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May 11th, 2009
Imagine tinier and tinier, ever more powerful computers. Cameras you can swallow to show your doctor the inside of your digestive tract. Airplanes that change shape in flight, like birds. Tabletop synthesizers that make useful items from raw materials whenever you want them. Surveillance cameras everywhere. Human cloning. Remote controls that let surgeons do delicate operations from the other side of the world. Huge colonies in space. Machines and prosthetics we can control just by thinking. Interactive games so vivid they're virtually indistinguishable from reality ...
Both exhilarating and terrifying possibilities lie not far ahead, and we all need to think about where we're going so we can avoid being blindsided and reap the rewards while avoiding the dangers. The convergences of the past, like small streams flowing together to form a great river, have created stronger currents that carry the potential for even faster and more dramatic changes as they converge in the near future. These include information technology, genetic engineering and biotechnology, nanotechnology (the manipulation of matter at the molecular level, which may allow manufacturing without factories as we know them), and cognitive science (how we know and learn).
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