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The Engineer
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What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/19/2017 8:53 AM

Here are some options: self-driving cars, reusable rockets, cheap solar energy, CRISPR, gravitational wave detection, 5G, EM-Drive, AI, etc.

The above are just some examples I could think of, add whatever you want. My personal pick is gravitational wave detection because I'm sure it will lead to discoveries and new physics. Just as spectroscopy did early last century.

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#1

Re: What technological innovation will have the most impact in the next 50 years?

12/19/2017 9:43 AM

This is an interesting question. I think this question will reveal more about the psychology and biasses of what the one who answers believes is important in the world than any kind of predictor of the future. Also with only a 50 year window, this question implies that the technological innovation exists today in its infancy or a research proposal.

As for myself, I suspect the technology that will make the largest impact will be CRISPR but only a few will notice it. I'm hoping that impact will be from a collection of disease cures, crop improvements or possibly even biofuel production. I dread that it might be from an accidental or deliberate disease production, eugenics program or worse. Like Pandora's box the broad collection of positive and negative possibilities this DNA modifyer presents I suspect this will be the technology to make the greatest impact on humanity.

I have a second choice. I don't know if it will be a large Tokamak machine (ISER) or a "table top" fusor based approach but if fusion power finally becomes real this world is going to change. I know fusors are presently only considered viable as a neutron source but hope springs eternal.

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#2
In reply to #1

Re: What technological innovation will have the most impact in the next 50 years?

12/19/2017 10:17 AM

Good point about the biases. I think that's true. Probably the case if you were to ask people what the biggest tech innovation of the past 50 years too.

Yeah, CRISPR seems very promising. Certainly, for the first time in my life I feel like there are some serious cancer cures coming right around the corner. Of course, once science cures most cancers and heart disease it will be just in time for super bacteria to start taking us out.

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#3
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Re: What technological innovation will have the most impact in the next 50 years?

12/19/2017 10:50 AM

There will always be a number 1 cause of death...

But what happens when all diseases are cured (including old age) and all of our jobs are done by intelligent robots. We'll all just sit around on our shrinking spot of land while the robots work hard to try to feed the aging population.

It's probably good to be careful what you wish for...

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#11
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Re: What technological innovation will have the most impact in the next 50 years?

12/19/2017 3:19 PM

I'm ok with not living forever, as long as they invent a pill that allows you to eat what you want and not gain weight. I'm talking pizza, ice cream, oreos, cheeseburgers. That's it, that is my entire cuisine.

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#12
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Re: What technological innovation will have the most impact in the next 50 years?

12/20/2017 6:26 AM

Pill invented years ago

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#20
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Re: What technological innovation will have the most impact in the next 50 years?

12/20/2017 12:27 PM

Lol, I'm not there yet, but I'm not as far from trying it as I should be.

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#36
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Re: What technological innovation will have the most impact in the next 50 years?

12/20/2017 5:08 PM

My tape worms keep dying of obesity!

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#6
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Re: What technological innovation will have the most impact in the next 50 years?

12/19/2017 11:22 AM

As for your astrophysics bias, I suspect the James Webb telescope working in concert with other telescopes and detectors will have a bigger impact on astrophysics in 50 years than gravity wave detection alone. Particularly in astrophysics one cannot identify one technology as having the major impact, all technologies work in concert with each other. It's like asking who was more important in a performance of a Beethoven symphony; the oboist, the second chair first violinist, bass viola, french horn section, etc. Now when Saint-Saëns added a pipe organ to a symphony that unfortunately limited where performances could happen but he added a whole new way things could be awesome!

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#49
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Re: What technological innovation will have the most impact in the next 50 years?

12/23/2017 10:08 AM

I hear that CRISPR is doing some fascinating work.

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#7
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Re: What technological innovation will have the most impact in the next 50 years?

12/19/2017 12:02 PM

I dread that it might be from an accidental ...

Going from history, some innovation may even come from accidents that was never planned or thought of...

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#8
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Re: What technological innovation will have the most impact in the next 50 years?

12/19/2017 12:19 PM

Going... from accidents

Every accident can lead to a discovery. Malicious editing leads to misinformation.

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#4

Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/19/2017 10:50 AM

My opinion is that we don't know yet.

You didn't say "existing" so it probably hasn't been invented/discovered.

I'm not sure that Moore's Law is even relevant any more. I was born 70 years ago and with some exceptions, most of the real technological innovation we have seen has come about recently.

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#5

Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/19/2017 11:02 AM

I think what will happen in the next 50 years will be as big of a surprise as what's happened in the last 50 years, something we don't see yet, because it has yet to be invented...certainly energy will play a big role, and genetic manipulation, robotics, medicine....but the thing with the biggest impact has not been seen yet...creation of a new material, an alien encounter, it's anybody's guess...

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#9

Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/19/2017 12:43 PM

+1 for CRISPR, as far as things that are ready to make a big impact over the next 50 years.

I agree with the symphony comment though. So many breakthroughs impacting one another. Metamaterials, nanotech, biomimetics, etc are important in themselves but likely end up being one of many contributing technologies to "cheap solar energy" or how about the dream tech " really adequate energy storage".

Yes, a great battery for our intermittent (and even extreme) energy sources would be my vote for biggest impact, if it was as manifest as CRISPR on the 50 year horizon.

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#10

Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/19/2017 1:37 PM

Probably 3D printing (including molecular 3D printing) and AI, as these cover so many areas and fields that major advances in these could easily change so many things.

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#13

Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/20/2017 6:40 AM

Two things which I completely fail to understand:

DNA editing (CRISPR) not just for the impact on disease, but, for creating all sorts of bio-manufactured food and engineering materials. (Whatever happened to transgenic goats?)

Quantum computing, which may really make a difference to Artificial Intelligence.

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#14

Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/20/2017 10:13 AM

Reading brain waves. Not only will it enable the paralysed to walk, it will enable detection of the terrorist as he proceeds to his destination.

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#21
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Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/20/2017 12:59 PM

...and the detection of your thoughts as that cute young thing walks by! Will that become considered harassment?

Now if it becomes possible to transfer the wisdom of the aged to those much younger...

Speaking of the aged, I'm in my 4th quarter century, and currently hope NOT to enter a 5th. We need an economical and mostly painless way to end life when it is no longer productive, and widespread social acceptance thereof.

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#23
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Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/20/2017 1:09 PM

Transmitting wisdom is not that difficult. Receiving and accepting wisdom is the hard part.

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#26
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Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/20/2017 1:26 PM

That's because we don't know "them" as well as we think. What are the right words that will be understood? As the Mad Hatter in Alice In Wonderland said, "The words I use mean exactly what I want them to mean, no more, no less.". That makes the illusion of "not that difficult" more real than it is.

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#38
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Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/20/2017 6:31 PM

I did say "transfer". Transferring includes both transmission and reception, and I'd have to say if the wisdom isn't accepted, then it wasn't truly transferred.

I think true wisdom is the cumulative result of remembering many experiences/memories, both good and bad; what works and what doesn't. It is very difficult for me to conceive of transferring those experiences/memories without destroying those already accumulated by the recipient.

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#39
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Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/20/2017 6:45 PM

I've said since the 60's that someday we will be able to have a chip implanted and connected to our brain what will contain everything we need to know. Knowledge, complex math, whole libraries of our choice. I still believe that.

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#40
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Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/20/2017 7:44 PM

We have that, it's called the internet. With Smartphones and they way modern young people use them you could almost say that it is already a natural extension of the person even though it is not yet implanted inside the body itself.

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#41
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Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/20/2017 8:29 PM

True enough. When I made my forecast, the internet and cell phones didn't exist.

We've come a long way already.

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#65
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Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/26/2017 1:57 PM

Yes, Lyn.

I go for that. Just about every invention of 'man' has extend his physical ability - fly - swim - dive - run - lift - heat - cool - etc - all non-stop without sleep, so to speak, and regretfully to kill.

Something 'built-in' to 'voluntarily' extend (or repair) the ability of brain will have great impact.

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#51
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Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/23/2017 11:04 PM

"...and the detection of your thoughts as that cute young thing walks by! Will that become considered harassment?"

What you really need to know is 'what are her thoughts?' Could she be considering some 'mutual harassment'?

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#24
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Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/20/2017 1:15 PM

Reading brain waves? By who? Maybe the terrorist will also have the same ability. Who'll be afraid of who? Jack Nicholson will never be able to say, "You can't handle the truth!" anymore. Everybody will have to, like it or not. Is it good or bad? The jury's still out.

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#30
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Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/20/2017 2:58 PM

Nicely joked. Since we both know very well, this is not gonna happen.

Why don't we hook something up to your eyes, and transmit in the standard video format, images to give you hallucinations? Hello? Do you read me? And why not? Whyever could it be.

More likely that some ignoramous extremists with an agenda (uh no, that does not exclude government agencies) will convince themselves they're really reading somebody's brainwaves as 'thoughts', or what the heck, why not just fake it from the get go, and exploit corruption and public ignorance to pass it off in court.

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#34
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Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/20/2017 3:58 PM

You think it's not going to happen? Brain waves are already in control of robots.

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#35
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Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/20/2017 4:47 PM

EEG toys are for sure a dime a dozen. These interfaces are all about motor neurons and they work alright at that level. Show me a scrap of research where the "intuitive commands" are translated into plain English if it amounts to more than "go left" or "go right".

Check it out: Brain Computer Interfaces 2017.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/news/mind_brain/brain-computer_interfaces/

For all the hope expressed years ago for "locked in" patients, I see no advances towards "thought reading" or verbal communication, but instead, some robust possibilities for motor neuron issues, that's all.

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#43
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Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/21/2017 6:14 AM

Yes, but we all try to look ahead. 50 years ago nobody would have dreamed that one could make use of the motor neurone signal. Who knows what we will know of the signals from processing neurones in the next 50 years?

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#45
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Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/21/2017 6:21 PM

Granted that such an unknown could be remotely possible, consider that a functional device of this nature should work equally well on a dog or cat. The market for pets alone would be yuge! (Tested on humans first of course)

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#15

Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/20/2017 10:20 AM

Uhmm, the true hair growing concoction is not listed? Lots of us hope for that to finally come before all went off.

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#16

Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/20/2017 10:52 AM

A lie detector hat for politicians linked to a taser worn in their genital region.
Del

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#25
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Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/20/2017 1:16 PM
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#27
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Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/20/2017 1:48 PM

Unfortunately, there are a LOT of people who have no problem nor emotion when telling lies. Just yesterday, I got a call from "Windows Tech Department" telling me my computer had a problem. I only use Mac computers. The one Windows machine I have is only used to connect via USB to an energy meter; it has never been connected to the internet since the last time it was reformatted.

I'm pretty sure this device would not work on their foreheads.

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#28
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Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/20/2017 2:03 PM

This is just a toy from a toy company and only measures pulse rate. A worthless gimmick easily spoofed, certainly by professional speakers and liars.

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#29
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Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/20/2017 2:13 PM

Does Ron Popeil, founder of Ronco sell it for $9.99

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#32
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Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/20/2017 3:20 PM

I would respond with a picture of Gary Larson's comic strip but couldn't find it online.

When marketing meets honesty - Crap you don't need, come on in !

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#33
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Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/20/2017 3:27 PM

Gary Larson would add some quality to my post no doubt.

I enjoyed his work.

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#52
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Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/23/2017 11:10 PM

I think he should be locked up!

And, made to draw Lartoons 24/7! ;-)

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#37
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Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/20/2017 6:09 PM

It suppose to tell girls go-no-go thingy every month?oh, shes a keeper.

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#17

Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/20/2017 11:10 AM

I think it would definitely be energy related. Just imagine if we could turn trash mass into free energy. Two birds with one stone. It doesn't any better than that.

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#18

Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/20/2017 11:36 AM

Warp drive is supposed to be invented in 2063, that is within the next 50 years!

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#53
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Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/24/2017 6:49 AM

did we lose a few years?!?

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#19

Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/20/2017 11:49 AM

silicon-air battery, add into it a super capacitor and there will be enough power to satisfy any industry.

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#31
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Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/20/2017 3:07 PM

GA for giving me hope.

What would it take for a battery to be able to charge from an extreme event - high wind or lightning or pounding surf. Or is it strictly the interface that captures the energy, which can't hold up?

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#50
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Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/23/2017 11:00 PM

Batteries only store energy, they are not an 'energy source'

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#55
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Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/24/2017 10:59 AM

No, only rechargeable batteries can store energy. This is basic chemistry.

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Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/20/2017 1:06 PM

My vote is for new battery research to make longer lasting and quicker recharging battery. Being able to double cell A/H capacity would be a great breakthrough in battery technology. Imagine electric powered airplanes (one has already been made). Power to weight ratio needs to +/-.

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#42

Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/20/2017 10:57 PM

I'm going to go along with Solar Eagle's opinion that it will be something none of us have thought of.

Fifty years is a long time, and when you consider some of the things that were predicted and never happened, or just didn't work out for some reason - flying cars, everyday space travel, nuclear powered aircraft, as well as some of the things that seemed to come out of nowhere, and yet are common items or occurrences - smart phones, micro miniaturization, better understanding of biological systems - just makes projection that much more difficult.

Everything mentioned on this thread so far is just a refinement or perfection of what exists now, or ideas that have been considered, and found to be impractical, or impossible given existing technology.

The technological innovation that will have the most impact in the next 50 years is something few, if any of us can even conceive at present.

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#44
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Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/21/2017 8:58 AM

You're quite right. Predicting the future accomplishments is a balance of figuring out the priorities between existing problems and un-dreamt dreams. Which one(s) will emerge first? Maybe the uncertainty principle can give us a clue. Maybe putting everything on the table will allow us to evaluate everything together. Who's priorities will be accomplished first? No one knows.

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#46
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Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/21/2017 10:25 PM

I think you comment "Who's priorities will be accomplished first?" kind of sums up the whole question.

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#47

Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/22/2017 12:01 PM

In a single sentence, to cure most kinds of cancer through medical technical innovation within the next 30 years could create the greatest societal consequences in the following fifty years because the average life expectancy (of, say, greater than a hundred ?) would then be another quantum leap, which would then have (cascading repercussions) building on the same kinds of changes stemming from, say 60-some years in the '50's, to, say 80-some years, today ...

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#48
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Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/22/2017 10:39 PM

Cure cancer, and a new disease will take its place, or the Yellowstone caldera that has been mentioned on this site will take out a bunch of people, or Kim will blow up some place, or...

The planet will think of something!

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#64
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Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/26/2017 1:32 PM

Maybe not in the next 50 years, but eventually, seismic stress will become more technologically detectable, and relievable, by (focusing sound waves ?) at the highest geologic stress points to ease the sides of the slip planes to slide past each (tolerably smoothly) enough to mitigate the earth tremors down to an acceptably low level as to allow an acceptable level of earthquake-related damage... and possibly, volcano eruption warnings, as well, to allow excessive gas and molten rock volumes to be reliably estimated, in order to allow strategic drilling to (safety-valve away) eccessive magma build-up...

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#66
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Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/26/2017 9:24 PM

From what I've read, animals have what we would call extra sensory perception of minor changes days to hours in advance of such natural phenomena.

Maybe in our studies of brain waves, and gravitational fields, we humans may learn more about how these perceptions work.

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#54

Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/24/2017 10:20 AM

I believe that one of the major advances in health care will be when they place the monitoring and recording of all areas of your body that can be monitored in your own bathroom. Blood pressure and temp will be taken with only you being in proximity of the device. They will monitor your body discharges daily for signs of change. Your breath can be analyzed for acetone etc. They are all indicators, plus others, of your health. Thus, by having data daily recorded, they can observe automatically for changes and then bring it to an MD's attention. This can all be a closed system for those of you concerned about public disclosure of your urine numbers. It can send data to your doctor when you decide it should be sent. OR it can be automatic for thus of us who are less paranoid. Either way, the tracking software does the analysis. Exciting times ahead to see what really will happen---but it will certainly be things we had never thought was needed or would take place.

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#56
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Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/25/2017 7:49 AM

Monitoring not in the bathroom but in the bedroom.... in your pillow while you sleep combined with subliminal programming of the subconscious to influence health .

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#62
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Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/25/2017 3:46 PM

Patient 'surveillance' is trending, it's true. However the current trend is focused on 'compliance' or 'non compliance' ie the consumption of prescribed medications on time, rather than assessment of health or subliminal promotion of mental well being. Unabashedly Orwellian.

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#57

Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/25/2017 7:52 AM

Will potential difference between gravitational nodes be used to generate / harvest energy one day ? . Or PD between nodes and the space in between them.

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#61
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Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/25/2017 12:16 PM

Yes. It's been done for centuries. It's called hydroelectric generation. Potential energy is just that: potential (which means not immediately available). Gravitational potential energy is useless unless some form of mass moves from a location of higher potential energy to one of lower potential energy, converting part of that potential energy into kinetic energy; then that kinetic energy can be converted to many other forms, like electric energy.

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#67
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Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/26/2017 9:45 PM

I doubt it. Gravitational nodes implies 'zero' gravitational potential. e.g Lagrange points. Energy must be added to move an object from the nodes. Energy may be recovered in returning to the node, but always less than '1'. Moving between nodes will be from zero to zero, so no gain.

Pumped storage works because the energy is 'free' i.e. w/o cost, no immediate use, otherwise wasted. However only, one of the positions can be considered a 'node' - usually the lower. Other position will be 'node + x Metres'.

Happy to be proved wrong -

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#68
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Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/26/2017 11:03 PM

I had a different interpretation of "gravitational node", thinking more in terms of the nodes in a circuit, where a node is simply a point where two or more devices connect. Each node has a potential, and there may be several nodes at different potential levels from the source to ground.

Thus I was thinking of, for example, where a reservoir is one node, and the outlet of the penstock is another node.

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#58

Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/25/2017 8:24 AM

Innovation or social decline .... call it what you will but I see a future in less than 10 years where large banknotes will be withdrawn , then where cash does not exist and credit card , bank chip or ID card will be implanted in your body , your wages will be deposited into the govt bank and they will tell you how much tax you owe , they will take your tax out when it suits them and if you see a mistake and you complain your account will be frozen while it’s investigated , the govt will invest your money into “approved fund management” owned by their friends which is not audited and you will accept your losses with nationalistic pride.

Ownership of gold bullion will be illegal unless licensed , then after a few years your gold will be confiscated anyway.

the internet will be filtered , certain countries will be blocked or excluded and “news” will be produced only from a govt marketing department.

all vehicles will be fitted with transponders which will log the occupants ID chips , all streets will have sensors which control the vehicles maximum speed and you will be billed for distance travelled .

nah don’t be silly.

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#60
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Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/25/2017 9:37 AM

George Orwell predicted this type of society long ago. Hopefully, his warning will be heeded.

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#63
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Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/26/2017 1:24 AM

Why? Many others were not.

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#59

Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/25/2017 9:05 AM

There is only one thing we REALLY REALLY REALLY need - and if we get it, it will have no discernible impact -

We are soon (10 - 20 yrs) to show that we can live on the planet w/o fossil fuels - w/o increasing atmospheris CO2

But what we really need is a massive CO2 sponge - that will reduce CO2 levels to below 'pre civilisation*)' levels -

(*term used advisedly)

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#69

Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

12/27/2017 2:44 PM

After reading through the comments, I would say some type of Nano technology self contained energy harvesting tech.

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#70
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Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

01/04/2018 11:14 AM

Actually, single-celled organisms/bacteria had that since the beginning of life. But, it was so self-contained that it had no real output except to sustain its own life. But then again, I'm sure you had something else in mind. After all, science/engineering is more about achieving things greater than typical limits of nature. The range of science/engineering is so fascinating. From the microscopic to the macroscopic. Wherever you are, it can always be scaled up or down to amazing degrees, always pushing the envelope. Never a dull moment.

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#71
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Re: What Technological Innovation Will Have the Most Impact in the Next 50 Years?

01/04/2018 12:16 PM

I'm pushing my memory a bit, but back in the late 80's early 90's they were working on form of a organic switch with that was light sensitive, with the possible use as a new type of transistor.

Memory's fuzzy as hell, but I recall something to the effect of the switch reacts with color a 0 as Green and a I for Red.... They were that it would that other then working at the speed of light, that there wouldn't be zero to no a resistance problem that also goes with eliminated a problem with heat.

Even at the time I realize how they would develop or integrate that. With yet another switch... or unless new technology would be developed that could.

Probably why I never heard anything about it since.

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