Thursday, February 21, 2008

The 21st Century’s Greatest Engineering Challenges

According to the National Science Foundation. With the aid of several experts they have developed a list based on furthering human “sustainability, health, reducing vulnerability and joy of living”. Even better, they are asking everyone to vote on how to prioritize between these goals. Here’s my ranking system with comments (from lowest to highest)

14) Engineer the tools for scientific discovery (kinda vague, isn’t it?)

13) Enhance virtual reality (cool, great applications but not strictly necessary)

12) Reverse-engineer the brain (cool and I’m sure useful but not a big deal for me)

11) Advance personalized learning (YES! Again not strictly necessary but we really have to stop mass-producing education per a 20th century industrial society’s needs)

10) Manage the nitrogen cycle (I only ranked this one so low because I’m not sure why it would be useful – I might up its priority later)

9) Make solar energy affordable (This is kinda underway so I don't believe it rates a high priority for government action)

8) Provide energy from fusion (Not in top because I’m kinda sick of everyone talking about it and it never happening)

7) Advance health informatics (Better info goes hand in hand with better medicines)

6) Secure cyberspace (I would add a caveat that Security does not and should not equal Control. Nor does is there a provable inverse relationship between Security and Privacy.)

5) Provide access to clean water (It’s really sad that this is something that still needs to be done.)

4) Engineer better medicines (duh!)

3) Develop carbon sequestration methods (I put this ahead of the alternative, low-carbon power options because there will be a lot of holdover technologies still working even if solar & nuclear fusion are mass-adopted.)

2) Restore and improve urban infrastructure (Too many of the world’s cities were designed and laid out via long outmoded urban values and technologies.)

1) Prevent nuclear terror (I would remove the nuclear-specific aspect. Number one for me because if you don’t survive, you don’t do anything else)

Go cast your vote for the most important challenge.

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