The results of the first Russian futuristic questioning about surprises that science can bring in the future have been summed up.
The questioning with participation of about 35,000 people was initiated by the Club of Scientific Journalists and was conducted for the first time in Russia. It is a wrong opinion to believe that scholars are absolutely abstracted, and science in general does not satisfy the needs of the society. It is known that only achievements and discoveries that are anticipated by people and for which mankind seems to be morally prepared can really have a start in life. Thirty or forty years ago science fiction writers and also great Russian physicist Andrey Sakharov predicted that mankind would soon get a unified information center where knowledge could be available to anyone. Soon after the prediction appeared, the Internet emerged and became incredibly popular all over the planet. Indeed, today the Internet is the thing that is essential for the majority of the population. It is true that in the epoch of Alexander the Great or Peter the Great people would not care at all about achievements like the Internet. The same concerns railways and autos. They appeared right at the moment when people needed regular rapid transportation of freight and people. So, the science known as futurology studies people’s expectations.
When the respondents were asked when they think towns with population of over one thousand of people would appear on the planet of Earth, the majority of them (about 85 percent) proved to be pessimistic as they stated it could happen not earlier than in half a century. What is more, every sixth respondent said it would never happen at all. It seems that contemporaries do not think that the dream of astronautics pioneer Tsiolkovsky about spreading of mankind into the circumsolar space is feasible. The idea of forming large cities in the space was much more popular forty years ago when manned cosmonautics appeared.
As for landing on Mars, people do not actually believe that NASA’s plans to conduct the first manned expedition to the red planet will come true. NASA says the project can be realized by the year of 2030. Just a little bit more than one third of the respondents believe that humans will land Mars within the next thirty years. Every twentieth respondent states that humans have nothing to do on Mars, which in its turn means that a manned flight to the red planet will never take place.
It is nice to see that people put trust in the earthly medicine. When asked when a method for cancer elimination would be developed, the majority of respondents said that people would find a way to fight the disease within the next 30 years. There are just three percent of respondents who doubt that such a method can be developed at all.
Half of the respondents think that gene therapy of widespread hereditary diseases will be available in the nearest twenty five years. One third of the respondents say it will happen later, while there are few people who say the problem will never be solved.
Many people would like to live a long healthy life till the age of 120. Three-quarters of the respondents doubt that life span of people on this planet can become longer in the next fifty years. Just every tenths respondent believes that people will find out how to live longer within the next 20 years, and others suppose the problem will never be solved at all.
Is it possible at all to make machines that could think as humans? Science fiction writers have made huge efforts to try to convince people of a near coming of such machines. They also emphasized that artificial intelligence would be superior to the human one and would drive people out from the planet. The idea has not come true. Over one third of all respondents think these machines will never appear. Others say that if such smart machines may still appear, the planet will see them not earlier than in fifty years. At that, it is important that mankind is absolutely sure that computer technologies will keep on developing and more new computers are to appear. People believe in coming of new computers more than in flights to other planets.
Natural disasters such as hurricanes and typhoons kill thousands of people and even destroy towns. Mankind expects that science and engineering will find a way to fight the disasters. However, people still doubt that humans can curb the destructive energy of nature. Three-quarters of the respondents think this may happen not earlier than in fifty years. But many people are still pessimistic as concerning the issue. People also hope that in thirty years scientists will finally have a method to prognosticate earthquakes.
Will science ever seize the control over climate fluctuations? The majority of respondents, over eighty percent, is pessimistic here and says that nothing of the kind will be possible in the nearest fifty years. One third of the respondents is sure it is impossible at all.
The respondents were also asked when they think genetic engineering could be employed for reviving of extinct animals. About 700 people said the experiment was already in process! A sensational statement as nothing of the kind was everpublished in the official press! Do people mean some secret laboratories where such experiments are conducted?
One quarter of the respondents think that regeneration of extinct animals will be possible in the nearest 25 years. But more people say it will be possible not earlier than in fifty years. Do they mean that many of our contemporaries will one day see mammoths and pterodactyls? It would be a really interesting thing to see indeed.
Translated by Maria Gousseva