This year the question posted by Edge.org is "What would change everything?" There are 151 respondents who are among the leading thinkers of our time from different fields; scientists; authors, philosophers, artists, journalists, explorers etc.
Of course you can present you own take as well. This is mine.
Exponential Increase in Food Production (and other raw materials)
What would change everything?
What I could see in the nearer future is bit less impressive but more probable: An exponential change in food output by a much more efficient and innovative methods. I envision an average skyscraper capable of feeding the whole city of New York. This becomes possible by a synthesis of new emerging technologies or existing ones but through a more efficient integrations as pieces into a whole system of a super puzzle. Technologies such as genetic manipulation of food products requiring lesser space, lesser raw materials but more yields; automated machine to move field units using robotics; more efficient use of energy by proper distribution of sunlight and maybe harnessing sunlight itself as source of electronic energy; proper recycling of materials; proper chemical state of soil if soil is needed still; these among imaginable requirements.
I'm only saying that this is less impressive as compared to other predictions because it doesn't really require new discoveries. What is required is the right integrations and maybe right opportunity for this to come about. When properly executed, integrations of yet new technologies into the system should be minimal than expected. This is not unrealistic. We know that we are capable of better efficiency and higher yields in food production as already demonstrated in other fields of technology. We have all the necessary technologies and newer and better technologies are just around to be discovered, or maybe already existing, only they need to be properly integrated.
Obstacles to Materialization
When it comes to genetics, you always will have your greatest objections from among the religious. That wouldn't have been much of a problem if only we know that separation of church and state is a must and we know it's not always the case.
When something big is going on, the government is quick to take notice and will pretty soon impose its regulations. There is nothing more crippling to an enterprise than government bureaucracy and taxation. Also, the more productive your enterprise is, the more punishment you will incur. This is not like the internet where it is a nonphysical entity and government has no idea of how to interject itself to it because uh, how much does government officials really know about technology? Lawmakers can only try to catch up. Perhaps there should also be a separation of government and economics?
What would change everything?
I think I should change my answer to: abolition of irrational government interventions.
Anyways, I just like read the responses. For me, it's - just fascinating!