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NISTEP report

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The Japanese National Institute of Science and Technology Policy (NISTEP) runs a technology foresight project every five years, looking 30 years into the future. The last such exercise was carried out in 2000, producing the report Future Technology in Japan toward the Year 2030 (download).

The 2007-2030 timeline in this report is one of the most methodologically sound.It was produced in a large Delphi study involving several thousand experts. Past NISTEP reports had predictive accuracy of 60-70%.

But the forecast shies away from advanced transhumanist technologies and looks rather traditionalistic and non-controversial (this is not to say these were not included among the original topics, but that they were not considered important by experts and so less attention is paid to them).

  • The report barely makes a passing mention of nanotechnology: only one item — "Practical use of single atom/molecule manipulation techniques as methods for device fabrication and gene manipulation.", scheduled for 2015, is included.
  • Artificial intelligence is apparently ignored. It's mentioned in only one topic: "Development of software (expert systems) capable of completely taking the place of specialist professions such as judges, lawyers and patent attorneys.", is slated for 2025 and is deemed unlikely to ever be realised by 48% of respondents.
  • Brain enhancements are mostly ignored, despite predictions of understanding much of how the brain functions between 2015-2025.
  • Despite listing a plethora of medical advances, the report says nothing about possibilities of life extension, reversal of aging and achiving immortality.

One non-traditional area (although it is much more traditional for the Japanese) that features prominently is robotics.

A forecast that ignores nanotechnology and artificial intelligence — undoubtly the key enabling technologies for human transformation in the coming decades — can not be deemed accurate and is at best extremely misleading.

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