Up Next: The Future


The monthly news magazine published by UBC has a neat little feature this month: they asked a handful of researchers to talk about interesting and futuristic-y developments in their field.

A nuclear weapon-free world would be nice, but I’m not holding my breath. I’m also extremely wary of psychology prof Elizabeth Dunn’s proposal to make enhancing subjective reported happiness “the explicit goal”of public policy. “I’m from the government and I’m here to make you happy” does not strike me a fruitful direction for public policy.

If we must have centralized control, how about systems that eliminate the need to drive:

We have now reached a stage, thanks in part to work on guided missiles, where camera systems can do a better job than the human eye and brain. Couple this with communication of precise positions and headings of vehicles in the vicinity and you have the possibility of safe, driverless vehicles operating over existing roads. There would be no need for traffic lights or signs and vehicles would hardly ever need to stop. A central control would normally manage all vehicle movements.

Finally, if there is one advancement on this list that I think will do most to enhance human welfare, it is professor Frank Ko’s work on tissue scaffolds:

Like the scaffolding we see on construction sites, the nano scaffolds are being created by Ko to reconstruct damaged tissue within the human body. Burn victims would benefit from scaffolds used to regenerate new skin. Those with failing heart valves or damaged nerves could count on scaffolds to regenerate these parts from within the patient’s own body. As healing progresses, the scaffold, being constructed from a biodegradable material, is absorbed and metabolized by the body while slowly releasing drugs to aid in the healing process.


Up Next: The Future

  1. I love driving and the prospect of self-driving vehicles makes me very sad indeed. It is one of the few ways to enjoy freedom in our hyper-regulated society and now they want to turn us into pod people who can’t do anything for ourselves. Down with driverless vehicle systems!

    • Don’t worry jwl, the new Ministry of Happiness will provide you with new and better outlets for joy.

    • jwl – I am proud to have found a subject of mutual interest and perspective and join you without reservation in denouncing the soul-sucking prospect of having someone else drive my vehicle for me. Maybe that’s what happens to ministers…(and that’s a non-denominational gratuitous slagging by the way).

  2. You guys ever driven in a third world country? Nepal, India? Complete freedom. It’s wonderful.

    • I have driven in China, where you are free to drive on any part of the road you want, free to hit any other cars, & free to get out, throw a temper tantrum and beat up the person you just drove into and free to cause traffic jams by driving in a completely selfishd & childlike fashion.

      Ahhh . . . the sweet smell of freedom. Or is that car exhaust?

      Speaking of China, I believe there is a “Ministry of Happiness” in the beaurocratic Chinese pantheon — the gods of longevity, happiness & salaries. But you have to give them bribes to achieve happiness. I suggest a similar functioning in our Ministry.

      I live in Regina, so I take the bus to have the freedom of not having to deal with Regina drivers. Or spending ten minutes scraping windows & digging out every morning.

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