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The Golden Age of Science: When will it end?

  1. Jan 10, 2005 #1

    Ivan Seeking

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    As most of us know, we are currently in the midst of a fantastic explosion of information unlike any seen in human history. There has been speculation about an approaching "singularity" of information flow - really a nearly vertical spike in the rate of technological progress made as a function of time. So most discussions among futurists center on this approaching spike which is powered by modern electronics, and ultimately resulting from a confluence of nanotechnology, genetic engineering and manipulation, quantum processing, not to mention some of today's cutting edge physics, and maybe even a GUT.

    What I haven't read much about is when this might end. Kaku mentioned that we might find a GUT but it may take centuries to fully understand the implications. So the end is not really THE END, but it does seem that we are reaching limits in many respects. The smallest transistor has been built - having a base only three atoms thick [okay, maybe they'll figure out how to make it in two], so the transistor age is effectively over. We can manipulate atoms, one at a time, quantum computers will utilize the deepest aspects of reality to grab magical answers from Hilbert Space, the genome is a done deal, and gene splicing is now old stuff.

    So, how long until, in principle at least, we no longer need research projects or scientists? Oh yes, with quantum computers and AI, we can probably ditch the engineers as well. In fact, I wonder about what people will do? So much of modern life is basically doomed - the days are numbered. Even service jobs like McDonalds are soon to be gone. [I helped to develop one of the systems for the first automated Taco Bell]. It seems that post singularity economics will be something altogether new as well.

    Any futurists among us?
     
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  3. Jan 10, 2005 #2
    I think it's already over, our knowledge in most areas isn't really increasing any more, just becoming vastly more efficient.
     
  4. Jan 10, 2005 #3

    selfAdjoint

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    The explosion of new understanding in mathematics seems to be continuing; the late twentieth century was already termed a Golden Age of Math because of that.

    Biological knowledge, especially at the molecular level, seems to be doubling every few years; I suppose they will eventually reach a point where they understand every single biological interaction in paralyzing detail, but I don't think that will be any time soon.
     
  5. Jan 10, 2005 #4

    Evo

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    Ahah!!! So, when we're all being fed by machines we'll know who to blame!!! Actually, it might not be that bad, we won't have to worry anymore about someone spitting into our food. Did you remember to program the machines to pick the mice and roaches out of the food?

    Growing up I had friends that worked for Taco Bell and other fast food places talking about dishing mice out of the deep fryer that accidently fell in apparantly while crawling along the overhead ledge and roaches in the meat. But it's all protein, right?

    Give me a soft mouse taco...hold the roaches.
     
  6. Jan 10, 2005 #5
    Did we ever "need" research projects or scientists ???
     
  7. Jan 10, 2005 #6

    Chronos

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    The end is only in sight when you run out of imagination. Once all those annoying fundamental properties of nature are discovered, we can divert our attention to more interesting aspects of reality, like why you can't nail jello to a tree.
     
  8. Jan 10, 2005 #7

    Ivan Seeking

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    I told you how to nail jello to a tree, doggonnit, you freeze it! See, the end IS near!!!
     
  9. Jan 10, 2005 #8

    Ivan Seeking

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    Compared to the stuff that's supposed to go through those machines, that's really not so bad. Of course, we got to work with four day old refried beans that had been sitting in the shop. :yuck: [edit: If anyone would like to know about the intricacies of pumping and accurately squirting measured volumes of four day old refried beans, send me a PM.]

    Do you remember back in the early 70's when TB got busted for selling horse meat? Anyway, OT.
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2005
  10. Jan 10, 2005 #9

    Evo

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    Horse meat is popular in Europe. Especially Belgium and France, but also Sweden, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Austria and The Netherlands. Perhaps TB should consider franchises there? :biggrin:
     
  11. Jan 11, 2005 #10

    hypnagogue

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    Don't be so quick to ditch the engineers! If quantum computing pans out, we may well have virtually unlimited computational power at our fingertips. But computational power is only good for crunching the best algorithms you have. So far, no AI project has come close to approaching human intelligence. One significant reason seems to be that the brain is a pretty holistic operating mechanism; you can't easily abstract one piece of functionality if you want to get something as flexible as human intellect.

    When you think about it, discovering and understanding the relatively simple laws of physics is a somewhat modest task compared to trying to figure out the inner workings of the human brain, easily the most complex physical system we've yet encountered. We already do understand a lot of how the brain works, but being able to amass all the relevant pieces of the puzzle and then re-assemble them into a complete picture of how the human mind works is still a daunting task. Future advances in technology, particularly nanotechnology I think, might help us to eventually entirely reverse engineer the brain; but hammering out an abstract understanding of everything it does, and why it does it, would certainly still remain a significant and daunting further problem. Completely understanding the brain is probably the most difficult scientific task ahead of us, and I would bet it's going to take a long time to figure out, singularity or not.

    But don't quote me on that. :rolleyes:
     
  12. Jan 11, 2005 #11

    Gokul43201

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    Every so many years people start getting the feeling that the end of science is near.

    Near the end of the 1890s, the commissioner of the US Patent Office is said to have proclaimed that "Everything that can be invented has been invented"

    Chadwick's discovery of the neutron in 1932, heralded another short-lived period of similar thought among many, now that Relativity and Quantum mechanics had been established and all the constituents of the atom had been accounted for.

    Each time science has been able to come up with deeper questions and newer problems, the trail of which have led to wondrous and beautiful discoveries.

    Sorry folks, but if you're waiting for the end, prepare to hang around for the long haul.

    The woods are lovely, dark and deep ...
     
  13. Jan 11, 2005 #12
    Yay for lovely, dark, deep woods. PLenty of work for me to set to.
     
  14. Jan 11, 2005 #13

    Chronos

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    You speak as if you assume I never thought of that. The only way frozen jello works is if you freeze it with a hole through which to drive the nail. I protest that as a rule violation. You then have jello suspended by a nail driven into a tree, not jello nailed to a tree. Unless you have perfect geometry and timing, you cannot nail frozen jello to a tree without fracturing it... er, I never actually tried this myself. It just so happens I was sitting in the park one day when this guy wearing a carpenter's belt and carrying a cooler walked up to this tree I was under and... did I mention the part where the apple fell on my head?
     
  15. Jan 11, 2005 #14
    Exactly my thoughts!
     
  16. Jan 11, 2005 #15
    "If" is the key word here

    Hypnog, "If"is definitly th ekey word here. "If" humanity continues to survive and progress technologically, intellectually and emotionally onward into the future then all things possible are feasible for humanity to reproduce-- e.g. creation of biological life or baby universe --however, in this vast Universe we have not recieved any signals from other humanitys or other intellingent biologic life,

    ...we have no cofirmed vistors from the future either.

    It may be that humanity or intelleigent biologic life forms, here or elsewhere, have not or will not continue far enough into their futures to fufill those seeming impossible possibilites.

    Human like "Artificial Intelligence" may actually be potential savior of many biologic civilizations through out Universe as human intellect sometimes appears to be lacking what it takes for longterm survival much less technological advancement.

    Rybo
     
  17. Jan 11, 2005 #16

    hypnagogue

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    Of course, further advances are contingent upon the continued survival of our species. One can only hope.
     
  18. Jan 11, 2005 #17

    Moonbear

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    I didn't even know Taco Bell existed in the early 70's! I'm trying to remember when I heard of the first one opening up near my home...I might have already been out of high school. Anyway, best guess is the first time I heard of it was probably late 80s, early 90s. I thought they were a newer chain! :bugeye:

    I'd rather have horsemeat than roaches though. At least horsemeat is still meat!
     
  19. Jan 11, 2005 #18
    Tongans are pretty big on horse meat too...
     
  20. Jan 11, 2005 #19

    Ivan Seeking

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    Yes, I know horse meat is okay to eat, maybe even quite tasty - like a big, green, crunchy piece of frozen broccoli - but it was illegal and culturally unacceptable. Moonbear, I remember a TB near our house as early as the late 60's, so I checked.

    http://www.tacobell.com/

    This was just down the road from my home back then.

    Synthesis: It depends on how many people eat at TB. :biggrin:

    Funny, right now we are poised for something approaching immortality, with talk of 400+ year lifespans, or even more, and at the same time, potential extinction. Which way will it go? I can hardly wait to find out! Woudln't it be funny if we found the key to eternal life just as the planet dies? :rofl: Sounds like a German movie plot to me!!!

    When we have had these sorts of discussions in the past, most people do see us becoming borg-like.

    This is a strange thread. :biggrin:
     
  21. Jan 11, 2005 #20

    brewnog

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    Horse meat is beautiful!
     
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