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HOME > PAST ISSUE > May-June 2003 > Article Detail

FEATURE ARTICLE

Science in 2006, Revisited

From grid computing to genomics, the science fiction of 1986 is fast becoming science fact. There remains equal reward in the signal and in the noise

Lewis Branscomb

Seventeen years ago Sigma Xi celebrated its centenary and reflected on a century of science and engineering research. I had the honor and good fortune to serve as the Society's president and to participate in a discussion of how American Scientist might celebrate this auspicious occasion. Someone suggested that we prepare papers predicting the future course of science. "Nonsense," said a very level-headed board member. "Nobody can predict the course of science. Everyone will criticize any prediction we make. Besides, that's what makes science so exciting."

"Scientists can't predict the future of science," I said, "but science fiction writers do it every day, and often with surprising perspicacity." So I volunteered to write a piece of science fiction with the dateline of 2006, 20 years into the future, imagining how two decades of change and growth in science might look from that vantage point.




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