Technology Investments

Ecology Matters by Duke Vasey

The May/June issue of MIT "Technology" featured their annual list of the year's top technology breakthroughs "10 Emerging Technologies." One article dealt with Fourier transform-an effort by a quartet of MIT researchers to create a new algorithm for processing data. They are trying to send more information with less bandwidth, and increase the speed of other devices with this new shortcut. All waveforms, no matter what you scribble or observe in the universe, are actually just the sum of simple sinusoids of different

We are living of the age of the algorithm. This is a big deal-especially in the face of diminishing government budgets. For more than a decade, synthetic biologists have promised to revolutionize the way we produce fuels, chemicals and pharmaceuticals that would be conserve resources. However, they're just cramming 21-centuary technology into things designed in antiquity and reality is sinking in for some: turn back to nature for inspiration.

When the public is confronted with new technologies, trust is volatile and mistrust can have lasting effects As nanotechnology matured, federal spending on research into its environmental, health and safety risks increased-from $38 million in 2006 to an estimated $103 million in 2012.

In 2008, the National Science Foundation and the Environmental Protection Agency invested $38 million to establish two centers to address nanotechnology's environmental implications. A similar commitment should be made for synthetic biology. There are complex, legitimate questions about how synthetic organisms can be contained, whether they can survive in the environment and whether their genes will transfer to other organisms. These questions will not be answered quickly or cheaply, but answering them will open doors to future markets.

In his provocative 2000 essay, "Why the Future Doesn't Need Us," computing pioneer Bill Joy claimed that robotics, genetic engineering and nanotechnology were making it possible to construct "technology that may replace our species."

We're still here, but it sounds like we shouldn't let our guard down.

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