Expert Forecasts for 2020

It might also permit classes of chronically ill or formerly untreatable individuals to join the workforce. Wearable computers could enable patients or their doctors to continuously monitor patients’ health status. Along with the relevant applications obtainable by countries lower on the development ladder, ubiquitous information access would also contribute to improving public health at this level of S&T capacity. Action Will Be Required to Maintain a High Level of S&T Capacity The accelerating pace of technology development and the growing capacity of emerging economies to acquire and implement technology applications will make economic security a moving target even for the most advanced nations. If countries are to stay ahead in their capacity to implement applications, they will need to make continuing efforts to ensure that laws, public opinion, investment in R&D, and education and literacy are drivers for, and not barriers to, technology implementation. In addition, they will have to build and maintain whatever infrastructure is needed to implement the applications that will give them a competitive advantage. Certain Technology Applications Will Spark Heated Public Debate Several of the top 16 technology applications will raise significant public policy issues that will trigger strong, and sometimes conflicting, reactions and opinions between countries, regions, and ethnic, religious, cultural, and other interest groups. Many of the most controversial applications will involve biotechnology (e.g., GM crops). Others, such as pervasive sensors and certain uses of RFID implants to track and identify people, will potentially have provocative implications for personal privacy and freedom. Yet any controversy that flares up will probably not be the same around the world. A technology application that raises extremely divisive ques-tions in one country may cause no stir at all in another because of different social values. Global diffusion of a technology application does not mean universal diffusion: Not every nation in the world will be able to implement, or even acquire, all technology applications by 2020. The level of direct S&T capacity may be markedly different from one country to another. Within different geographical regions, countries also have considerable differences that play into their ability. These differences may include variations in physical size, natural conditions (e.g., climate), and location (e.g., proximity to oceans and water). The size of the population and demographics (e.g., birthrate) may vary dramatically between countries in a single region. Countries may have very different types of government, economic systems, and levels of economic development. • Quantum cryptography: Quantum mechanical methods that encode information for secure transfer.