Saturday, October 25, 2008

Optimism about the Future

Despite the immediate cares of the world, there is also plenty of reason for longer term optimism. As usual, this mostly centers around the improved living made possible by improved technology.

In health care, many and profound discoveries are being made about the origins of disease and aging. Inevitably this has resulted, and will result in advanced medications that pinpoint target the origins of medical problems. Sadly, soon to be instituted proposals to limit profits from pharmaceuticals have already resulted in disinvestment in pharmaceuticals in anticipation of a new political world order. Eventually new meds will find their way to market in other countries, but later than necessary in the good old USA. In any event, the wealthy or desperate will be able to travel to find advanced medications.

Imagine a world where cancer, obesity, and aging are conquered. It will be great for the individual. The resulting overcrowding of the world population will lead to very regrettable means of limiting population, but that can be solved by war, pestilence, famine and suicide. Whoops ... I forget that pestilence will be fixed, and, that is reason for optimism.

It has long been a truism of science and technology that advances in materials result in advances in engineering and in science. Those advances, in turn, feed back to create still further advances in materials. It is a virtuous cycle of advancement. New materials such as nanotube paper, biologically inspired catalysts, and electrochemical batteries will all have immediate application to real world living.

The late Julian Simon, an economist at the University of Maryland, is famous for his predictions that the costs of all products, over the long term, become less due to advances in technology. So far he has proven to be correct. When a raw material such as copper becomes costly, someone finds a different way to provide the same function in the final product. Alternatively, someone invents a more economical way to extract a product such as copper from abundant low grade ores hitherto ignored.


Lynnis said...

Your suicide tag is disturbing, but I'm glad that you are looking on the bright side.

Lona said...

Having a healthy lifestyle is probably a better strategy for a long life than hoping for the development of new drugs. In the year 2000, a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association stated that medical errors are one of the leading causes of death in the United States, with 225,000 deaths per year. 106,000 of those deaths were attributed to adverse reactions from medication. Because of the profit motivation, drug companies have perverse incentive to do whatever it takes create a market for a drug and push the drug to market.
Simon's theories that say we can adapt by substituting copper have the problem that industry does not pay the true costs. In industrial processing it's disposing of the waste that is the problem (and where we are already at capacity), not getting the raw material.