Any of the genetic/medical things will (IMHO) have annoyingly slow progress. The body is an incredibly complex system (duh), one I think that will defy efforts to "reverse engineer" is (so to speak).
Put it this way: we need massive amounts of computing power just to figure out the shape of proteins, which is important to figure out what they react to and how. Extending that to figuring out the interactions and it gets even more complicated.
I also believe that nothing will replace the convenience of (largely) non-volatile fuels to the point where considerable effort will be spent to make artificial fuels viable. Giant tubs of algae making them, fuel trees (Anathem), that sort of thing.
As much as I like the idea of a space elevator, I'm not sure how viable it is. Firstly, just to create a material strong enough to withstand the forces involved is still something largely theorized about (buckeyballs notwithstanding). It will also be incredibly costly to produce. Imagine what acts of terror could do to that.
I see the future of mass long-distance travel being underground vacuum trains. It's a huge engineering effort but would solve so many problems (eg air congestion, travel times).
And as much as it depresses me I don't see a big future in space. The economics are terrible (particularly for interstellar travel). IIRC I read that getting one ton of spacecraft to the nearest star system accelerating to 10% of the speed of light would require roughly 10^18 joules of energy or roughly 1kg (being 0.1% of the total mass) of matter being converted to energy perfectly. And this assumes you've solved the reaction mass problem.
Some folks blame not meat but factory farmed meat for the modern epidemic in heart disease (Eskimos had a mostly meat diet with no heart disease - at least at one time). It's hard to imagine vat-meat as healthier than factory farmed meat.
The effect of this technology seem both really exciting,and really frightening(millions of the poorest losing their job).
I don't think this will happen if the universe has taught me one thing its that things tend to take the least path of resistance. If anything I think the future will be a realized matrix, in that increasing the fidelity of the current internet.
"Great, now we have a space-borne cable slicing through the Earth's crust. Oops."
Faster driving = less gas mileage, and if driverless cars dramatically lowers the opportunity cost of driving people may be encouraged to put even more miles on their car. Wouldn't that all increase air pollution? Don't get me wrong, I think the other benefits are enormous, but am I missing something obvious?
Edit: Thanks for the great answers below.
Also note that self-driven cars can park themselves and shut off the engine to avoid congestion instead of simply sitting in a slow-moving queue at a "metering light".
Also if self driving cars became the norm, I could see a lot of automobile usage becoming similar to a "taxi" situation where the nearest car picks you up, and you could opt for an economical plan where the car picks up passengers going the same way.
At this point it's just speculation because nobody knows what kind of novel usage patterns and macro effects we'll see if driverless automobiles become the norm. We just know it will be a huge net positive in the long run. If only for the millions of truck drivers who would be unemployed and hopefully quickly re-employed doing something else useful.
But to your point, most people who drive trucks actually use the bed maybe a dozen times a year, and many people who have high occupancy vehicles take far more trips with only themselves or 1 additional passenger than they do fully loaded.
Single occupancy vehicles aren't practical for most people because they need a larger car some of the time, but if you don't own it you're free to request whatever vehicle you need right then.
Going to work by yourself--lightweight single occupancy. Picking up the kids--minivan.
Not in the places with lots of population density.
For example, SF may have more cars than parking spaces. It certainly doesn't have 5x as many.
> I bet we could at least cut that in half with autonomous cars, making
almost no difference.
For example, I have two parking spaces. One on the street in front of my house and the other in my backyard. The latter isn't going away and the former won't make any difference.
It would take much analysis and user studies to see if effects like this that encourage people to drive more or car sharing effects will dominate. But reducing air pollution definitely is not a foregone conclusion.
I like FPGAs too though and am definitely egging them on, but winning may involve somehow smuggling them into something mass produced, which may be a problem since mass produced hardware will usually prefer an ASIC. We will see.
Coolest technology I had never heard of: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-reconfiguring_modular_robo...
"A long-standing urban legend maintains that Disney was cryogenically frozen, and his frozen corpse stored beneath the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland. In fact, Disney was cremated on December 17, 1966, and his ashes interred at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. The first known human cryogenic freezing did not occur until January 1967, more than a month after Disney's death."
The lady with the arm has a 96 electrode implant.. you could probably type with that many electrodes.
Seems to me its just a matter of getting more electrodes in there and/or doing more training in order to be able to interface with an exocortex.
I think if people are less afraid of sticking things in their brains, things would look a lot more like a cyberpunk novel already.
rec.arts.sf.* would be able to give book titles, authors, and probably page numbers too.
It'd be interesting to keep the article to read it in 5 / 10 / 50 years.
We all were in awe when hearing the amazing stuff the other teams where working on – definitely one of the coolest classes I have ever taken!
More exciting than the moon landing or the Facebook IPO!