Friday, September 04, 2009

How many scientists does it take to know all this stuff?

Two Newscientist articles that caught my attention this week were about our new "supernatural" abilities. The first one is on the global scale:

...geoengineering - the large-scale manipulation of the environment to counteract climate change - is now receiving serious attention from scientists, policy-makers and the media.

while the other is applied at the level of an individual gene:

...progress in neuroscience and genetics in recent years makes it [growing pain-free animals] a very real possibility.

The ratio between these two contrasting scales is about 100,000,000,000,000 - one hundred trillion. Just to think about the range of technologies people can deploy today is mind-boggling. In a few decades (or maybe a century) we'll be able to change the environment and change ourselves, for example genetically, to live in such an environment. Or vice versa. We'll change our genes to have even greater abilities to influence the space we live in. Most likely, Mars exploration will become possible not because of invention of new fuels or materials, but because of new genetic algorithms for building a different breed of humans, who can survive long stretches of hybernation, lack of food, water, or shelter.

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