The single biggest challenge presently facing humanity is the new era of ICT (information and communication technology) required to advance the progress of science and technology. This constitutes more of a grand challenge than do disease, poverty, climate change, etc. because solutions are not immediately clear, and are likely to be more technical than political in nature. The raw capacity in information processing and transfer is required and also the software to drive these processes at higher levels of abstraction to make the information useable and meaningful. The computing and communications industries have been focused on incremental Moore’s Law extensions rather than new paradigms and do not appear to be cognizant of the current needs of science, and particularly the magnitude.
One trigger for a new ICT era is the shift in the way that science is conducted. The old trial and error lab experimentation has been supplemented with informatics and computational science for characterizing, modeling, simulating, predicting and designing. Life sciences is the most prominent area of science requiring ICT advances, for a variety of purposes including biological process characterization and simulation. Genomics is possibly the field with the most ICT urgency; genomic data is growing at 10x/year vs. Moore’s Law at 1.5x/year for example, however nearly every field of science has progressed to large data sets and computational models.