21st Century’s Grand Engineering Challenges Unveiled

February 15, 2008 | Source: KurzweilAI

The U.S. National Academy of Engineering (NAE) today announced 14 grand challenges for engineering in the 21st century that, if met, “would improve how we live by improving sustainability, health, and joy of living, and reducing vulnerability.”

A diverse committee of experts from around the world chaired by former secretary of defense William Perry (committee chair) and including genomics pioneer J. Craig Venter, Google co-founder Larry Page, and Ray Kurzweil, developed the list of challenges. The effort received worldwide input from prominent engineers and scientists and the general public and its conclusions were reviewed by more than 50 subject-matter experts.

NAE is offering the public an opportunity to vote on which challenge they think is most important and to provide comments at the project Web site, www.engineeringchallenges.org, which features a five-minute video overview of the project and committee-member interview excerpts. A podcast of the news conference announcing the challenges will also be available on the site starting next week.

“Meeting these challenges would be ‘game changing,’” said NAE president Charles M. Vest. “Success with any one of them could dramatically improve life for everyone.”

The Challenges:

  • Make solar energy affordable
  • Provide energy from fusion
  • Develop carbon sequestration methods
  • Manage the nitrogen cycle
  • Provide access to clean water
  • Restore and improve urban infrastructure
  • Advance health informatics
  • Engineer better medicines
  • Reverse-engineer the brain
  • Prevent nuclear terror
  • Secure cyberspace
  • Enhance virtual reality
  • Advance personalized learning
  • Engineer the tools for scientific discovery