International Experts Weigh in on Next Big Thing in 2006, and Beyond

In the spirit of new possibility that often characterizes
celebration of New Year’s, University of British Columbia’s
internationally recognized experts are weighing in with their
predictions for The Next Big Thing that will impact our lives
in 2006, and beyond.

From the end to crisis-driven blood drives, to “conscious”
cars and the discovery of a planet capable of life — the
novel, the progressive and the previously inconceivable are
on our doorstep, according to these leading minds.

UBC Reports, the university’s monthly news publication
asked experts in a variety of fields to identify a major advance
that will change our world. Their answers will be published
in January 2006, but are available now (click the link below
each summary). To arrange to interview these experts, most
of whom are available throughout the holidays, contact Basil
Waugh, at 604.822.2048.

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.

“Conscious” Cars

Alan Mackworth, Prof., Dept. 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.

Prescription Pets

Stanley Coren, Prof., Dept. 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, Assoc. Prof., Dept. of Physics and

In the next ten 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

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 MacGillivary, Director, Centre for Blood
Research and Dr. Dana Devine, Prof., 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, Assoc. Prof., School of Journalism

The globalization of media will spur a transformation of
ethics. Principles of objectivity will have to be re-defined,
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, Assist.Prof., 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 environmental-based education.

Fuel Cells

David Wilkinson, Prof., Dept. of Chemical and Biological

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.