ASPEN, COLORO--Can innovation save us?
The Aspen Ideas Festival, celebrating its tenth anniversary this summer, is a place where the problems are ginormous but the answers grow like topsy.
Perhaps that explains why Thomson Reuters, best known for its news and data, put forth its "The World in 2025: 10 Predictions of Innovation" at the Aspen Institute's Ideas Fest, as the next round of inevitably parlous events comes into view. Issued by the company's Intellectual Property & Science unit, this particular crystal ball is made more prescient by the presence of data in the predictions--based on identifiable activity in the scientific literature, and patent information ensconced in Thomson Reuter databases and platforms.
First the prognosticators looked at the top ten fields of research based on the quantity of citations per paper--and core papers related to the topic at hand. In turn, patent literature was also winnowed down to expose key cumulative areas of innovation: disease prevention and control, medical treatment, pharmaceutical preparation, energy solutions, digital communications, multimedia devices and lighting, biotechnology instrumentation, particle physics, novel (nano) materials, and fundamental research in genetics.
The implications of these impending breakthroughs are anything but generic--everything from "dementia declines" to the Star Trekian "teleportation is tested" thanks to the scientific frenzy sparked by CERN's Large Hadron Collider.
In the area of dementia, according to Thomson Reuters: "A gene identification study on disorders of frontotemporal lobal degeneration was the most highly-cited piece of scientific literature over the last two years in this field." That kind of Intellectual Property & Science activity is nothing less than an early alert system for innovation.
The ten predictions also include the increasing prevalence, even dominance, of renewables via innovation in "harvesting, storing, and converting solar energy." Type 1 Diabetes will decline as scientists "demystify" the "RNA/DNA process of passing inherited genetic information from one generation to the next." Year-round crop growth will accelerate, driven by genetic crop modification and lighting and imaging technologies. Light-weight air transportation will take off, and cellulose-derived packaging will eclipse petroleum-based products. The toxicity of cancer treatments will wane, and the controversy over DNA mapping at birth to manage disease will be raging full-bore in 2025.
The Thomson Reuters report on innovation tells the unfolding story of science on the march, of the sharpest minds alive fashioning a world made malleable by the power of the intellect. Theirs is a happy, sanguine future, one that we can only hope to realize even as the clock ticks down to what is to come.