sciencehorizons (all lower case, apparently) launched today to answer questions like:
“Will we all be sprinting at 80?”, “Sitting in self-driving cars?”, “Will robots be serving us breakfast?”, “Will our fridges be talking to our shopping trolleys?”, “Will organ donors be a thing of the past?”
The idea, funded by the Department for Trade and Industry (DTI), is intended to engage the public in the mass debate on what science can and cannot do and what we should let it do and not do. According to Malcolm Wicks, Minister for Science and Innovation, discussions will look at how science and technology could affect our lives over the next 15-20 years.
He said: “What’s important about sciencehorizons is that we’re inviting anyone and everyone to get involved in the discussions, not only the scientists. We want discussions about science to involve the whole community.
“Over the coming decades, we’re going to have some huge ethical debates about science as new discoveries are made and new technologies emerge. We will all need to be part of making informed
decisions about how we develop and use scientific and technological advances.”
Of course, if you’re already approaching 80 and have not been on the sports track for many years, then the answer to that first question is likely to be a resounding, “No!”, but who wants to be sprinting at 80 anyway? I’d be quite keen to have a robot that could serve my breakfast, but surely such a device is going to require electrical power and if they still haven’t fixed it by then to have a decent daily dose of solar power in England to charge it up, then it’s simply going to be yet another source of carbon emissions for everyone to offset by planting a tree.
And as to fridges talking to shopping trolleys…if we’ve got robots serving us breakfast then surely we won’t still be pushing shopping trolleys around supermarkets by then, although with the advent of the senior supermarkets in Germany (the Kaiser Senioren Supermarkt in downtown Berlin) such questions will put a whole new slant on a supermarket sprint!
Are initiatives like this worthwhile, does the public really care about science policy and debate? It seems that the only real coverage science receives in the media is when things are going wrong, or the scientists are “playing god” again.