Majors of the Future
by Maximiliano Herrara | published Jan. 11th, 2009
What does the future hold for us now that 2008 is finished? Around the year 2015, most futurists like Ray Kurzwiel predict that a supercomputer that is smarter than the average human will be built. This is not the only prediction out there, however — other possibilities include space travel, aliens and robots. Where does this leave the undergrad of tomorrow? To explore that idea, here is a list of the ten hypothetical majors to prepare students for what the future may bring. [Editor's Note: To our knowledge, none of these majors are currently in the works.]
1: Artificial Intelligence (AI)
AI is currently used in many factories to automate semi-complex processes, as well as to beat world champion chess players. This is far from the science fiction that comes to mind when someone thinks about AI, but that fiction is quickly becoming reality. AI is already offered as graduate program at many top universities like Stanford, and RIT offers undergraduate courses in AI. Since universities are already adopting AI as a major, expect to see this in RIT’s undergraduate catalog in the near future.
2: Genetic Engineering
RIT has a biotechnology major which does involve quite a bit of genetic engineering, but it is only a hint of things to come. Modern genetic engineering can make fish glow in the dark, but still has a while to go before the science has the capability to make those fish breath air or to make them fly. But that's what the genetic engineering student of the future is going to do. Of course, this won't be just fun and games — a lot of serious diseases, such as cancer, can be cured with genetic engineering.
As we start to expand the human race into the depths of space, we will be curious about what happened on the planets before we arrived. This is where the astroarcheology students come in. They will learn the methods used to discover whether or not life lived on a given planet, and what life was like for these extraterrestrials.
4: Extraterrestrial Biology
If and when we encounter extraterrestrial life, we will want to find out as much as their biology for both own medicinal purposes and expansion of our scientific knowledge. Astrobiology is a predecessor to this degree that is offered at many universities now, which focuses on what types of life forms could, theoretically, live on other planets. This would also be a prerequisite to students who want to start their own private medicine practice on, say, Venus.
5: Virtual Reality Engineering
Virtual reality is practically synonymous with “the future.” The demand for virtual reality will be huge. People will want custom adventures and products. Engineers will need to know how to make someone's dream of being a ninja dinosaur that saves the earth from an alien invasion a reality, or at least a virtual reality. Some might scoff and say, “Nobody would ever pay for anything like this,” but many people today make a living off of selling virtual property and products in the online game known as Second Life.
6: Planet Architecture
In Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy the planet Magrathea became so rich by selling custom made planets that the rest the universe became so poor that the entire economy collapsed. Dubai spent billions of dollars to construct the The Palm Jumeirah, a custom made island in the shape of a palm tree. If billions are spent to build just a custom island, imagine the market for an entire planet. Adams' book could very well become more than just piece of science fiction comedy.
7: Intergalactic Business
Business in the future will not only be conducted between nations, but between entirely different planets. These planets will have their own trade laws and customs, but this will be much more varied than the current international laws. There could be business between entirely different species. The intergalactic business graduate will be prepared to deal with a myriad of different situations to make sure they close the deal.
8: Robot Culture Studies
Robot Culture Studies will focus on a wide range of issues relevant to robots including robot history, culture, literature, religion, and languages native to robots. Programs will explore how robots turned from mindless machines to the sentient beings they will be in the future. This will explore the robot population throughout the world, as well the impact of robot culture on the rest of the world.
9: Alien Language Literature
Alien language undergraduate program will study the various forms of literature of alien societies, and will cover the range of issues facing each alien society through that literature. Undergraduates will be able to pursue advanced degrees in Alien Languages where they can continue their careers as teachers, writers, historians, or linguists.
10: Interstellar Photography
Interstellar photography will focus on creative and technical skill to prepare students to take pictures around the universe. Skills include how to take photographs of planets with a wide array of atmospheric conditions, and how to use the new and exciting technology that we can't even imagine yet.