The human population doubles every 50 years. As a result, humanity faces severe global problems, including limitations on energy, raw materials, food, water, health, and air, which seem daunting because they cannot be solved today on the basis of the current technologies.
Ehud Keinan, Technion—Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel, shows in his Essay that the main challenges of humankind are different.
Policy makers have forever been driven by the desire to solve major problems as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, scientific discoveries cannot be planned. Human knowledge is doubling every 18 months and thereby knowledge is growing faster than world population. Therefore, the best that can be done is to provide scientists with proper laboratories and support high-risk/high-gain research programs. Exploratory scientific activity will eventually result in surprising discoveries and enabling technologies.
Chemistry will play a central role in any solution as a driving force that significantly impacts other disciplines, including the technological and industrial sectors.
Taking all this into account, Keinan sees the real future challenges lie in the increasing gaps between the advanced societies and those who are left behind in the darkness of scientific and technological ignorance, in misconception, and pseudo-science. “It is our responsibility as scientists to help closing these gaps, at least within our own communities”, he says.
- Gloomy Forecast for the Prophets of Apocalypse and Bright Forecast for Chemists,
Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2013.