I was going through the hundreds of very interesting comments on the Grand Challenges For Engineering global brainstorming project. While reading them, I was wondering what I think the challenges that we face.
Unlike a lot of people I am not worried about the future of earth. Earth has survived much more than what we humans can do to it, including a whole planet ploughing through it. So, earth, whatever we humans do, has a very long and bright future.
On the other hand, I am not so sure about humans though. We have seen unprecedented growth in technology in the last century. Unfortunately, we also have unprecedented inequality, animosity and violence. We are facing series of crisis even greater than the last ice age. We will face acute shortage of energy sources in this century. We have a very real climate crisis in offing. We are facing a major crisis of religious conflict parallel to the ones in the dark ages. Urban centers are proving to be very expensive in every way.
There is a very real chance that this could be the beginning of the end of humanity as a species. May not be in 100 years but a few hundred. The interesting thing is that, this wont be from a global catastrophic event like a thermo-nuclear war, but a gradual decay of humanity. Cities withering away, communities broken up, intense localized violent squabbles wasting the last of our resources, uncontrolled diseases eliminating whole races...
We are still very young to face such a slow painful extinction. We need to slow down. For a moment, consider downsizing our lives and societies while improving the living of all humanity. Change our priorities from terra-forming Mars to inhabiting the deserts and seas. Lets forget the mad rush to centralize everything, and move towards decentralized, equitable and sustainable development.
I think the grandest challenge of technologists is to perceive this need and change our world view. For once, lets not try to drive everything faster, higher and more bizarre, but make things simple, more efficient. Lets slow things down a bit, take a breath.
We humans have a long way to go, a lot of incredible things to achieve. Lets preserve ourselves.