December 18, 2005

25 unanswered scientific questions (and some of my own)

To celebrate the 125th anniversary of its founding by Thomas Edison, the journal Science asked more than 100 of the world's top scientists what they thought were the 25 most important scientific questions likely to be answered in the next 25 years. Here's the list:
-How does consciousness arise?
-Why the small number of human genes?
-What the universe is made of?
-To what extent are genetic variation and personal health linked?
-Can the laws of physics be unified?
-How much can the human life span be extended?
-What controls organ regeneration?
-How can a skin cell become a nerve cell?
-How does a single somatic cell become a whole plant?
-How does Earth's interior work?
-Are we alone in the universe?
-How and where did life on Earth arise?
-What determines species diversity?
-What genetic changes made us uniquely human?
-How are memories stored and retrieved?
-How did cooperative behavior evolve?
-How will big pictures emerge from a sea of biological data?
-How far can we push chemical self-assembly?
-What are the limits of conventional computing?
-Can we selectively shut off the immune responses?
-Do deeper principles underlie quantum uncertainty and non-locality?
-Is an effective HIV vaccine feasible?
-How hot will the greenhouse world be?
-What can replace cheap oil, and when?
-Will Thomas Malthus (who predicted that overpopulation could lead to a global disaster) continue to be wrong?
Critical questions missing (some of my questions are quasi socio-scientific, with some of them probably unanswerable in the next 25 years):
-Will there be a technological singularity event and when?
-Will artificial superintelligence arise, and if so, will it be benign or malign?
-Will we be able to responsibly manage molecular assembling nanotechnology?
-Will human civilization continue to survive into the 21st Century and ward of the growing number of existential risks?

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