The 5, 10 and 25 year time horizons serve as anchor points at which potential breakthroughs in a field have been assessed by the scholars involved in the consultations.
Examples of key results
As examples, we list below anticipation potential descriptions for selected fields displayed on the radar. Dedicated pages in the trend section provide further descriptions of main developments in the field and present expected breakthroughs at 5, 10 and 25 years.
Few emerging fields have received more attention in recent years than quantum technologies, with many countries, companies, and researchers producing roadmaps charting out the future of the field.
Much of the focus has been on quantum computing so, despite its undeniably disruptive potential, much of the anticipatory work is already underway. In contrast, the role of foundational effects of quantum in biology has received little attention so far and developments in this sub-field remain at the level of fundamental science. Major breakthroughs in this area are not expected before two decades, with potential applications expected at 25 years, making it hard to assess their disruptive potential. Nonetheless, this uncertainty and the field’s low visibility suggests it is one worth paying more attention to.
Human Applications of Genetic Engineering
Breakthroughs in our ability to manipulate the human genome are likely to come in two waves that will require different responses.
Gene therapies and genetic diagnostics have already received significant attention and are expected to have broad applications in the 5–10 years timeframe.
However, interspecies chimera and the use of genetic enhancement are not expected to go mainstream for another 20 years and have so far received far less focus. This suggests that this second wave requires considerably more attention to map out their potential ramifications. One significant challenge is that the line between therapies and enhancement is blurred, suggesting some forms of enhancement may be closer than currently expected.
The oceans cover more than 70 per cent of the Earth’s surface so it is unsurprising that efforts to protect and exploit their resources scored joint highest for environmental impact alongside decarbonisation.
Although deep sea mining was assessed as having the highest transformational effect, low awareness of the need to harness the oceans’ biochemistry and the highly-interdisciplinary challenge posed by efforts to repair the ocean mean these topics were judged to require greater attention. The average time to maturity is estimated at 10-15 years. This perhaps reflects the fact that a failure to protect critical marine resources could cause enormous negative disruption for the three billion people who rely on the oceans for their livelihoods. This is the emerging topic with the highest anticipation potential in the current list.
The idea of applying computational and mathematical approaches to diplomacy and negotiation is still relatively new. This is reflected in the uniformly low awareness found across the four key domains investigated. These approaches are not expected to become mainstream for another 10–15 years, and all four were judged to require considerable interdisciplinary convergence to achieve significant breakthroughs. While the low awareness may be due to the fact that computational diplomacy is currently only being discussed by a small community, when it goes mainstream the field could have profound impacts on international relations suggesting there is considerable need for anticipatory planning.
The Anticipation Potentials and the effects in our analysis described above provide a snapshot of how a specific field is perceived by the scientific community. The Science Breakthrough Radar provides a rolling analysis of those trends, and the assessment will be continuously updated as science progresses and new knowledge and insights come in. The following section provides the opportunity to dig deeper, to engage in the discussion and consult key resources from the GESDA Best Reads as well as the fundamental reports.