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Futurist Predictions in the World of Science

A woman walks past a picture of Winston Churchill by artist Banksy.

Chris Jackson/Getty Images

If there's one thing we can predict about the future, it's that at least some of the amazing scientific and technological advances envisioned by today's futurists won't actually become a reality, at least not in the expected time frame. After all, in 1932, renowned 20th century British political leader Winston Churchill, who had access to his country's top researchers, predicted that within 50 years, an engine would generate 600 horsepower for hours from a fuel tank the size of a fountain pen, Iceland would be relocated to the tropics, robots would have human-like consciousness, and people would feast on synthetic chicken flesh grown in laboratories. In fairness, Churchill did get a few things right; he predicted both cellphones and technology the equivalent of Skype through which anyone could "connect up to any room similarly equipped and hear and take part in the conversation as well as if he put his head in through the window" [source: Churchill].

Today's seers may have learned something from Churchill's folly, because they're a bit more careful in substantiating and qualifying their predictions of future wonders. For example, theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, author of the 2011 book "Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100," bases his forecast on scientific discoveries -- such as quantum physics and the nature of DNA -- that already have been made, and on prototypes of inventions that already exist in laboratories [source: Kaku]. And when the World Future Society, a group of scientific and economic forecasters from 80 countries, compiled a recent report envisioning life in 2100, it was careful to characterize its work as a "first light" view of the horizon that might play out very differently, depending upon a host of variables -- including whether humans make wise use of technological advances or foolishly use them in ways that are destructive [source: The Futurist].

Even so, futurists still manage to conjure up visions of mind-boggling scientific and technological advances down the road -- ranging from computers that eclipse human intelligence to factories that use molecular-level assembly to duplicate or create outright any sort of object you might want. Here are five such visions to contemplate.

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