Following on with my personal obsession right now, I'd suggest funding for
research in the linguistic and neural net bases of biological interactions,
from the genome on up through brains and on to ecosystems. Understanding and
predicting how biological systems coordinate, communicate, and translate
communications into physiology and behavior is going to be the biggest
problem facing us in the life sciences in the next century--and it's
traditionally been an area of little interest and even considerable bias.
Removing the bias (an effort which is underway, and proceeding very slowly)
and then funding research and conferences on biological language systems and
cooperative interaction would go a long way to pushing the science.
And frankly, we're not going to survive on Mars until we can design a
low-energy, stable, and robust ecosystem that can support humans for years.
We quite simply do not have the theoretical understanding necessary to
design such a system, and trial and error attempts (leading possibly to a
multi-billion dollar space disaster) could push our planetary exploration
program back by decades. Biosphere 2 in its early, idealistic incarnation is
a sobering reminder of how naive we still are!
Such research, of course, could be fed back immediately into everything from
disease control to environmental remediation to designing a world biological
community that would comfortably support the twenty billion or so people we
might expect by 2050, given longevity and health improvements that would
To make the next long leap, we have to understand much more about who we are
and how we function together and in nature, and how nature functions with
and without us.
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