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US Looks For Input On "The Next Big Things" 309

Posted by samzenpus
from the talking-fruit dept.
coondoggie writes "What are the next big things in science and technology? Teleportation? Unlimited clean Energy? The scientists and researchers at DARPA and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy put out a public call this week for ideas that could form what they call the Grand Challenges — ambitious yet achievable goals that that would herald serious breakthroughs in science and technology."
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US Looks For Input On "The Next Big Things"

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 11, 2012 @12:34AM (#41615867)

    We always want to know what's next, what's the exciting thing we can dream will solve all our problems. But we don't want to finance it. And we don't want to finance the basic research for those big things without promise of a payoff.

    • by MrEricSir (398214) on Thursday October 11, 2012 @12:39AM (#41615903) Homepage

      We always want to know what's next, what's the exciting thing we can dream will solve all our problems. But we don't want to finance it. And we don't want to finance the basic research for those big things without promise of a payoff.

      These types of challenges encourage private financing. If it spurs innovation and costs very little to the taxpayer, what's the problem?

      And no, I'm not saying we shouldn't fund science grants. The two aren't mutually exclusive.

      • Too much emphasis has been put into basic research.

        I am not pooh-pooh the basic research, but we outta understand that basic research is just one of the many kinds of research out there.

        Japan leapfrogged Europe and USA back in the 1970's to 1980's by NOT focussing on basic research. They just took what the West had researched and applied the knowledges to the things they made.

        And now China and India are doing what Japan did 30 years ago.

        • Re:Research (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Electricity Likes Me (1098643) on Thursday October 11, 2012 @02:02AM (#41616225)

          Too much emphasis has been put into basic research.

          Clearly a quote from someone not working in research. The problem facing research and development today is that there is not nearly enough focus on basic research - everything is about immediate, applied applications - which is the highest risk type of research you can do, since the goal is "build a very specific thing". And it doesn't broaden your horizons since you're aiming at specific targets informed by existing theory.

      • by smaddox (928261)

        Exactly. Probably the most important advancement currently being pursued is self-driving cars. Google/Stanford are getting very close. It's only a matter of time. And guess what? It started as a DARPA challenge. The first couple of contests were a complete bust, but eventually advancements were made, and then Google took over.

        • by lxs (131946)

          How do you figure that building a Johnnycab [youtube.com] is the most important technology advancement being pursued today? It's a solution to a problem that doesn't exist.

          • So all those people killed or injured in road accidents don't exist?

        • by PopeRatzo (965947)

          Probably the most important advancement currently being pursued is self-driving cars.

          "Most important advance"?

          You think it's more important to be able to text in your front seat on the way to work or to not have to put $50 in the gas tank every morning?

          • Or reduce the road accident rate to essentially zero?
          • Probably the most important advancement currently being pursued is self-driving cars.

            "Most important advance"?

            You think it's more important to be able to text in your front seat on the way to work or to not have to put $50 in the gas tank every morning?

            The real point of self-driving cars is NOT to allow people to Facebook or whatever in their own cars while driving to work.

            It's to allow taxis to operate at much the same cost per journey as a private, passenger-driven car. Cheap taxis would solve a fair number of the problems caused by 'car dependence', what happens to the people who cannot drive for whatever reason.

    • by Dr Max (1696200) on Thursday October 11, 2012 @01:08AM (#41616031)
      But you guys defiantly want to patent it. Good thing for you is you don't need to research it or fund it, just write a brief paragraph about your dream then sue whoever does the hard work.
    • by lightknight (213164) on Thursday October 11, 2012 @03:41AM (#41616675) Homepage

      How about attaching a prize / royalties / some sort of agreement that actually makes pursuing some of the riskier ventures feasible? When cracking cold fusion or solving world hunger only nets you a cool million, there isn't a lot of motivation to achieve them. And that's a major problem these days -> everyone wants to be cheap, offering up intangibles (15 minutes of fame on an evening broadcast, a standing ovation, and a medal) that are kind of a bad joke for the time, effort, and energy spent on creating those solutions.

      Even on kaggle.com, which deals with finding / creating new algorithms, there is only one prize (the health prize) that come anywhere near tickling my fancy. $x0,000 to develop a new Kinect algorithm? What? MS is smoking some serious dope. Here is a company that is bringing in billions in revenue, quarterly, and potentially millions more if they can get a killer app for their little device, and they want it for less money than a decent car. I can't tell, did our current generation of 'business' 'leaders' go full retard? Who instructed them to act like this, and why? Seriously, I want to know which business school(s) they graduated from, so I can forbid my children to attend them.

      Looking back in history, when Benjamin Franklin and friends were around, you were rewarded (heavily) for your inventions. The inventors, who came up with neat inventions, and allowing for the occasional Edison, got PAID. And until inventors start getting PAID again, humanity's progress will remain at a stand-still, or rather, a mediocre pace.

      • by Alex Belits (437) *

        Looking back in history, when Benjamin Franklin and friends were around, you were rewarded (heavily) for your inventions. The inventors, who came up with neat inventions, and allowing for the occasional Edison, got PAID. And until inventors start getting PAID again, humanity's progress will remain at a stand-still, or rather, a mediocre pace.

        For every "inventor getting PAID" they had millions failing and dying from typhus. What was perfectly acceptable in a society where you are millions times more likely to die from typhus rather than succeeding in anything notable anyway. Mankind made some significant progress since then in the area of not letting people die from typhus, however you still have to somehow kill millions of unsuccessful inventors to get one successful and rich. Otherwise society will have to somehow support the unsuccessful ones

      • by PopeRatzo (965947)

        Looking back in history, when Benjamin Franklin and friends were around, you were rewarded (heavily) for your inventions. The inventors, who came up with neat inventions, and allowing for the occasional Edison, got PAID.

        Yeah, rewarded with about 100 times what the average person was worth. Not with 50,000,000 times.

        I love the fact that you start your comment by scoffing at a million dollars.

        Maybe we need some basic research into how to deal with all the negative social consequences of wealth disparity.

        • Although I understand what you're saying, I think the GP's issue is when you have to spend billions to get something like cold fusion working, then a million seems kind of anticlimactic.
          • by PopeRatzo (965947) on Thursday October 11, 2012 @08:35AM (#41618023) Homepage Journal

            Although I understand what you're saying, I think the GP's issue is when you have to spend billions to get something like cold fusion working, then a million seems kind of anticlimactic.

            And my issue is that when you "have to spend billions" it should be public research.

            We're seeing too many cases of human beings being held hostage to proprietary technology.

            How many people would be dead if mosquito netting or the Salk vaccine would have been patented?

            If you look at the advances that have led to the world around you, how many of those were the result of a corporation "spending billions" and how many of them had basic research done with public funding?

  • by GrpA (691294)

    I want to see a grand challenge to develop Plasma Rifles... And not the "Halo" kind, but a follow-on from the early development projects of the 1990's.

    • Do you really think humans need more ways to kill each other?
      • by GrpA (691294)

        Do you really think humans need more ways to kill each other?

        Yes. Because the more ways we have to kill each other, the less we are likely to use them...

      • Actually, we already have homemade portable rail guns, and lasers powerful enough to kill the things at which you point them. (Search gizmag.com for examples.)

        In comparison, a plasma rifle -- even in the 40-watt range -- would probably be rather ineffective.
    • Should they come in a 40 watt range?

      I may close up early today.

      • by GrpA (691294)

        Actually, a militarily functional rifle would need to be in the 12kW range with a total capacity of at least 36 kW-seconds.

        That equates roughly to the performance level of a modern M4.

        GrpA

  • by PPH (736903) on Thursday October 11, 2012 @12:37AM (#41615889)

    ... are hard to make. Particularly about the future.

    • by Dantoo (176555)

      Well I would like them to find a way to make Pizza taste as good the day after. Nothing you can do with it seems to bring back the consistency, aroma and taste that it has when it first hits the table.

      I confidently make a prediction that this will never happen.

      • Re:Predictions ... (Score:5, Informative)

        by MachDelta (704883) on Thursday October 11, 2012 @01:29AM (#41616101)

        Nuke it for 1/2-2/3rds the time you normally would, then finish it in the oven/toaster oven on broil.

        It might take a few tries but you can get pretty close.

        • by smaddox (928261)

          I prefer to put it straight into the toaster oven on toast. It comes out crispier than fresh, so not exactly the same, but incredibly delicious.

      • The mark of a truly great Pizza is one that still tastes good cold the next day! After the flavors have had overnight (hopefully in the fridge) to ameliorate, the true flavor of the pizza comes out (either great or not so much). Just like Potato Salad, it tastes much better on the 2nd day after it's made (again, refrigerate to avoid food poisoning!).

        As for reviving it, try using "defrost" on the microwave. Micros explode the cells of the food and give things an odd flavor, by using "defrost" you don't le

    • ... are ridiculously easy to make. Particularly about the future.

      Correct predictions, on the other hand, are a completely different matter.
  • simple things (Score:5, Insightful)

    by the_Bionic_lemming (446569) on Thursday October 11, 2012 @12:44AM (#41615921)

    How bout -

    1. Cheap and easy ways to clean water for the world
    2. Cheap and easy ways to provide light for the world
    3. Cheap and easy ways to feed the world
    4. Cheap and easy ways to maintain sanitation
    5. Cheap and easy ways to provide education to the world.

    That's what I'd like to see a focus on. Unfortunately, we're spending money on forcing the chevy volt on the world instead.

    • by khallow (566160)

      1. Cheap and easy ways to clean water for the world
      2. Cheap and easy ways to provide light for the world
      3. Cheap and easy ways to feed the world
      4. Cheap and easy ways to maintain sanitation
      5. Cheap and easy ways to provide education to the world.

      All solved problems. Just use the developed world approach. A couple centuries ago, most of the developed world was as least as bad off as the Third World is now. What changed is that they built the infrastructure which allowed all that. It might not be as cheap and easy as you'd like, but it is cheap and easy enough.

    • by gQuigs (913879)

      Donate some CPU cycles to the cause:

      There are World Community Grid projects for Clean Sustainable Water, Energy, and fighting lots of diseases. They previously had projects looking into improving the nutritious content in rice. http://www.worldcommunitygrid.org/ [worldcommunitygrid.org]

      It's powered by BOINC. http://boinc.berkeley.edu/ [berkeley.edu] which also let's you donate to so many other worthy projects. http://boinc.berkeley.edu/projects.php [berkeley.edu]

    • How bout -

      1. Cheap and easy ways to clean water for the world
      2. Cheap and easy ways to provide light for the world
      3. Cheap and easy ways to feed the world
      4. Cheap and easy ways to maintain sanitation
      5. Cheap and easy ways to provide education to the world.

      Yeah, the last Savior only took care of the first three.

      • How bout -

        1. Cheap and easy ways to clean water for the world 2. Cheap and easy ways to provide light for the world 3. Cheap and easy ways to feed the world 4. Cheap and easy ways to maintain sanitation 5. Cheap and easy ways to provide education to the world.

        Yeah, the last Savior only took care of the first three.

        That's alright - the Romans did the other two :)

    • by rtb61 (674572)

      The next great goal is blindingly obvious and when we start solving it many problems created by our activities will be resolved, 'GRAVITY'. A real understanding of gravity and the direct manipulation of gravitic fields or gravitons, will make a lot of technological dreams possible and now war required, simply the desire to expand humanity to the other planets in our system as well the orbits about them. Cheaply and effectively getting high mass objects out of our pesky gravity well the obvious goal. Likely

      • Re:simple things (Score:4, Interesting)

        by DarenN (411219) on Thursday October 11, 2012 @06:25AM (#41617331) Homepage

        I personally think that the great breakthrough that would change everything is energy storage that is significantly more energy dense (orders of magnitude) than the batteries we have today, chargeable, and stable.

        Think Heinlein's Shipstones and you've got the idea. Anyone who managed this would need to spend the first half of the money to build somewhere big enough to store the second half of the money.

    • Re:simple things (Score:4, Interesting)

      by lobiusmoop (305328) on Thursday October 11, 2012 @03:16AM (#41616567) Homepage

      I'd settle for a cheap and easy male contraception pill. If that came on the global market soon then I think the other 5 problems you mention would disappear within 25 years.

    • by Hentes (2461350) on Thursday October 11, 2012 @03:40AM (#41616673)

      2. Cheap and easy ways to provide light for the world

      Windows?

    • None of those things require scientific breakthroughs. The technologies already exist.

      What's stopping us doing those simple things? Politics: corruption, caprice, ideology, handouts to special interest groups, denying ownership rights in land, failure to regulate lenders (120% p.a. interest anyone? Become a poor farmer in rural Bihar), failure to make elemetary investments in roads, water management, health and education. Most of the problems are in "third world" countries themselves, but Europe and North A

    • Next big thing?

      The iPhone 5s

    • by Confuse Ed (59383)

      for 1-4, In parallel we really need to solve the much more difficult http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parkinson's_law [wikipedia.org] problem first re: overpopulation.

      Otherwise the more food and water an area can provide in a perfect scenario the greater the end suffering will be when some inevitable problems occurs and the now larger population's demand's exceed what the land can supply : either due to war, drought/crop-failure or just the feedback delay between successfully increasing child survival rate and there being a ba

    • Re:simple things (Score:4, Insightful)

      by evilviper (135110) on Thursday October 11, 2012 @08:25AM (#41617949) Journal

      1. Running water through two meters of sand will filter out nearly all contaminants. It's something any local can do, and costs next to nothing. Instead all kinds of NGOs spend money on fancy, high-tech devices, which require maintenance and replacement, so they just perpetuate a cycle of dependency.

      4. Build a toilet (basically a bucket) with a vent pipe which will allow liquids to dry up quickly. Then throw in a small amount of started microbes (for composting toilets). Odor is minimal, and when the toilet is full, it can be dumped out as benefitial compost, and start again with some more microbes. Local production of microbes should make it sufficiently cheap that it'll be easily affordable.

      5. Digital electronics, and cell phones in particular, are making this a reality, right now. A little effort by a group of educators to produce the simplest and easiest collection of useful information, tailored to various regions, is just about all that is necessary to get the ball rolling.

      If you want to criticize automobile reasearch, complain about the money wasted on ethanol and hydrogen, when everyone knew it was a pointless distraction and dead end. Electric vehicles like the Chevy Volt are the future, and a future where there's less demand for oil means a future where despotic regimes which repress their people will see their funds dwindling, hopefully enough that they'll be unable to maintain their power.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 11, 2012 @12:46AM (#41615941)

    Then we can worry about what kind of toys we want to play with.

  • by gweihir (88907) on Thursday October 11, 2012 @12:54AM (#41615971)

    Breakthroughs cannot be planned. You can put a whole lot of smart people to work, give them everything they want, and maybe you will get lucky. But any attempt to plan and direct breakthroughs will only serve to prevent them. That was one of the lessons from the soviet economy. Don't people ever listen?

    • by fearofcarpet (654438) on Thursday October 11, 2012 @02:14AM (#41616303)

      Breakthroughs cannot be planned. You can put a whole lot of smart people to work, give them everything they want, and maybe you will get lucky. But any attempt to plan and direct breakthroughs will only serve to prevent them. That was one of the lessons from the soviet economy. Don't people ever listen?

      I think the Manhattan Project and the Apollo Program worked pretty well. Ditto for the oodles of federal dollars targeted at semiconductor technology in the mid 20th Century. Anti-retro-viral drugs were most certainly the result of large amounts of targeted funding. There are entire foundations dedicated to funding research for a specific type of cancer and survival rates have gone up dramatically as a result. I'll grant you that you cannot predict where or when a major discovery will occur, but with finite resources, research must be directed. Research funding is, in every country, highly targeted because a breakthrough will never occur in a field in which no one is working.

    • But any attempt to plan and direct breakthroughs will only serve to prevent them.
      What about nuclear energy or getting to the moon? These were planned and heavily directed breakthroughs.
      Breakthroughs cannot be planned
      Is this really true? Modern industry is full of examples where breakthroughs have been planned.
      You can put a whole lot of smart people to work, give them everything they want, and maybe you will get lucky.
      Isn't this also a form of planning? Maybe we should say that breakthroughs c
      • by Nevynxxx (932175)

        No. The funding came *after* the inital breakthrough which was pure basic science.

        People looked at what Bhor had shown, and what Enstein had shown and said, if we put money into this we can make power, or bombs.

        Without the pure basic research that came before it, we'd have nothing.

  • Free Market (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mfwitten (1906728)

    So, Government takes my money under penalty of violence and then spends it asking "So, uh, what exactly should we do with all this money?"

    Solutions are best found through variation and selection, processes that are quashed and stifled by central planning; the power structure should be decentralized and localized as much as possible, and that is precisely the point of the Free Market.

    • Re:Free Market (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Black Parrot (19622) on Thursday October 11, 2012 @02:08AM (#41616269)

      So, Government takes my money under penalty of violence and then spends it asking "So, uh, what exactly should we do with all this money?"

      Solutions are best found through variation and selection, processes that are quashed and stifled by central planning; the power structure should be decentralized and localized as much as possible, and that is precisely the point of the Free Market.

      Yeah, 'cause everyone knows business are just lining up for an opportunity to spend their money on the kind of basic research the Federal government has funded for the past 60-70 years.

    • Re:Free Market (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fearofcarpet (654438) on Thursday October 11, 2012 @02:26AM (#41616363)

      Solutions are best found through variation and selection, processes that are quashed and stifled by central planning; the power structure should be decentralized and localized as much as possible, and that is precisely the point of the Free Market.

      The Free Market has no idea how to conduct scientific research or to do anything that requires long-term planning; markets are excellent at efficiency and optimizations for short-term gains. Look at the pharmaceutical industry, which is constantly complaining that the early stages of drug-discovery are too costly and risky and that it should be the responsibility of universities to find promising targets because they don't work under the pressure of quarterly earnings reports and shareholder value.

      That is, in fact, the basic model of technology transfer; academic labs (funded by centralized federal agencies!!!) do high-risk, fundamental research. When someone runs into a "hit," venture capitalists fund their start-up. Most fail, but the few that succeed bring us amazing innovations, and are usually absorbed by a larger company to whom you credit the discovery and jump up and down screaming "Free Market! Free Market!"

      Do you know how science was done before the scary Government started pooling our collective resources and directing them towards research efforts? Only rich people were allowed to do science, they were self-funded, and they generally got into it as a means to become famous. Where would a middle-class guy like Einstein have wound up without government funding?

    • Re:Free Market (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mozumder (178398) on Thursday October 11, 2012 @04:16AM (#41616827)

      So, Government takes my money under penalty of violence and then spends it asking "So, uh, what exactly should we do with all this money?"

      Solutions are best found through variation and selection, processes that are quashed and stifled by central planning; the power structure should be decentralized and localized as much as possible, and that is precisely the point of the Free Market.

      Still amazes me that there are people that still think that the "free market" is capable of doing anything.

      Government is far more efficient than private industry at doing things.

      It is why mail costs 50 cents to deliver via government, instead of $15 via UPS.

      Solutions are best found centrally, through planned governments activities. The only thing the "free market" does is introduce inefficiencies through profit. Variation and selection are economic wastes, when you can just arrive at the solution directly.

      Let's NEVER speak of the "free market" ever again. It is just a simple idea from people that never went to college and do not know anything about economics.

      The more government control, the better. We statists always cause the economy to expand.

  • And it's very hard to subvert that. Whatever kind of technology you give to them, it _will_ be used to kill people first, then maybe for other users.

    Other ideas which would be beneficial to the world will probably be ignored. I mean the US is spending close to $700 Billion on "defence". If you'd simply divide that by 7 Billion (number of people), you can give everyone $100 a year, enough to afford them basic education. Or we could probably even settle on the moon and work on interstellar flight.

    • by jittles (1613415)

      You really have a bone to pick with the US Military complex don't you? First of all, not everything funded by DARPA is for the purpose of killing. Perhaps it can be used to help people kill others, but a lot of the time, money and effort they spend goes towards protecting troops. You may argue that we need less military, but if we are going to have one, they might as well be as safe as we can make them. They are working on driverless cars and supply carrying robots precisely so that humans do not have to

    • by Tom (822)

      Whatever kind of technology you give to them, it _will_ be used to kill people first, then maybe for other users.

      Which is why they invented this thing a few people use every now and then. I think they call it the Internet or something.

  • Why shouldn't we give our billion dollar ideas away?
    And who is more deserving than our military establishment?

  • We need to invest in increasing Internet transmission speeds. There are a lot of reasons high speed internet everywhere in the USA and then eventually abroad would be a great investment. For one it would create a lot of jobs to get such a system in place and build a Internet that will have future proof speeds for years to come.

    Already people are watching more streaming media than ever before, youtube, netflix, the list goes on. There are numerous other benefits, such as various businesses able to work
  • 3d Printing (Score:4, Funny)

    by zbobet2012 (1025836) on Thursday October 11, 2012 @01:24AM (#41616089)
    Dunderheads. We are on our way to being able to print anything we need. 3d printing will probably make traditional manufacturing a bygone technology in the next twenty years.
    • by necro81 (917438)

      Dunderheads. We are on our way to being able to print anything we need. 3d printing will probably make traditional manufacturing a bygone technology in the next twenty years.

      Spoken by someone who, I am willing to guess, has never actually worked in manufacturing. As a practicing engineer, I use 3D printing technology on a near-daily basis. It's great for all kinds of things, but it isn't a wholesale replacement for traditional manufacturing. You aren't about to 3D print a car anytime soon, or even the

  • by AdmiralXyz (1378985) on Thursday October 11, 2012 @01:29AM (#41616105)
    Oh wait, some NPE just sued me for patent violation. Never mind, guess I'll go develop it in some other country.
  • The Metric System? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Everything Else Was (786676) on Thursday October 11, 2012 @01:30AM (#41616113)
    Enough said...
  • by Ice Tiger (10883) on Thursday October 11, 2012 @01:36AM (#41616135)

    So money can be spent on innovation rather than lawyers?

  • by AHuxley (892839) on Thursday October 11, 2012 @02:14AM (#41616297) Homepage Journal
    1. Lack of safe drinking water. - a solar panel, 2 filters, a UV filter - can make water for 100's.
    Beyond that you need to build it right.
    2. Continuously monitors an individual's personal health-related data - big blood test at a clinic - chip system once problem area is found.
    3. Generates off-grid water and energy for a small village derived from human and organic waste. NGOs have had this for years and years...
    Small and large scale, gas, solar in a box, wind, led....
    4. Autonomous underwater vehicle - NSA and US nuclear subs/mini subs have done that many times...
    5. At risk foster children - read the stats on state abuse and care, spend cash on better care.
    6. Invasive and brain sounds like infection and risks low moral - better to surround the head and fit a super computer near the "pilot".
    7. Distances greater than 200 miles - sounds like an isolated fire base is running low on juice? Air to air can get close, if you have distances greater than 200 miles that are not yours, you have a mini Stalingrad and are losing ... energy is then a small issue.
    The bad guys can usually work out where the juice is going too.. not the best idea.
    8. Point-to-point passenger travel system - give cash to France and the UK - they did Concorde right vs the flying tourist bus and sr71...
    9. Optical networks - if the US let basic blue sky optical research slip to need to ask that question - game over. Buy from South Korea, China, Brazil, South Africa, Ireland when they have a product to sell...
    10. A mainstream platform for low-cost fabrication and packaging of systems on a chip for communications, sensing, medical, energy, and defense applications? You have the internet '2' - thats fast- communications, sensing, medical, energy, and defense applications your Universities can pump that out with funding any day of the week... US telco/medical 'brains' are one area that the US has covered many times over.
    "low-cost fabrication" is the Soviet Union in the 1980's question - pay more+++++ for sealed local labs or let Australia, UK, Canada, NZ bid for trusted sealed labs - If your "defense applications" need "mainstream platform" something has gone wrong with your massive hardline mil optical/sat networks- too expensive? not looked after? too much data been collected? Only loser countries like Australia are poor and have to mix "mainstream platform" and "defense applications"...a very strange question for the USA to have to consider.
    11. "high-bandwidth free-space communication, laser strike, and defense against missiles?" Just like the US did in the 1960's70's80's90's - spend lots of cash on sats, think big, send lots and lots up.. Get next gen "Cray, IBM, Honeywell" to place massive amounts of CPU power in Australia, UK, Canada, NZ as the raw data flows... use massive new optical/sat networks to send data back to the US in small sorted encrypted amounts ... spend big to rule the world... its not hard work - ask the NSA for ideas.
    12. Cost parity across the nation's electric grid for solar power - the US lost its solar in early 1980's when solar was removed from the White House.
    Any US public investment in that area will be in a lab in Germany, France, Spain, South Africa, Brazil, China in a month and been mass produced under old and new brands months later. If the US wants solar, offer real cash buy back from solar homes (FIT), stop states from over charging for site 'engineering'/'code' inspections adding $1000's onto costs. Buy in China and watch US suburbia be covered.
    13. increased resolution in manufacturing? Give massive cash and tax breaks to Intel? Give massive contracts to Intel.
  • Hey, genuises in office.

    How about some patent reform to stop megacorps from locking innovators out of the market?

    Patenst are supposed to make people go forward, not keep others back.

  • If Mankind has a greater future than for ever increasing populations to devolve into fighting over food and other resources, a better end than the dinosaurs, the only path goes through Ceres. Ceres is key to exploiting the solar system and is the gateway to the stars. It has vast resources of water in near zero g. There can be no higher goal for Human science than to forestall the end of Man. Before we lose the resources to do so we must exploit Ceres. If we fail in this our end is set. We need to conv
    • by dargaud (518470)
      I agree this is a worthy goal, but I can imagine others that may come more naturally. For instance we get better and smaller computers: cell phone, then mind-extending implants always connected to the cloud. Then we can back up our own brains. Then why try to build new brains ? Simply run them in the cloud in whatever simulation or reality-extension you see fit. Then colonize space by sending small Von Neumann ships with a lot of 'brains' backed up. At this point you may not even care about bringing sperm a
  • Let's see, what about the fact that the whole civilized world is based on abundant and cheap oil?

  • by kamapuaa (555446) on Thursday October 11, 2012 @03:06AM (#41616527) Homepage

    Something about alarm clocks that turn off when you tell them, but then 10 minutes later they won't turn off until you're in the shower.

    Also, a card that has your computer desktop password linked to it and you take it from terminal to terminal I think.

  • FTL, cold fusion, time travel, snu-snu with green women from an exotic planet.
  • Flying cars!

  • by WindBourne (631190) on Thursday October 11, 2012 @04:29AM (#41616887) Journal
    Seriously, we need a COTS style program to get multiple companies building thorium reactors. Why? If done right, these will burn up 95% of nuke 'waste'. And it will do it SAFELY.
  • by gallondr00nk (868673) on Thursday October 11, 2012 @05:30AM (#41617109)

    It astonishes me that a technology as safe, environmentally friendly and cheap as this still isn't being used. As always, the political will and understanding is lacking. For christs sake, here in the UK we're still talking about building "traditional" nuclear stations and natural gas burning plants!

    Cheap, abundant electricity without the CO2 emissions of burning fossil fuels will be a revelation.

  • will be human brain like computer - which, unlike humans, will be able to dramatically expand its own capacities. and from there... other big things will come [ and big thing doesn't always mean good thing ].
    oh and it will be from google.
  • Thats the future.

    Man, I cannot wait till these old farts die off.

  • by gmuslera (3436)
    Considering how much the government care about and respect privacy and rights, for 99% of US people and 100% of people of other countries, i would say that the next big thing will be a new food. I propose to call it Soylent Green.
  • by mattr (78516)

    Their list has a bunch of things that are neither the next big thing nor needing to be on the list, and lean towards military applications. We have plenty of military applications already. Here is what we basically need:

    1) Stop burning petroleum for power. We need to use this precious resource for chemical synthesis.

    2) Invest in developing technology to build solar power satellites capable of collecting power over huge surface area and beam to Earth or the moon. Convert power received at base station to hyd

  • Robotics and autonomous systems are progressing to the point vehicles will be self-guiding... not just cars, but trucks, farm equipment, tractor trailers. Expert systems, such as Siri and Watson, will become skilled enough to replace most white collar work. Productivity of current technology is such that material needs are satisfied event with 30-50% unemployment today (look at Spain, Greece) China will not escape, the next iphone will be assembled robotically. We will be left with a natural employment
  • Nuclear fusion holds the top spot on my list. Once we can achieve controlled nuclear fusion that provides more energy than goes into it, it will be a paradigm shift from the two centuries of being dependent on fossil fuels.

    Sure, nuclear fusion is being actively researched right now, but funding given to nuclear fusion research is a tiny fraction (in the single digit percents) of the welfare money handed out to oil industry every year (in tax breaks and direct subsidies)

    I don't mean cold fusion - there
  • The next big thing will obviously be Quantum communications.

    https://www.google.com/search?q=quantum+entanglement+record+broken [google.com]

    Instantaneous signalling, unlimited distance, perfect "reception" at all times, inherently secure.

    Of course, I would presume our military already has it, (lag would suck for the drone pilot, hmmm?) but hey, I'm talking about something I could get in my future cell phone.

  • Governments which do the will of the people.

    Governments who, when they put up a website to solicit the opinion of the nation, do not immediately ignore it. (Guess what the #1 suggestion on change.org was, and guess what Obummer's reaction to it was.)

    I wouldn't sell this government the sweat off a dead dog's balls in the middle of the Mojave. I sure as shit won't tell them what the next big thing is.

  • The next big thing - in which sense? Moneywise? Or ...?

    To me, the next big goal is to get beyond quantum mechanics somehow. It's going to be really tough, though.

    Quantum mechanics is one of the most successful theories in physics - (the other being General relativity - but unlike GR, it is full of rules of thumb, poorly understood mechanisms and vague concepts. I think we need to establish a much more firm basis for the concepts employed in QM, otherwise we won't really be able to unify our two most success

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