Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies

The IEET is a 501(c)3 non-profit, tax-exempt organization registered in the State of Connecticut in the United States. Please give as you are able, and help support our work for a brighter future.

Search the IEET
Subscribe and Contribute to:

Technoprogressive? BioConservative? Huh?
Quick overview of biopolitical points of view

whats new at ieet

NASA Can Get Humans to Mars by 2033 (Without a Budget Increase!)

Where does intelligence come from?

8th Beyond Humanism Conference

The Universal Balance of Gravity and Dark Energy Predicts Accelerated Expansion

What’s Killing the American Middle Class?

Rituals Improve Life According to Ancient Chinese Philosophers

ieet books

Philosophical Ethics: Theory and Practice
John G Messerly


almostvoid on 'Where does intelligence come from?' (May 26, 2016)

almostvoid on 'The Future of PR in Emotionally Intelligent Technology' (May 25, 2016)

almostvoid on 'Rituals Improve Life According to Ancient Chinese Philosophers' (May 25, 2016)

almostvoid on 'Optimize Brain Health by Balancing Social Life with Downtime' (May 23, 2016)

instamatic on 'Faithfulness--The Key to Living in the Zone' (May 22, 2016)

R Wordsworth Holt on 'These Are the Most Serious Catastrophic Threats Faced by Humanity' (May 22, 2016)

Giulio Prisco on 'Faithfulness--The Key to Living in the Zone' (May 22, 2016)

Subscribe to IEET News Lists

Daily News Feed

Longevity Dividend List

Catastrophic Risks List

Biopolitics of Popular Culture List

Technoprogressive List

Trans-Spirit List


Enframing the Flesh: Heidegger, Transhumanism, and the Body as “Standing Reserve”

Moral Enhancement and Political Realism

Intelligent Technologies and Lost Life

Hottest Articles of the Last Month

Ethicists Generally Agree: The Pro-Life Arguments Are Worthless
May 17, 2016
(4238) Hits
(10) Comments

Artificial Intelligence in the UK: Risks and Rewards
May 12, 2016
(3286) Hits
(0) Comments

Nicotine Gum for Depression and Anxiety
May 5, 2016
(3016) Hits
(0) Comments

3D Virtual Reality Is the Best Storytelling Technology We’ve Ever Had
May 5, 2016
(2836) Hits
(1) Comments

IEET > Security > SciTech > Life > Innovation > Vision > Futurism > Staff > Mike Treder

Print Email permalink (5) Comments (9279) Hits •  subscribe Share on facebook Stumble This submit to reddit submit to digg

Which technology will have the biggest impact on human life in the next 30 years?

Mike Treder
By Mike Treder
Ethical Technology

Posted: Apr 1, 2011

Over at New Scientist, they’ve chosen five emerging technologies that may have a big impact on the future of humanity during the next 30 years and have asked their readers to choose which will be the most significant of all. I’d like to find out how our readers’ opinions would compare with theirs.

We asked a similar question a few months ago in one of our polls, but then the focus was only on this current decade, between now and 2020. IEET readers chose bioengineering for the #1 spot, followed by nanotechnology, and then artificial intelligence:

old poll

But again, that was only an evaluation of the next 10 years, and what New Scientist is asking about is the next 30 years, between now and 2040. They’ve also identified different technologies than we asked about in our poll.

Here are the five emerging tech developments that they describe:

Synthetic biology: Genomic tweaking and global change.

From the production of polymers, chemicals and biofuels to use as biosensors or even computer components: the engineering of microbial genomes and the complex biochemical pathways extending from them will have far-reaching implications. The bacterial conversion of cellulose into ethanol may end our dependency on fossil fuels, while the expense of drug production may become limited to the cost of maintaining a fermenter and raw materials to grow the engineered microbe in, making medicine cheaper worldwide. The very big changes about to happen to our world will begin with the engineering of the very small.

Nanorobots fight the medical battles of the future.

Say the word “cancer” and people are fear-ridden. Projects being undertaken to harness nanotechnology and develop nanorobots to enter into the human body and repair cancerous cells, without the need for life-changing, disfiguring and painful chemotherapy, will have the greatest impact in the next 30 years. Watching loved ones suffer will become a thing of the past as the robots aid speedy recoveries, mortality rates drop, and as the technology is used more frequently, so will the cost, that oft-deciding factor. An enormous step forwards for all mankind, in the form of a microscopic creature.

Remote sensing and presence.

In the next 30 years the user’s sense of realism when employing digital connections will converge on the sense of actually being there. Control of a machine on location will add a sense of presence. In effect, geography will increasingly lose meaning. This will have profound implications for our way of life, particularly on commuting and travel. Furthermore, locally there will be significant economic and legal ramifications. Internationally, change will be slower, but the nation state is in fact a geographic monopoly and will be challenged by this development.

Machine translation unites the human race.

The development of real-time automatic voice translation systems. Because for the first time in human history it will be possible for people from all countries to naturally and easily communicate with each other, without any barriers. People that were previously isolated within their own cultures will be able to understand and enjoy the cultures of many other nations. No longer will people speaking different languages misunderstand each other, or be unable to communicate effectively. For thousands of years humans have wanted to naturally speak with each other, and finally this dream will be a reality.

Soul mates.

What could be greater than to replicate nature’s greatest feat of engineering? The possibility that, within the next 30 years, humanity will engineer the hardware and software required to build a computer that shows signs of consciousness. It is an idea explored extensively by science fiction, but given that the current scientific understanding of self-awareness resides in the actions of chemicals and neurons, should the development of a conscious computer be anything other than inevitable? This birth of a new, nascent, alien intelligence in the universe would have potentially the single most momentous impact on civilisation imaginable.

So, let’s do a comparison. The New Scientist poll runs until April 12, 2011. We’ll conduct the same poll for IEET readers between now and April 12 and find out if there is any difference between the opinions of our readers and theirs. Please cast your vote!

Mike Treder is a former Managing Director of the IEET.
Print Email permalink (5) Comments (9280) Hits •  subscribe Share on facebook Stumble This submit to reddit submit to digg


IMHO, the current technology that will most change us between now and 2030 will be programmable nano microprocessors. They will be the building blocks that feed into the other technologies, such as the ones listed. They are fuel-like, a component. When we look back we’ll realize their development was on par with the discovery of DNA.

I’m not sure if my first choice falls into those categories.
Without a doubt, I’d say brain computer interfaces.
But I voted for remote sensing and presence, as that seems like the closest fit.

my vote is for the medical nanobots because life extension is so desirable.  Synthetic biology gets a close second for the same reason.

I voted for synthetic biology not because it is potentially the most disruptive, but because I think during that time frame it will have more impact on the world then the others.

Bursting MRSA’s bubble : Using Nanotech to fight drug resistant bacteria - Scientific American


YOUR COMMENT (IEET's comment policy)

Login or Register to post a comment.

Next entry: Big Support for Anonymous from IEET Readers

Previous entry: The Rise of Personal Robots


RSSIEET Blog | email list | newsletter |
The IEET is a 501(c)3 non-profit, tax-exempt organization registered in the State of Connecticut in the United States.

East Coast Contact: Executive Director, Dr. James J. Hughes,
56 Daleville School Rd., Willington CT 06279 USA 
Email: director @     phone: 860-428-1837

West Coast Contact: Managing Director, Hank Pellissier
425 Moraga Avenue, Piedmont, CA 94611
Email: hank @