UBC Reports | Vol. 52 | No. 1 | Jan. 9, 2006
The Next Big Thing
UBC Experts Give us a Peek at Our Future
For many, New Year's marks a time to reflect on new possibility. In this spirit, UBC Reports asked a range of UBC experts to tell us about the Next Big Thing that will have an impact on our lives.
You'll be fascinated by their forecasts. From “conscious” robotic cars, to the discovery of a planet capable of life, to eliminating the need for blood donors -- the novel, the progressive and the previously inconceivable are already on our doorstep, according to these leading minds. Here is a summary of their comments.
New Gene Therapies
Elizabeth M. Simpson, Senior Scientist, Centre for Molecular Medicine & Therapeutics
Advances in gene therapy hold the promise of important new therapeutic benefits for brain disorders such as Alzheimer and Parkinson Disease, even though for most individual patients we don’t know the causative genes.
Alan Mackworth, Professor, Department of Computer Science
Thanks to recent technological breakthroughs, we are on the verge of seeing “conscious” vehicles. Imagine cars that are aware of their surroundings, able to plan a route and drive it safely while obeying traffic signs and avoiding obstacles. Or wheelchairs that are aware of the layout of a house, and able to learn about pet cats and dogs.
Stanley Coren, Professor, Department of Psychology
Will physicians soon be “prescribing” pet dogs to the elderly? Current research may soon uncover a breakthrough in our understanding of how pets can significantly extend the health and well-being of the elderly.
Discovering Terra Nova
Jaymie Matthews, Associate Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy
In the next 10 years, astronomers have a strong chance of discovering a planet that has the right characteristics to allow for life, thanks to new ways of “seeing” planets, and space telescopes like Canada's MOST space telescope, already searching for terra nova.
Genes, Environment and Health
Dr. Clyde Hertzman, Director, Human Early Learning Partnership
You can’t blame it on your genes, after all. The growing field of epigenetics will turn thinking on its head that genes destine people to pre-determined outcomes. We will soon learn how environmental influences cause some genes to be expressed, and others not, in ways that make a significant difference for human health.
Artificial Blood Platelets
Dr. Ross MacGillivray, Director, Centre for Blood Research and Dr. Dana Devine, Professor, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
The next big breakthrough in blood transfusion research will be increased availability of platelets that will make crisis-driven blood donor drives a thing of the past. Eventually, artificial platelets may eliminate the need for blood donors altogether.
New Ethics for Global Media
Stephen Ward, Associate Professor, School of Journalism
The globalization of media will spur a transformation of ethics. Principles of objectivity will have to be redefined, as will duties of journalists to understand how jingoistic, biased or patriotic reporting might inflame conflict, rather than build understanding.
Education Goes Mobile
Veronica Gaylie, Assistant Professor, UBC Okanagan Faculty of Education
The future will see more teaching and learning outside the four walls of the traditional classroom. That is, the movement in interdisciplinary teaching and learning, combined with greater access to mobile technology, will increasingly move students toward community and environmentally based education.
David Wilkinson, Professor, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering
Fuel cells will play an important role in energy sustainability and global climate change, two of the biggest issues for the 21st century. Fuel cells are poised at roughly the same place as personal computers were a few decades ago, and we’ll soon see them in handheld electronic devices, PCs and other portable devices.