Science - Real AI

Bio Science - Nano technology machines

Physics - A breakthrough in Quantum physics

Engery - A new fuel cell

Chemistry - Manupliation of Molecular composition

Other - Write in vote

I’m hoping for controlled fusion, myself.

Of those, I think genetics is best poised for major gains in the next few years. The conclusion and refinement of the Human Genome Project has really opened the door for something huge–so the technology and information are there. The money and demand is there also–the first person who comes up with a successful retroactive gene therapy vector for humans will make billions. The applications of genomics to every aspect of medicine are huge.

I’m not deeply involved in the other fields, but physics and chemistry are traditionally more static. Anything biological tends to be faster-moving.

nameless has it. Biology, and particularly genetics, is burgeoning with potential for cures and repairs that could only be imagined a decade or so ago.

Controlled fusion will be the biggest breakthrough since at least the steam engine. That’s almost limitless energy with very little cost.

However, it’s a will-o’-the-wisp, we’ve been “10 years” away from a breakthrough for the last 50 years.

Genetics are where it’s at for the moment, specifically genetic engineering. It’s also not just one big breakthrough, but dozens of little ones.

I have a feeling that there will be a breakthrough in physics that will lead to the next great progression.
Probably something to do with time and gravity and their manipulation.

Keep your fingers crossed.

I think Genetic engineering is they next break through. Once the human genome is mapped, man will be come bigger, faster, stronger, and smarter by design. I can see this happening in the next 20 years.

I agree, my vote is genetics. Even the aging process it being better understood; something about some buildup excess on the RNA strand or something after each cell duplication. I don’t remember the details, it was in a Time article in the last several months.

I agree that genetic engineering will be the biggest life-altering breakthrough in human history. But I doubt that it’ll happen in the next 20 years.
There’s lots of glamor out there: genetic mapping offers hope of perfecting medicines to match individuals needs,stem cell research offers hope of replacing body parts, age research offers hope of slowing down the aging process so we will live 200 years.

But its all just hope right now–basic scientific research to figure out how things work, not practical research for specific engineering applications.

For today’s routine medical research,drug companies need 5-10 years to get FDA approval and market a medicine–all based on existing knowlege. For, say, gene therapy,we’re talking about totally new knowledge, with totally unknown side effects. It’s going to take a lot of lab research, than testing on mice, then on monkeys. And then watching those monkeys as they age and die of natural causes, to see what effects may develop.

My guess is 50 years before we see dramatic changes.

Genetics/genomics/proteomics etc will no doubt have an enormous role to play in our lives in the near future. I don’t see it as needing a “breakthrough” though, if the field advances at even an incremental rate over the next decade or so it will still be hugely influential. If you’re talking about an area that will be really blown open by a fundamental conceptual jump I’d say anything to do with understanding how the brain works.

The scientists and clinicians who can understand mental disorders such as autism, Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia etc and subsequently design effective treatments will be promethean figures. My impression is that the physiological basis of these mental illnesses is poorly understood, at least compared with more prosaic diseases such as high cholesterol or blood pressure etc.

A huge amount of money in scientific research worldwide is being directed towards “systems biology” at the moment, so that may well represent a breakthrough in understanding in the not to distant future. IANA biologist, but I think it deals with taking a step back and looking at how the multitude of complex cellular pathways integrate with one another to form a functioning organism. It deals as much with mathmatical models of signalling pathways as it does the molecular biology controlling the nuts and bolts of these processes. It seems like the holistic response to the reductionism of the genomics revolution in biosciences.

No doubt genetics is poised to make some pretty big advances, but Nanotech is on the brink as well. From what I’ve read, those little bastards could make a lot of our current medical practices obsolete quite quickly.

At the same time, there’s room for concern in the Nanotech world as well.

For the next great break through in anything, look no further than Ron Popiel.

link here

So what are the chances that breakthroughs in genetics will happen fast enough for those of us say, cough 42 years old might actually see a dramatic improvement in our lifespan? Long enough that we might live to see technoligies that really dramatically improve our lifespan?

Are there immortals among us today? Maybe my 7 year old daughter? Will we cure aging before she’s old?

As for other breakthroughs, I think there’s room in nanotech for some tremendous things to happen. In computing science, I’m not sure. It will have to be a breakthrough that comes out of left field, because there’s no logical progression of knowledge I can see today that will lead to some radical change in the human condition.

Wouldn’t the development of nanotech, at least for medical purposes, necessarily hinge on advances in computing science? I’d imagine that having a gazillion machines messing with your living cells would require some heavy-duty, extremely flexible AI to back it up.

As an aside, I just picked up the book Nanofuture: What’s Next for Nanotechnology by J. Storrs Hall, and am in the process of absorbing it even now. The general sense I’ve gotten so far is that nanotechnology is going to solve all the material problems of mankind forever and ever, which is nice to know. Storrs is apparently the “Chief Scientist” of Nanorex, Inc., so it’s perhaps understandable that his take on the topic of nanotechnology would be generally positive. He’s also credited as the inventor of “Utlity fog,” which seems rather strange to me, as it doesn’t appear to actually exist yet.

On the subject of nanotech, consider the legal ramifications of the following scenarios:

1955: You get angry at some guy and empty your .45 into him. It takes an ambulance 30 minutes to arrive and he’s stone dead. You get the chair.

2005: You get angry at some guy and empty your .45 into him. It takes five minutes for an ambulance to arrive. They stabilize him and haul him to a trauma center. He survives. You get 15 years for attempted murder.

2055: You get angry at some guy and empty your .45 into him. The owner of a nearby bar sprays the victim with Nano-fix. The tiny robots get into the guy’s system and rapidly repair blood vessels, bone and tissue. He gets up and punches your lights out.

Will we get to a point where assaults of any kind can be effectively “erased”, making them little more than misdemeanors?

Further into the future of justice, using the utility fog instead of Nano-fix we get Red Dwarf’s Justice Field:

If we are addressing a “life altering” breakthrough, the choice would have to be a solution to a major “problem” with our daily existence. Not something we think would be neat, like life extension or cheaper goods, but a real solution to a real existing problem.

The biggest problem with daily existence for most people is Transportation (I think–it is for me anyway). 40,000 traffic fatalities per year, ridiculous (and I mean truly, mind-bogglingly ridiculous) commute times for suburbanites. Precious non-renewable fuels being idled away.

I truly think the next century will look back on the 21st and chuckle about the crazy backwardness of our transportation infrastructure/system.

Don’t know what form the transportation solution will take, but my guess would be personal vehicles that drive themselves (so you can work or entertain yourself during the ride), running on non-petroleum based energy, combined with some sort of mass transit system for long hauls that isn’t cattle-car based like subways or commuter trains. Maybe your personal automated vehicle drives itself onto a giant ferry sled, which then warps into Chicago down the median of existing roadways or rail lines at 200mph.

Capitalism is a pyramid scheme essentially, isn’t it? We must continue to grow our population to maintain our wealth and international position, which means the transportation problem can only get worse as it currently exists. But if a suburb can be viable 200 miles away from its closest urban cluster, than we’re good for another couple hundred years.

No, it isn’t, but I agree that self-driving cars are on the horizon, with a major impetus being the baby boomers turning seventy and turning the highways into one huge bloodbath (or so the perception will be reinforced every time some codger mistakes the gas pedal for the brake and plows through a storefront).

I vote that we will discover a way to stop ageing. Theoretically, it seems quite simple. Some organisms age, others do not. We already know a few pathways that are involved, shortening telomeres for example. All that is required is to figure out the rest of the biological pathways and turn them off. Once that’s done, it’s a one shot deal and if it turns out to be a simple process, it would have an absolutely dramatic effect on society.