By Prof. Vijay Page
Man's urge for scientific research and innovations has been guided for some time by basic instincts of survival and sustenance on one hand and acquisition and dominance on the other. Strategists and philosophers from Kuatilya and Aristotle to Machiavelli and Count Bismarc have influenced kings and rulers to support scientific pursuits for achieving their goals in military and political spheres. This has spurred many a scientists and innovators to spend years in search of some magic weapon or tool so as to dominate their brethren.
In earlier times, gold was the most sought after commodity, which led to long years of research aimed at converting other metals into gold. This craze has been dubbed as the "Alchemists movement", which helped development of chemistry and chemical processes right up to 17th and 18th Century. Then the chase was given up as futile while search for diamonds and other precious stones and metals continued. This pursuit helped development of other metals as well as processes of mining and production of synthetic diamonds as well as other precious metals like platinum. Thus, the path to scientific invention was initially led by the greed of man and his desire to conquer and seek dominance over others.
However, not all the inventions and discoveries can be traced to man's avarice. The untiring efforts of inventors of medicines and science to provide relief from pain and maximise pleasure and comfort to humans, have brought in thousands of new inventions for mankind. It took thousand years of research effort for man to fulfill the prophecy that "Carts will run without horses, fly without horses, and swim across the ocean without horses". This helped man conquer pain and even nature to some extent. The medicare advancement helped increase the longevity of man –virtually doubling it in this century itself. Thus, thank God for the science and the scientists, we have minimised pain, maximised pleasure and happiness while traveling far beyond the globe into space!
But have we reached the summit of science? Have we eliminated pain, hunger and poverty? Do we have enough of necessities to fulfill our wants/ desires so that no one sleeps on an empty stomach? For still, as Abraham Lincoln put it: "We have to wipe tears from every eye". And that power and comfort can only be provided by science. Undoubtedly, human will for care and compassion is necessary to deliver the fruits of science to the people. But science and technology provide the engine for growth of humanity so that the spirit can take over, for benefit of all.
It is this unfinished agenda, which we need to address, when we think about the "future of future". There is prediction that during this century, the population of earth will almost double to 12 billion plus earthlings. Since the space is available on our planet is finite, the specter of producing 2-3 times the present food grain output along with other necessities of life and goods and services of comfort offered by science, appears to be a very tough task. The present technology of food production will have to undergo drastic change if the yields have to be tripled while water and land will prove to be virtually insurmountable constraints. Similarly, we'll have to produce ten times present energy output to ensure current levels of consumption, a century later. This means that entirely new forms of energy sources have to be harnessed so as to power machines, which will help people travel without clash and conflict.
Thus, the focus areas for scientific research and investigations will be primarily in the following fields of enquires:
These are some of the critical areas of concern, which we need to address without delay and doubt so that the global youth can be networked to focus their energies in building a strong and viable global community, which can act in an universally acceptable synchronised mode to sustain peace and harmony in future. This inevitably, is the 'Future of Future', staring at us, waiting to be served for the survival of mankind.