Mind Over Matter in an Era of Convergent Technologies

Daniel L. Akins, City University of New York

Within the next 10 to 15 years, economically viable activities connected with nanoscience, bioscience, information technology, and cognitive science (NBIC) will have interlaced themselves within ongoing successful technologies, resulting in new and improved commercial endeavors. The impact of such eventualities would be enormous even if the emerging activities were developing independently, but with a range of synergies, their overlapping emergence and transitioning into the applied engineering arena promises to result in industrial products and technologies that stretch our imaginations to the point that they appear fanciful. Indeed, it is becoming more widely acknowledged that the potential of the new convergent NBIC technologies for influencing and defining the future is unlimited and likely unimaginable.

Nevertheless, leading personalities and recognized experts have attempted to gaze into the future as regards the character of the emerging technologies. What they herald are enterprises that dramatically impact mankind's physical environment, commerce, and, indeed, the performance of the human species itself. Intellectual leaders have divined some of the very likely near-term outcomes that will help determine the technologies that flourish beyond the 10-15-year timeframe. Examples of products of such technologies have ranged over the full panoply of futuristic outcomes, from unbelievably fast nanoprocessors to the creation of nanobots. Even more resolution to what we can anticipate is being provided in various forums associated with the present workshop focusing on NBIC technologies.

However, the emerging NBIC technologies — figuratively speaking, our starships into our future — will only take us as far as the skills of those who captain and chart the various courses. But acquisition of skills depends on many things, including most assuredly the existence of a positive social environment that allows creative juices to flow. As a result, educational issues, both pedagogy and people, surface as ingredients fundamental to the realization of successful technologies.

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