The Future of Science 2021: A Multiverse of Exploration

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For the last year, my colleagues and I at Institute for the Future have been researching the future of science to identify big areas of science we think will have a transformative impact over the next decade. We read a lot of papers, conducted interviews, hosted an Open Science unconference, held an expert workshop with researchers from UC Berkeley, Stanford, MIT, UC Davis, SETI, and private industry, and spent many weeks synthesizing what we learned. The result is this map, titled "A Multiverse of Exploration: The Future of Science 2021." You can click the image to see it larger or download the PDF (front and back) here. Marina Gorbis, Ariel Waldman, and I wrote it. Ariel, Jean Hagan, and Karin Lubeck made it beautiful.

The map focuses on six big stories of science that will play out over the next decade: Decrypting the Brain, Hacking Space, Massively Multiplayer Data, Sea the Future, Strange Matter, and Engineered Evolution. Those stories are emerging from a new ecology of science shifting toward openness, collaboration, reuse, and increased citizen engagement in scientific research. We are delighted to share the map with you, under a Creative Commons license permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution. From "A Multiverse of Exploration: The Future of Science 2021":


Invisibility cloaks. Space hacking. Quantum consciousness. Open source biology. Empowered with new tools, processes, and skills, scientists will gain new insight into the mysteries surrounding our brains, biology, and the strange matter that makes up our reality. We will develop powerful new instruments for gazing at the farthest reaches of space and descending into the deepest oceans, further illuminating our place in the universe.

Not only will our knowledge increase but the way science is done will change in profound ways. A new ecology of science will crystallize, one that shifts from the insular and closed structures of academic, industrial, and military research toward open models based on social connection, data commons, and democratized tools and technology. We will create unprecedented opportunities for collaboration and resource sharing between large organizations, communities, and individuals. This radical reimagining of science will supplant current approaches to R&D and inevitably translate into new technologies as well as new organizational structures.

The most transformational science is driven by curiosity, passion, and the promise of creating a better world. This map is a guide to finding your own path through the dynamic, turbulent, and startling multiverse of exploration.

A Multiverse of Exploration: The Future of Science 2021